When you're actively TTC (that's "trying to conceive," of course), you're generally willing to try just about anything to get the process going. Still, unless you've encountered some major roadblocks that absolutely require professional intervention, you're probably looking to keep your efforts as simple and non-invasive as possible. Luckily, there are plenty of natural fertility boosters that won't give you any unpleasant side effects or require you to spend thousands of dollars on multiple procedures — and for lots of women, they really do work.
From subtle lifestyle changes (that will likely benefit your health in general anyway) to supplements to alternative medicine practices, there are a variety of tricks and techniques to try out if you're looking to expand your family. And if your plan to procreate isn't moving along quite at the pace you'd hoped it would, you should know that you're in no way alone: About 12 percent of women aged 15 to 44 years in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term, according to the Centers for Disease Control. So you can be fairly certain that whatever type of fertility booster you try, there will have been quite a few women who've gone down that road before you (and some of them are bound to have detailed their experiences on a Reddit thread or Facebook post!).
It goes without saying that you should always check with your doctor before trying anything new, especially if you're already undergoing fertility treatments. But once you get the go-ahead, these methods are said to be among the most successful.
People have turned to acupuncture for centuries, but in recent years it's becoming especially popular with patients with conditions that can be tricky to treat — such as infertility. There's sound medical reasoning behind this tactic, as the American Pregnancy Association explained on its website: Not only can acupuncture help to address underlying issues that can compromise fertility, such as an over or under-functioning thyroid, but the ancient practice can also "increase blood flow to the endometrium, helping to facilitate a thick, rich lining."
Another bonus? There are minimal risks of any adverse side effects with acupuncture. (And if you're somebody who freaks out at the thought of needles, don't worry — acupuncture needles are super thin and you barely feel them at all once they're in. Really!)
Unless you've been living under a rock for the last decade or so, you've probably heard about how probiotics (found in fermented foods and drinks like yogurt, kombucha, tempeh and sauerkraut) are like magic when it comes to maintaining a healthy balance of the "good" bacteria we all have in our gut. Taking the stuff has been linked to everything from better digestion to improved heart function, but did you know probiotics have even been linked to fertility?
One study published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology linked "abnormal vaginal microbiota" (think yeast and bacteria) to poor reproductive outcomes; another study from the Indian Journal of Medical Research found that lactobacillus (a form of probiotics) helped to maintain a healthy, more sperm-friendly vaginal pH.
And, once again, adding probiotics to your diet is a measure you can take that will benefit your whole body!
3. Coenzyme Q10
This supplement is one you might want to share with your partner: As Natalie Burger, M.D., a fertility specialist at Texas Fertility Center told The Bump, CoQ10 has been shown in studies to increase both male and female fertility, with “preliminary animal data" suggesting that CoQ10 even had the ability to "improve egg quality in ‘old’ mice.” Pretty amazing!
A nutrient naturally occurring the body, as explained by WebMD, CoQ10 also works as an antioxidant and aids in metabolism. And it's basically in every cell in your body!
You've probably heard that zinc can be helpful in fighting off colds and other infections, but a study published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology found that the trace mineral can aid in fertility, too. Research found that healthy eggs need a "tremendous amount of zinc" to mature to the point where they're ready for fertilization, reported Futurity.org.
“Understanding zinc’s role may eventually help us measure the quality of an egg and lead to advances in fertility treatment,” said Alison Kim, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow in obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University.
As with so many herbal medicines, there hasn't been a ton of research done on chasteberry (also sold under the name Vitex). However, in a small study by the Stanford University School of Medicine, women who were having trouble conceiving took a supplement containing chasteberry, which has been demonstrated to balance hormones and improve ovulation, and the amino acid L-arginine (which helps circulation to the reproductive organs). The results were promising: One-third of the women got pregnant after five months.
If you don't think much about magnesium, you're not alone: As CNN reported, studies have shown that just about 25 percent of adults in the United States get the recommended daily amount of this mineral. That's a bad thing, because magnesium is a pretty major player when it comes to health, affecting everything from your heart to (you guessed it!) your hormones. In one study, 12 women with unexplained fertility all went on to conceive within eight months of normalizing their magnesium levels, as reported by the National Institutes of Health.
7. Folic Acid
Everybody knows that women are supposed to take folic acid during pregnancy to help prevent birth defects, but apparently this B vitamin can actually help you to get pregnant, too. Research published by the National Institutes of Health showed that regular use of multivitamin supplements containing folic acid may decrease the risk of infertility.
8. Exercise (But Not Too Much)
All things in moderation, right? Regular exercise could help you to conceive, on the one hand, as Dr. Allison Hill, co-author of The Mommy Docs' Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and Birth, explained to Parents:
"Exercise helps to control your blood sugar, blood pressure and body weight, all of which are related to your ability to get pregnant," she said.
So definitely keep moving, but don't overdo it. As Fitness Magazine reported, a study published in the journal Human Reproduction linked too much vigorous exercise to lowered fertility.
9. Omega 3s
Whether you increase your intake of fatty acids through diet or supplements, a study conducted by scientists at the University of Colorado showed evidence that omega 3s can increase your odds of conceiving by helping your ovaries to produce better quality eggs, according to TIME.
10. Stress Less
Stressed about getting pregnant? That could be part of your problem. A study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that women with high levels of alpha-amylase (an enzyme connected to stress) had a more difficult time conceiving, as U.S. News reported.
Of course, chilling out about TTC is easier said than done. But learning to relax now will only help you later when the stress of new motherhood hits!
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.