12 Ways to Improve Fertility
By Stacia Moyer MD
Feb 23, 2017
Updated Nov 17, 2023
5 min read
The rate of pregnancy is only about 20-30% per month. That means that only about 50% of couples will get pregnant in their first 6 months of trying, then up to about 85% at a year, then 95% at 2 years. Every situation is different, but typically after about 12 months of trying it is time to see your local OB to see what they can do to help. However, there is a lot you can try on your own first. Please read these suggestions below on how to increase your fertility:
1) Start a vitamin regimen! – It is recommended that you start taking a prenatal vitamin for about 2 months prior to getting pregnant. This helps you build healthy vitamin levels in your system, which helps your body be more ready to get pregnant. Another healthy supplement to start is fish oil or DHA.
Tip: Freeze the fish oil and take it before bed to avoid fish burps!
2) Time to get healthy! – All those years you have told yourself that you are going to start eating more fruits and vegetables and exercise regularly, well now is the time. Your body is getting ready to support and grow another life. Making yourself as healthy as possible will increase your chances of healthy pregnancy and boost your fertility. One way to do this is substituting some of your protein with vegetable sources, such as beans and nuts, instead of animal sources.
Tip: A handful of almonds makes a healthy snack that will keep you full longer!
3) Everything in moderation! – We all know that you can’t drink alcohol while you are pregnant, but did you know that alcohol consumption can decrease your fertility? It has been show that drinking 2 standard alcoholic beverages a day can decrease your fertility by almost 60%. Drinking a more modest amount has not been show to affect it. High rates of caffeine consumption may also harm your fertility. During pregnancy we recommend limiting your caffeine intake to about 200 mg a day and while attempting pregnancy the same is true. This is typically 1-2 cups of coffee a day. If you are soda drinker read the label to see how much caffeine is in your drink of choice.
Tip: If you drink a lot of caffeine wean yourself slowly or you may develop headaches from the withdrawal of caffeine
4) It’s time to quit! – Tobacco use in pregnancy is associated with multiple potential problems including low birth weight, preterm delivery, SIDS, and miscarriage, just to name a few. Smoking can also decrease female and male fertility. It can decrease sperm production and how well an egg can implant in the uterus. Quitting is not easy, but there is a lot we can do to help, talk with your primary care physician. Vaping is not well tested but likely just as unsafe.
5) Lose weight! - This one is so much easier said than done, but even being mildly overweight can decrease fertility. Ideally, being a healthy weight is the best for getting pregnant, but even a modest weight loss can improve your chances of getting pregnant. Losing 10% of your current weight has been shown to boost your fertility. However, being underweight can actually be worse than being overweight so be careful when dieting and seek help if needed.
6) See your doctor! - Many health problems can potentially cause problems in pregnancy. Uncontrolled common problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and thyroid disease can cause serious complications in pregnancy and/or miscarriage. Also many medications are potentially harmful in pregnancy and may need to be stopped or changed prior to pregnancy. Please discuss your medications with your doctor.
Tip: Did you know poor dental hygiene can increase your risk of preterm delivery? See your dentist prior to pregnancy.
7) When do we have sex? – The optimal time to get pregnant is 14 days before the start of your next period. Try and keep track on your calendar or in an app on your phone, as to when your periods will typically start. Count 14 days back from the first day of your next period and that is when you should ovulate. We recommend trying to have sex every other day starting 3-4 days prior to ovulation and continuing for 3-4 days after your ovulate.
8) Cool off! – Did you know that when a man’s testicles get too hot it can decrease his sperm count? Encourage your partner to keep his computer off of his lap, switch from boxer to briefs, and avoid hot tubs. The effect of the heat is usually temporary and lasts for about 3 days until he can rebuild his supply of sperm.
9) Just because it’s natural doesn’t make it safe! – There are many herbs that are potentially dangerous in pregnancy, some of which can lead to miscarriage. Most herbs are not well studied in pregnancy and their safety is questionable. Chamomile, licorice, sassafras, ginseng, St. John's wort and ephedra—should be avoided before and during pregnancy. Ginger is likely safe in early pregnancy to help with nausea, but may need to be avoided later in pregnancy. Red raspberry leaf may be helpful in the last month or so of pregnancy, but in early pregnancy may lead to miscarriage. Peppermint should be used sparingly during pregnancy.
10) Hydrate! – Adequate hydration will ensure a healthy consistency to natural cervical mucous and male ejaculate.
11) Check your lube! – If you can comfortably have sex without lubricant, that is ideal. If lubricant is needed: Ensure that your lubricant does not have any spermicide in it. Avoid use of soap as lubricant as it can work as a spermicide. Even normally safe water based lubricants such as KY or Astroglide can lead to problems. Some of the best lubricants may be in your kitchen- try canola or olive oil.
12) Avoid dangerous chemicals! – Many jobs may lead to dangerous exposures when trying to get pregnant. Pesticides and chemicals used in dry cleaning for example, can both be potentially detrimental. Make sure you are using personal protective equipment when around these things and washing your hands regularly.