Whether you’re hoping to start a family, undergo fertility treatment, or simply want to make sure you’re doing everything you can for your reproductive health, here are 12 evidence-based ways to boost your fertility in 2020. Also check with your doctor on their recommendations for you during your 2020 annual checkup:
1. Quit smoking: The research is unambiguous – compared to non-smokers, smokers have 50-60% lower chances of conceiving, whether they’re trying to conceive naturally or undergoing IVF (see our more extensive recent post). Even if only the male partner smokes, fertility treatment is much less likely to be successful.
2. Track your periods: Pay attention to your periods, as they’re critical indicators of your reproductive health. Particularly painful periods can be a sign of endometriosis, and irregular cycles are associated with (early) menopause and ovarian failure, thyroid and other hormonal imbalances, diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases, uterine fibroids and uterine cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, eating disorders, and elevated stress.
3. Talk to your Mom: Many conditions associated with infertility have a genetic component, and it’s helpful to know whether you might be at an elevated risk for them. Knowing whether your Mom experienced early menopause or ovarian failure, miscarriages, any hormonal or other conditions affecting fertility, and whether your parents had trouble conceiving, will allow you to make more informed decisions about your fertility.
4. Get tested for STDs: Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are surprisingly common and often go undiagnosed, as they may not reveal any symptoms. Chlamydia and gonorrhea, the most common STDs in the US, can cause infections of reproductive organs that can lead to infertility if left untreated.
5. Have your insulin levels checked: 1 in 3 Americans have a blood sugar imbalance, or ‘insulin resistance’ where excess blood sugar is left in the bloodstream. Risk factors for insulin resistance include excess body weight, smoking, and a lack of exercise and sleep. Insulin resistance is also one of the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition associated with lacking ovulation and difficulties conceiving.
6. Check your BMI: A BMI <19 is often associated with irregular or lacking periods and ovulation and can be a sign of an eating disorder or overexercising. Women with a BMI > 25 and particularly >30 have significantly lower success rates for fertility treatment. Men with a BMI >30 are more likely to have less sperm that moves more slowly and to suffer from hormone imbalances. Calculate your BMI and discuss it with your doctor at your annual checkup.
7. Eat a ‘Mediterranean diet’: Researchers recommend that you avoid fast food and instead embrace fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, whole grains, and foods high in omega 3, such as nuts. This goes not just for women undergoing fertility treatment, but also those hoping to conceive naturally. This “Mediterranean diet” has also been linked to higher sperm count and sperm quality in men. For more details, see our previous post.
8. Keep caffeine and alcohol intake moderate: The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends keeping caffeine consumption below 5 cups when trying to get pregnant; some studies suggest even more than 2 cups can have a negative effect. Check out our latest post for more details on caffeine research. The research on alcohol and fertility suggests that increasing alcohol intake prior to and during fertility treatment, or having more than one servings of alcohol per day likely has negative effects on fertility.
9. Consider folic acid: Folic acid has the strongest research behind it that shows a positive effect on fertility and pregnancy outcomes for both women and men. Testing your Vitamin D levels also sounds like a good idea, to make sure you’re not significantly deficient, which has been linked to worse fertility outcomes. While antioxidants seem to have no adverse effects, any evidence that they improve fertility outcomes is thin. Read more in our previous post on vitamins and supplements.
10. Exercise, but moderately: Exercise is yet another lifestyle factor where moderation seems to be associated with the best outcomes. Moderate exercise (brisk walking, leisurely cycling, gardening) has been linked to faster conception, while more extreme exercise (e.g., >5h/week of running, fast cycling, aerobics, gynmastics, swimming) or no exercise (particularly for BMIs>25) had negative effects on fertility outcomes.
11. Choose glass over plastic: Bisphenol A (BPA) is used to make water bottles and food packaging, and higher urinary levels of BPA have been associated with a longer time to conception. Interestingly, women with higher levels of folic acid were protected from the detrimental effects of BPA. Buying and storing food in glass containers helps lower your BPA exposure and also supports the environment.
12. Decrease stress: Lower stress levels are associated with many positive health outcomes, including more balanced reproductive hormones. Focus on what helps you decrease stress and anxiety in 2020 – for some, acupuncture is a good way of doing so. And if you’re undergoing fertility treatment this year, consider doing so while on vacation with Ovally, when you can nap whenever you like and take care of yourself in the way you deserve.
We at Ovally wish you all the best for 2020 and thank you all of you for a great 2019!