You’ve got your heart and mind set on getting pregnant. You’re armed with a calendar and an ovulation test—and you’re off to the races! As simple as we all wish it were to get pregnant, unfortunately, studies show that it may not be as easy as we hope. There are many factors that can affect a woman’s (or man’s) fertility. Some are well known, and others are quite unexpected. For example, did you know that if you’ve had your tonsils or your appendix removed, you’re more fertile than others who didn’t? Researchers at the University of Dundee in Scotland evaluated 530,000 women in a 15-year study. They found that women who had either their appendix or tonsils removed were more likely to get pregnant than those who hadn’t. Pretty incredible! We’re not suggesting that you sign up for elective surgical procedures in order to conceive, but this does demonstrate that the factors that have an impact on fertility are often mysterious and surprising. The way we go about our daily lives can interfere with our fertility too. The good news is that there are some lifestyle changes we all can make that may increase our chances of getting pregnant. Read on to see if you can improve your fertility odds by making some simple changes to your daily routines.
1. If You Text at Night
You know that it’s bad for your mental health to keep working on your phone way past your bedtime, but did you know that it can affect your ability to conceive, as well? According to a study published in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility, exposure to artificial light at night—like that emitted by phones and laptops—can affect your ability to conceive and can also harm your fetus if you’re already pregnant. This type of light exposure has been shown to suppress the production of melatonin in the reproductive tract. One of melatonin’s normal roles is to protect eggs from free radicals—especially during ovulation. Free radicals can damage your eggs and affect fertilization. If you’re already pregnant, the light can also mess with your fetus’ internal clock, which may result in long-term issues.
2. If You Have a Lot of Cavities
Studies show that a woman’s oral health could be related to her ability to reproduce. You may notice that taking good care of your teeth results in them looking great, but the benefits extend way beyond that. It appears that the better care you take of your teeth, the more fertile you are. A study in the Journal of Periodontology found higher levels of gum inflammation and bleeding in women who had trouble getting pregnant and sought out fertility treatments. If you hope to get pregnant in the near future, keep your mouth clean and schedule your dental visits for every six months.
3. If You Don’t Meditate
Have a high-stress job without a proper stress management routine? It may be affecting your ability to ovulate. A study published in the Journal of Human Reproduction found a correlation between high stress levels and increased infertility. In fact, women with high levels of the stress hormone alpha-amylase had a 29 percent lower chance of getting pregnant. Their risk for infertility was also double that of women with lower levels of alpha-amylase. One more reason to book that yoga class today!
4. If You Have High Cholesterol
Think that high cholesterol levels are only bothering your blood vessels? Think again! A study in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism found that the higher a woman’s cholesterol was, the longer she tried to get pregnant. The study also showed that guys aren’t off the hook either. When both male and female partners had high cholesterol, it was even harder to conceive.
5. If You Love Junk Food
Hormones that have a role in conception (such as progesterone, insulin, and testosterone) are dependent on the body being nourished to function properly. If your junk food addiction is leaving you malnourished in important nutrients like zinc, vitamin D, and B6, you could unknowingly be diminishing your ability to make a baby. Want to boost your fertility even more? A study published in Clinical Science found that eating a big breakfast (equivalent to half of your daily caloric intake) could increase your ability to conceive.
6. If You Use Lubricants
Lubricants can help make the process of getting pregnant more fun, but unfortunately some of them can also hurt your ability to conceive. Even if they don’t contain a spermicide, some lubricants can affect the sperm anyway. If you need to use a lubricant and you’re trying to get pregnant, experts recommend using the sperm-friendly lubricant Pre-Seed (which is available over the counter).
7. If You Smoke
If you haven’t been able to give up your smoking habit, maybe this will give you the extra nudge you need. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) estimates that smoking is linked to 13 percent of infertility cases. And that’s not all. Another study found that women who were around secondhand smoke for six or more hours a day were 36 percent more likely to have trouble getting pregnant. The good news is that if you give up smoking, your fertility will return to normal after about a year. So there’s no better time than now to ditch the habit!
8. If Your Clothes Aren’t Fitting Right
Weight is a big issue if you’re trying to get pregnant. Whether you weigh too much or too little, both can affect your periods and ovulation. The ASRM estimates that 12 percent of infertility cases are related to weight. In the case of weight and exercise, moderation is really the key. It’s important to be fit and healthy without taking it too far. Experts suggest that body mass index (BMI) be kept in the normal range, making sure not to let it drop below 18 or rise above 25.
9. If Your Cervical Mucus Is off
What you might know is that cervical mucus is the fluid secreted by the cervix…but what you may not realize is that one of its jobs is to protect sperm as it travels up the reproductive tract. Problems can occur if your cervical mucus is abnormal—mostly if it’s too thick. No need to worry though, this can easily be treated with medication or minor interventions. What causes your cervical mucus to be abnormal? Mostly genetics, but tobacco use can also change it and make it harder for the sperm to reach the egg.
10. If You Have Uterine Polyps or Fibroids
Polyps and fibroids are benign growths that attach to the uterine wall. There is a slight difference between them. Polyps are composed of endometrial tissue, and fibroids are made up of muscular tissue. If you have either one, this could be messing with your fertility. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you suspect you have polyps or fibroids so you can see if any issues can be corrected with medication or surgery.
11. You’re Getting Older
This is true of everyone, obviously. As much as you want to check a whole bunch of things off your bucket list before you get pregnant, unfortunately, increasing age isn’t your friend when it comes to fertility. A woman’s fertility naturally starts to decline at the age of 32. Then there’s another dip after the age of 35, and a big one after 40. A woman is born with a limited number of eggs (unlike sperm, which are constantly being made), and those numbers drop over time. Additionally, as you age, the quality of eggs that you have left diminishes. If you’re over age 35 and want to get pregnant, experts suggest that you try for six months. If after that time you’ve had no luck, you should consult with a specialist to see if there are any complications or treatments that you can consider.