Tips for Enhancing Your Fertility
1. Make Sure You're Cleared For Take-Off
Ideally, a woman planning to conceive should have a complete physical exam,
make sure she's up-to-date on all of her vaccinations and review any medications
she is taking with her doctor. She should inform her doctor of her plans and
ask if there are any specific lifestyle, medical, or risk issues she needs to
2. Make Healthy Lifestyle Changes
Exercise and eat right. Get close to your ideal weight -- that means
not too fat and not too thin -- and start exercising to help strengthen and
tone your muscles. On the other hand, over-exercising, for example in the case
of elite athletes, can impair fertility. You should also eat a well-balanced
diet and begin taking prenatal vitamins, including folic acid, 400 mcg/day,
to reduce the possibility of birth defects when you do conceive. Folic acid
is found in orange juice, beans, and dark green, leafy vegetables.
Don't smoke, don't smoke, don't smoke. Not only is it bad for you for
about 1,000 reasons, smoking can also significantly reduce both his and her
fertility. In addition, smoking has potentially serious consequences for a
pregnant woman and her unborn fetus.
Cut out all Alcohol and Caffeine. If you drink, the alcohol may interfere
with the amount of hormones that you produce, making it more difficult to conceive.
Alcohol can also endanger a pregnancy and/or cause miscarriage. In men, alcohol
can reduce sperm counts.
Treasure his jewels. Tell your partner to avoid hot water and tight
pants, and choose boxers over briefs -- a man's sperm work best in temperatures
slightly below normal body temperature.
Relax. Stress and depression may make your menstrual cycle irregular.
In men, stress can be associated with abnormal sperm development.
"Natural" doesn't mean safe. Researchers have found that even
tiny amounts of St. Johns wort, echinacea and ginkgo biloba can change the genetic
material of human sperm and reduce sperm's viability. Reevaluate your reasons
for taking these herbal preparations and whether you really need them. One supplement that has been shown to be safe and may enhance fertility in
one small study is the product Fertility Blend™ for Women, which contains chasteberry
(vitex agnus-castus), folic acid; green tea; vitamin E; selenium; L-arginine;
vitamins B6 and B12; iron; magnesium; and zinc.
Carnivores have an edge. Women with difficulty conceiving who are vegetarians
may have reduced fertility because of skewed levels of reproductive hormones;
they metabolize estrogen to inactive products more quickly. They also have longer
menstrual cycles than women who eat meat do.
3. Make Sure You're Doing It At The Right Time: Timing Is Everything
The majority of women are unaware of their most fertile time and how to
identify it. Here are four options:
Basal Body Temperature: The simple, inexpensive way of finding out the
approximate time when you ovulate is to take your basal temperature
first thing every morning, before even getting out of bed, and record it on
a chart. A slight rise in temperature indicates ovulation, or the time you are
most likely to conceive. You can buy a special Basal Body Thermometer at your
drug store for $5-10. Save all your charts so you can review them with your
doctor. Three or four months of charting should be adequate.
Ovulation Kits: There are several commercial home ovulation kits designed
to identify when a woman is ovulating. By measuring the amount of luteinizing
hormone (LH) in the urine, these kits can predict ovulation within a range of
24-36 hours. Cost is about $20-$30 each.
ClearPlan Easy Fertility Monitor™: More than the other two techniques,
this product removes the guesswork about your most fertile days, thus reducing
a significant amount of stress. It is a noninvasive, palm-sized electronic monitoring
system designed to identify a woman's most fertile days by testing her urine
for estrogen and luteinizing hormone (the two hormones that control fertility)
approximately ten days per month. The monitor cues the patient when to test
her urine and lets her know her days of low fertility, high fertility and peak
fertility. This allows some advance planning. This product is not suitable for
women whose monthly cycle is normally shorter than 21 days or longer than 42
days, however. Cost is less than $200.
The Cue™: Unlike the Clear Plan Monitor, this electronic monitoring system is based upon measuring the electrolyte changes in saliva that accompany ovulation and peak fertility and is able to give up to 7 days advance notice of ovulation. Using an additional vaginal sensor (purchased separately), the Cue will also confirm ovulation on the day it occurs. The Cue costs $385 and the optional vaginal sensor costs an additional $85. A more advanced model, OvaCue is able to store and retrieve data from month to month. This monitor costs $485, plus $85 for the vaginal sensor.
4. Have Fun!
A satisfying sexual experience can also be a more "productive" one --
the cervical and uterine movements of a woman's orgasm can help the sperm
along their path to the egg.
- a. Remember the romance: Your passion for having a baby should not replace
your passion for each other
- b. Be careful when you chose a lubricant. Some creams or lotions are thick
enough to reduce the number of sperm that get into the cervix.
- c. Don't douche: Same reason.
- d. Consider your position: The best way to conceive is the traditional
way with the man on top and the woman on the bottom. This allows the penis
to penetrate deeply and puts the sperm close to cervical entry to the uterus.
- e. After lovemaking, it may help for a woman to lie still for 20- 30 minutes.
Putting a pillow under your hips can help the ejaculate slip towards your
5. It Takes Two To Make Three
Couples who are doing everything "right" for 6 continuous months but still haven't
conceived should be sure both partner's fertility is evaluated. Remember that
in normal healthy couples having regular, well-timed, unprotected intercourse,
only 8 out of 10 will conceive in one year. Sometimes it just takes time.
Infertility simply means the inability to conceive in 12 cycles in which you
were both together. . .or the inability to carry a baby to term. Infertility
is not just a female problem, however: 40 percent of infertility is from a
female factor (e.g. tubal blockages, endometriosis), 40 percent is from a male
factor (e.g. low sperm count), and 20 percent have unknown causes.
6. When All Else Fails
FERTILITY DRUGS: There are several choices, and your doctor will make the
appropriate recommendations. Remember that these drugs have limitations and
potential complications -- they should not be regarded as prenatal vitamins.
They can be used on their own, or together with assisted reproductive technologies,
such as artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization.
IN VITRO FERTILIZATION (IVF) -- IVF is a method of assisted reproduction in
which the man's sperm and the woman's egg are combined in a petri dish, where
fertilization occurs. The resulting embryo is then transferred to the uterus
to develop naturally. Usually, two to four embryos are transferred with each
DONOR EGGS -- Assisted reproductive techniques makes it possible for women
to donate their eggs to women who can't produce their own.
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Created: 11/2/2000  - Donnica Moore, M.D.