Increase Fertility Naturally: Tips for Conception
Trying to have a baby is an emotional time for any couple, full of ups and downs.
One minute you and your spouse may be excited and exhilarated, while the next minute you might feel frightened or disappointed.
If you're having trouble with fertility, you may feel very confused, scared and lost. Though there are many fertility drugs and all kinds of procedures out there, if you're reading this you're probably looking how to increase fertility naturally.
The truth is, there are many simple steps that you can try to increase fertility naturally - no invasive procedures, pills or other medical intervention necessary.
How to increase fertility naturally
1. Eat a real food diet
We've come a long way in this area; it's becoming common knowledge that processed foods are not good for us. Many people are aware of the importance of eating a balanced, nutrient rich, whole food diet.
As a rule of thumb, adopt the diet of your great, great grandmother. (Liver, anyone?) This is important for the functioning of your body's systems, your overall health, and will certainly boost your fertility and reproductive health. I have a friend who had a hard time getting pregnant. She finally decided to ditch all of the junk and processed foods from her diet (and her husband too!) and she became pregnant quickly.
If you need help getting your family on a real food diet, I highly recommend the meal planning service Real Plans. I also cover some special fertility foods later in this post.
You also want to look at avoiding any latent food allergies such as gluten or dairy. Symptoms of intolerance raspy voice, skin irritations, bowel changes like loose stools or constipation, headaches, wheezing, or other immune reactions. Some mamas do well going grain-free or Paleo while they TTC. It is also a lesser known fact that low-fat dairy in your diet can increase your risk of ovulatory infertility. So be sure to eat full fat foods, especially dairy if you tolerate it, getting plenty of good nutrients from butter, cream, avocados, nuts/seeds, coconut oil, and other good fats to increase fertility.
2. Reduce stress
Stress is a huge issue for most people these days. We live in a busy, fast-paced world. Most of us are frazzled and feel stretched too thin. This tends to be especially true of women. But stress is not good for our minds, bodies, or spirits and can wreak havoc on our health. Stress is particularly deadly when it comes to fertility... it's literally killing your odds because a stressed woman is not nature's idea of a hospitable environment for a baby. Be sure to implement stress-reducing strategies in your life regularly.
If you are feeling worried, nervous or anxious about not getting pregnant, remind yourself that you are creating a stress response in your body that could be defeating your own efforts. As much as you can, enjoy the process of making a baby, and get excited about the prospect of pregnancy instead of worrying about the possibility of it not happening. You can seek out support groups or work with a counselor too.
By reducing your stress levels, you'll naturally increase fertility.
3. Track your cycles
Your menstrual cycle is one of your best barometers for gynecological health. If you wish to have a baby, then first things first, you need to become more vigilant about your schedule... or lack thereof.
First start by marking down the date of your last period. Then start tracking your morning basal body temperature with a special thermometer. (I like this one because it takes its time to register temperature, which is vital as some read too quickly and give you a false number.) You'll want to do this every day and put your thermometer on your bedside table. Take your temperature first thing upon awakening, before you get out of bed, go to the bathroom or move around as this will give you an inaccurate reading.
Track when you have cervical mucous and when your temperature increases, as these are signs of ovulation. You will also want to chart how long you bleed each month and if you have any cramps, headaches, or other PMS symptoms. You can get cycle tracking forms.
A consistent, monthly period, without too much pain or discomfort, is a sign of good reproductive health. If you don't have a regular period, you'll want to get a complete hormone panel test done (saliva is best) to determine you hormonal health. You can then work with a holistic doctor and fix any imbalances, and as a result, boost fertility.
Keep in mind, that it may take up to a year to get balanced so stick with it. Stay tuned for other ideas on how to regulate your cycle and increase fertility naturally below.
4. Have sex at peak fertility
This goes without saying, but have sex when you think you are ovulating! This is why charting your cycle is so necessary.
As a general rule, women typically ovulate 14 days before their next period, and sperm can last a few days in the uterus. Therefore, having sex a few times around that day is usually the simplest way to ensure that you are giving the egg every chance to get fertilized.
Most midwives will say days 11-18 are your most fertile, so have fun during this time. Again, refer back to your cycle charts to find the best times to have sex for you.
If you're still having trouble, invest in Ovulation Test Kits to determine exactly when you do ovulate (or double ovulate) or if you don't at all, which will need addressing to increase fertility.
5. Take cod liver oil
Studies have shown that cod liver oil's omega-3 fatty acids not only boost fertility but will support proper development of your baby after conception. Take it daily while trying to get pregnant and, also, once you are pregnant.
The Weston A. Price Foundation recommends taking enough cod liver oil to equate to ~20,000 IU of Vitamin A daily. To be conservative, I took half of this amount and had great pregnancies. My personal favorite is this raw variety. (Here's a post with all the supplements I took while pregnant.)
Worried about Vitamin A toxicity? Studies only link birth defects with the synthetic forms of Vitamin A. Of course, when taking any supplement, it's best to talk to your doctor, midwife or healthcare practitioner.
6. Avoid lubricants
Evidence suggests that many commercial lubricants may be toxic to sperm and interfere with its passing into the uterus. It is best not to use lubricant while trying to get pregnant. However, if you are just unable to have intercourse without a little bit of moisture, use saliva or coconut oil. Some mamas swear by Pre-Seed. I'm not a huge fan as it contains parabens.
7. Darkness at night
Have you ever heard of Lunaception? In brief, it's a practice to balance hormones (and boost fertility as a result) by controlling the light in your bedroom.
This may sound odd or even silly but there is common sense behind it. Thousands and thousands of years ago, women usually slept closer to the outdoors. Sleeping in total darkness was the norm with the only natural light being the rhythm of the moon. As a result, women used to be in sync with the moon cycles and ovulate at the full moon.
Now, with electricity and artificial light, this doesn't happen and as a result, our hormonal cycles get confused and out of whack. In modern times, we can recreate this natural cycle by controlling the light we're exposed in the evening and when we sleep.
To implement Lunaception, sleep in total darkness except for the few nights right around the full moon. On those nights, try sleeping with just a little bit of light, whether that's the natural moonlight or a night light.
There is actually some science behind Lunaception. Too much light at night can inhibit the production of melatonin, our "master" hormone. The hypothalamus gland is covered with melatonin receptors and some say our ovaries are too. The hypothalamus regulates our body's overall homeostasis, including blood pressure, body temperature, and most importantly for fertility, our endocrine or hormonal system. So, if the hypothalamus doesn't receive enough melatonin, its won't be able to support our hormonal system well.
Clinical research backs this up. Researchers have found that sleeping in the absence of light can:
Strengthen mucus readings during ovulation
Correct too long or too short cycles, bringing them back to 27-31 days long
Reduce PMS symptoms
Normalize FSH levels
Increase progesterone levels
Reduce spotting throughout cycle
Help anovulatory women ovulate!
Sustain pregnancies for women with history of miscarriages
Some simple tips to reduce light at night include:
Turn off electronics at least 1 hour (two is preferable) before bedtime.
Turn off bright overhead lights and use only a few lamps for evening light.
You can also wear these special glasses, which can help to boost your melatonin production.
Reducing your bright light exposure at night and sleeping in darkness can increase your odds to get pregnant.
8. Monitor thyroid function
Healthy thyroid function is very important to fertility. If you are either hyperthyroid or hypothyroid, you most likely will see hormonal imbalances, including fertility issues and potentially increased miscarriages.
A simple, natural way to check your thyroid at home is taking your morning basal body temperature. You should be doing this anyway to track your monthly cycle.
An ideal morning temperature is about 97.8 to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is consistently lower, that could be a sign of hypothyroidism, while a temperature that is consistently higher may be a sign of hyperthyroidism.
Avoiding certain foods like soy (not good for thyroid and overall fertility!) and eating enough healthy carbohydrates (think root vegetables and soaked/sprouted grains) are supportive of our thyroid.
It would be best to get a full thyroid panel if you suspect a thyroid imbalance and work with a holistic doctor to support its function.
There are many natural thyroid glandular products that can help, as well as key nutrients, to help you repair and rebuild your thyroid health. I know from experience that having optimal thyroid levels can increase fertility!
9. Strengthen your progesterone levels
The hormone progesterone is HUGE. It not only can increase fertility but help you sustain a pregnancy. It's literally what "pro - gests" the baby in utero. Because of this, some doctors will prescribe women (either newly pregnant or trying to conceive) progesterone pills, shots, or vaginal suppositories if there's been a history of miscarriages.
Of course, it's best to get a full hormonal panel done to determine if you're low in progesterone, which can often create estrogen dominance. Some symptoms could possibly include:
Cold hands and feet
If you find that you are estrogen dominant then you will need to find ways to boost your progesterone levels. Do this through eating a whole food diet, with adequate fiber intake as this helps the body to absorb and excrete excess estrogen. (This one in particular seems especially effective and even for male fertility!) The fiber found in carrots is particularly effective in reducing excess estrogen. You can enjoy them regularly with my Daily Detox Salad recipe.
You also want to reduce or eliminate caffeine, sugar, alcohol, excessive meat and other drugs which can throw off our hormonal balance and decrease our odds of conception. And be sure to eat plenty of good carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, fruits, and gluten-free grains to keep your thyroid and adrenals healthy.
Finally, one small study showed that Vitamin C is especially effective for women with luteal phase defect and low progesterone levels, increasing them as much as 77%! While I hesitated to include this study since it's so small, I can speak to experience on the effectiveness of vitamin C. After I had Paloma, my cycles were more erratic and my luteal phase was shorter. I started supplementing with 1 teaspoon of this natural, food-based vitamin C powder and my periods
returned to normal within a month?!
10. Special fertility foods & herbs
There are special plants that may increase fertility. Red raspberry leaf tea is known as a uterine tonic and can help balance your hormones and encourage gynecological health. Some mamas also love this tea for hormonal balance. If you are trying to get pregnant then a healthy uterus is, of course, very important. I found drinking red raspberry leaf tea in my second and third trimesters helped immensely with my easy (and short) second birth. It is generally not recommended in the first trimester of pregnancy as it can cause mild cramping.
For women with estrogen dominance or low libido (which does affect your fertility ;), you can include gelatinized maca root in your daily diet. Although I could only find human studies involving men, there was one with female mice which showed clinically that maca can boost fertility.
Anecdotally, for thousands of years, maca has been used by Peruvians to increase energy, stamina, strength, virility, and reproductive health. Maca root is high in alkaloids that are supposed to support our endocrine system, including reproductive, adrenal and thyroid function. Maca root seems to also be helpful for women with low progesterone levels or estrogen dominance. It can also be helpful to increase male fertility. It's best to use the gelatinized, yellow form of maca as this is the one that's been used in studies. It's also easier to digest and assimilate. Once you become pregnant, you should stop consuming maca.
Another helpful food in natural fertility is Vitex or Chasteberry. Vitex has been shown to improve fertility, particularly for women with a short luteal phase (the post-ovulation period). That's because Vitex increases luteinizing hormone (LH) production (which can boost progesterone production) while inhibiting the release of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which is tied to estrogen. It can also reduce high levels of prolactin, which can interfere with conception. Vitex is also supposed to support the entire endocrine system and balance the whole system. Once you become pregnant, you should stop taking Vitex.
Finally, for women, Evening Primrose oil may increase cervical mucus, which can help to "trap" the sperm and move it along to the egg. The standard dosage is 500mg with each meal for a total of 1,500 milligrams per day during the first two weeks of cycle only. EPO can stimulate uterine contractions, which is disruptive when egg may be implanting.
For male fertility, oysters are an excellent food since they contain the highest source of zinc on the planet. This important fertility mineral boosts testosterone and sperm production. In animal studies, Royal Jelly also significantly increases testosterone levels, sperm count and mobility.
Vitamin C has also been known to help improve sperm quality and male fertility, perhaps because it reduces oxidative stress. A good dose is 500-750 mg of a natural food source.
And while there is little to no science to back this up, some believe that foods that resemble body parts are therapeutic. So, for example, avocado for the uterus, pomegranate for the the ovaries, and figs or clams for the testicles. Interesting to note, it takes about 9 months for an avocado to grow from seed to full ripeness, similar to a baby in utero.
11. Try seed cycling
Some women have had great success balancing their hormones with Seed Cycling. While there isn't a ton of science to confirm this strategy, there are success stories online and it is certainly worth a shot! Seeds are delicious and packed with nutrition and fiber so you'll be getting benefits regardless. The idea is that certain seeds support us during different times of our menstrual cycle.
From day one of our menses till ovulation, we want to support our estrogen production. (Even women with estrogen dominance can benefit from this practice since it's all about balance and timing.) To do so, consume 1 tablespoon each of fresh, organic flax and pumpkin seeds. Invest in a good grinder to fully masticate the seeds for easier absorption. I like to put the seed pulp in my morning smoothie and I'm then done for the day. You can also put in salads but not in soups or other heated foods/beverages as this will denature some of the beneficial properties.
Once we ovulate, we want to focus on building our progesterone so consume 1 tablespoon each of sesame and sunflower seeds. Again, be sure to grind well, particularly your sesame seeds, since they are so tiny.
Once you get your period, shift to estrogen support again. You'll want to do this routine for at least 3 months to see if it's helping to balance your hormones. The great thing about tracking your monthly cycle is that you'll have the evidence in black and white to see if it helps to increase your odds to get pregnant.
One other note, if you don't have periods, start with a new moon and do your estrogen support till there's a full moon. Then do the progesterone seeds. Change back to estrogen seeds with the next new moon. You can find the moon cycles here.
12. Mayan abdominal massage
This is a simple, noninvasive massage technique which can shift the internal reproductive organs.
If you have a tipped or prolapsed uterus you may have many symptoms, including infertility, and this massage can help to ease the symptoms. It also brings energy, blood flow, and nutrients to our uterus which may be stagnant and resistant to implantation.
If you find a good masseuse, she will teach you how to do the massage on yourself so you can practice 5-10 minutes each day.
13. Consider a vaginal steam
Vaginal steaming sounds weird but it's an ancient practice in Eastern medicine and is meant to encourage blood flow, relax pelvic muscles, dilate blood vessels, which can boost fertility.
Even Gwyneth Paltrow is onto this
There are spas that offer this service but you can also try it at home by squatting over a pot or bowl of steaming herbal water. For more information, see this article my friend Stephanie wrote.
A few of my friends saw an Acupuncturist while trying to conceive and get pregnant, and shortly thereafter they became pregnant. This was after many trials of IVF had failed.
Acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine and involves putting tiny, relatively painless needles into specific meridian points on the body that correlate with specific organs and body systems. By stimulating these trigger points, the body normally responds with increased blood circulation and energy, which over time can help balance various health issues, including infertility.
If you're leery of needles, you can try Acupressure, which is simply applying pressure to these points instead of needles. A great, visual resource with trigger points can be found here.
Exercise benefits our bodies in so many ways, including hormonally. Regular workouts keep us in better shape and reduce overall body fat levels and/or obesity, which is tied to PCOS, infertility and other hormonal issues.
You don't have to get fancy or hardcore... a daily walk and some light weights can do the trick.
Exercise can also help with emotional balance and helps to reduce stress levels.
Make it a part of your daily routine and you can even get a pedometer to track your daily steps for further encouragement.
In studies, people who walked 10,000 steps daily for one year were able to maintain healthy blood pressure levels, reduce and keep off excess weight and decrease their BMI. They also reduced significant risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
16. Optimize your gut health
As Hippocrates said, all disease begins in the gut.
If we look at the true definition of disease, we see that it means imbalance. Creating a great, healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut will serve us in many ways, including trying to get pregnant.
Certain parasites are tied to infertility. Other probiotic strains help with dropping pounds in overweight individuals, which as mentioned earlier, can help increase fertility.
Good bacteria balance is also important to good vaginal health. In fact, women with bacterial vaginosis have higher rates of miscarriages and are at risk for pre-term labor. In addition, BV triggers the release of pro-inflammatory agents that can significantly affect all phases of reproduction.
Surprisingly, bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection in reproductive-aged women, according to the CDC. More so than vaginal yeast infections!
What helps to treat BV and inflammation? Good flora, particularly various lactobacilli strains.
Most women benefit by incorporating fermented, lacto-rich foods into their diets like sauerkraut or kefir, but you can also try various probiotics as well. Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus plantarum seem to be the best tolerated, especially those with histamine issues. Studies show that soil-based probiotics are also quite effective.
The good news is that boosting your gut/vaginal health now can also decrease your chances of being Group B Strep positive during pregnancy.
17. Look at emotional blocks
This may be the last thing you want to hear, but sometimes there are emotional issues tied to infertility.
If you are not psychologically ready for a baby, then your mind may be sending signals to your body so that you won't become pregnant.
It's important to think about what could be stopping you from feeling prepared. Is motherhood frightening to you? Is your relationship with your partner stable? Are you afraid of weight gain, childbirth or other aspects of pregnancy?
You may want to evaluate your thoughts and feelings around pregnancy so that you can remove any blocks. (And keep in mind, none of us are ever truly "prepared" for motherhood, so don't expect perfection!) Seeing a counselor, journaling, or meditation may be of great help to you.
Will I ever get pregnant?
If you tried getting pregnant for a while now, you may feel defeated, sad, and even frightened. The looming question is: "Will I ever get pregnant?"
Know these thoughts are completely normal. Embrace them and then let them go so they don't contribute to unwanted stress. Control what you can control... like diet, exercise, and implementing any/all of the above-mentioned tips working with a holistic doctor. Trust the rest will fall into place in its own time.
As a final word, I know many mamas who benefited by implementing ideas in this book as well as Katie Singer's work. The latter author is a personal favorite as she's tied into a real food diet, incorporates lunaception, is a master in hormone charting and uses other alternative strategies.
Here's how other natural mamas increased their fertility naturally
I asked the moms on my Facebook page if they took any natural steps to increase their fertility before successfully becoming pregnant. Here are some of their responses.
I'm due any day... I stopped diet soda, no GMO, organic, and limited processed foods. - Julie M
We tried for 2 years before conceiving, 3mo after going gluten free. Bam. Our angel. - Daisy H
Chiropractic adjustments! Tried to conceive for 8 months with no luck, so I started seeing a chiro 2x a week. Within 4 weeks I had a positive pregnancy test. - Lauren S.
Vitex (chaste berry) - Amy B.
Eliminate caffeine, eliminate disposable menstrual products (love the lunette cup), pregnancy prep, false unicorn root tincture and lots of yummy red raspberry leaf tea. - Stacie H.
I did IVF after not being able to get pregnant for 3 years. We tried for 1.5 years to get pregnant a second time. Fortunately, a friend recommended I take Royal Jelly. I took those for the first 2 weeks of a cycle and got pregnant. We couldn't believe it!! We are due in august and I'm so glad Royal Jelly worked and I didn't have to do IVF again. Woohoo!! - Shauna C.
I ate oysters - Meridith W.
Might sound obvious but I finally relaxed! Nothing more natural than that! Lol! - Katerina J.
Let the light in!!!!!! My mum and grandmas advice.... which meant having sex in the day with all the windows and doors open!!! An old wives tale but it worked... one boy, then a girl. - Dizzie P.