While TV and movies often make it seem like all couples need to get pregnant is to look at each other funny, the reality is that it often takes up to a year for fertile partners to make a baby. That means patience and a positive attitude are crucial tools on your conception journey. But is there anything you can do to increase your monthly chances? Here are nine daily habits that improve your chances of conceiving, according to experts. If you look closely, I think you'll notice a pretty powerful trend.
Unfortunately, Americans today aren't always the healthiest bunch. We habitually log long hours at the office, ignore our vegetables (hello, delicious Egg McMuffin), and skimp on self-care. If you're trying to get pregnant, consider prioritizing sleep, nutritious foods, and downtime over your to-do list. (Incidentally, these are all habits that come in handy during pregnancy, too.) And don't just emphasize self-care — your partner needs to take care of themselves, too. So pretend you're on your honeymoon, and enjoy the road to building your family.
However, know that if you're under 35 and have been trying to get pregnant for over a year, it's a good idea to visit a fertility specialist, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Likewise, if you're over 35 and have been trying for over six months, you should schedule a visit with a healthcare provider to rule out any underlying conditions.
1. Have Sex, & Lots Of It
No surprise here: having lots of sex increases your chances of getting pregnant. (And it's fun, too.) But exactly how often should you be getting it on?
"There are a lot of theories on sex," explains Dr. Mingxue Yang of the New Hope Fertility Center in an email to Romper. "We know sperm can survive in the uterus for up to three days. So some thinkers suggest having sex every other day, or every two days. I typically recommend trying to conceive naturally, daily. However, we are seeing promising studies that show having sex twice in a 24-hour period can dramatically increase your chance of conception."
Why exactly is a twice a day habit potentially beneficial? According to Yang, the second batch of semen is less likely to be old or contaminated. But don't stress if twice-daily sex isn't your cup of tea. Above all, Yang recommends that couples simply enjoy their intimate time together. "It will help you relax, create a deeper connection with your partner, and those can improve your chances," he says.
2. Stay Positive
OK, I know this one can be easier said than done, especially if you've been trying to get pregnant for a while. However, you should never underestimate the power of psychology on your body's physical processes.
As Yang explains, couples that seek out his fertility expertise often get pregnant immediately after, without intervention. He thinks that the simple process of giving in and trusting another person takes the pressure off. "The power of the mind is incredibly great," he says.
3. Try To Relax
Chronic stress is terrible for your physical health, in part because it's difficult to motivate yourself to make a salad or head to the gym when you feel anxious all the time. Unfortunately, trying to get pregnant can be a powerful stressor all on its own.
"Trying to conceive can be stressful, and the regular stress of our lives doesn't stop when we decide it’s time to start or grow a family," explains Amy Romano, Board-Certified Nurse Midwife and SVP of Clinical Programs at Baby+Co, in an interview with Romper. "In fact, it usually intensifies." Baby+Co teaches clients better ways to deal with stress, like mindfulness, breathing techniques, journaling, and self-care.
What you absolutely should not do is deal with stress in any of the ways anti-heroes do on television. As Yang notes, drinking alcohol and overeating aren't going to further your healthy, pregnancy-ready lifestyle, so try fitness or meditation instead. Oh, and if you smoke, it's definitely time to quit.
Lastly, don't throw yourself into anything too hard. According to Fertility Authority, over-exercising can actually negatively impact your ability to conceive. Remember, fertility is all about "balance," says Yang.
My suggestion? Immerse yourself into your hobbies, friendships, and your romance with your partner to take your mind off Project Get Pregnant.
4. Eat A Healthy Diet
You knew this was coming, right? Whatever your situation, common sense and the prevailing wisdom tells us that eating better can only help matters. Romano recommends adopting a version of the Mediterranean diet, which Eating Well called the "world's healthiest diet." As Romano explains, it focuses on "plant-based whole foods" like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans, and incorporates "healthy fats like olive oil, and clean fish, with smaller amounts of meat and dairy, and minimal added sugar or highly processed foods."
What about your nightly glass of red? "Drinking wine, studies are showing, may be OK in moderation," says Yang.
"Daily exercise can make it easier for some women to get pregnant," says Romano. "Especially if you have signs of insulin resistance, like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or pre-diabetes, regular exercise can improve your hormone balance and boost your fertility."
In fact, Romano notes that exercise is so helpful it's considered a "first-line treatment" for those struggling with fertility. And you can get your partner in on the action, too — studies show that exercise helps improve sperm quality, reported The Huffington Post.
As a bonus, exercising before you get pregnant makes for fewer complications down the line. "Once pregnancy begins, the woman rapidly creates new blood vessels that help supply nutrients and oxygen to the growing baby," Romano explains. "Regular aerobic exercise in the months leading up to conception helps condition the blood vessels so they are ready for this rapid growth."
Implementing an exercise program now is especially helpful if you're overweight or obese, according to Yang. Reducing your body mass index (BMI) can improve fertility, as well as your overall health.
6. Take Your Vitamins
Yang and Romano both recommend taking prenatal vitamins, particularly those with folic acid, while trying to conceive. Depending on your diet, Romano sometimes also advises clients take additional supplements like "extra vitamin B12, iron, methylated folate, or omega-3 fatty acids," she says. On top of that, Yang believes vitamin D may be beneficial, because of the correlation between vitamin D deficiency and infertility.
"Sometimes DHEA can be recommended," Yang explains. "DHEA is made from cholesterol and is attributed to creating estrogen and testosterone. We may recommend taking a DHEA supplement to balance your hormones and improve egg quality."
As for supplements, Yang notes that C0Q10 might help you conceive, but cautions that not all supplements are created equal, so you should ask you doctor about the most effective kind.
Before you stock your medicine cabinet, the best thing to do is visit your healthcare provider or a fertility specialist for a pre-conception visit to ask what vitamins might be best for you.
7. Seek Out A Community
OK, look. It can be painful to check your social media and discover that approximately one million of your college friends are sporting cute baby bumps, or hoisting strollers loaded with twins. To remind yourself that not everyone is getting pregnant quickly or easily, consider joining a Trying To Conceive (TTC) forum or community, either online or in real life.
Baby+Co places a "big emphasis on support and connection," says Romano, and for good reason. "Everyone copes better when they have people and resources to turn to for help," she observes.
8. Reduce Your Chemical Load
As the risk of sounding like Gwenyth from Goop, it is troubling that there are chemicals and contaminants everywhere — in cleaning supplies, beauty products, food, and fragrances. Even plastic food packaging and water bottles introduce chemicals into your system, and studies are increasingly looking into effects of such products on human fertility, as WebMD reported.
To reduce your chemical load, Romano suggests cutting back on processed foods and added sugars while you're trying to get pregnant. "It's also a good time to assess your home and work environment to look for contaminants that may be disrupting hormones or damaging cells," she explains. "Getting rid of artificial fragrances (like air fresheners), storing food and beverages in glass rather than plastic, and drinking filtered or bottled water are good first steps."
9. Get In Touch With Your Cycle
It's 10 p.m. — do you know what your ovulaton schedule is?
"Most people haven't learned about the menstrual cycle since high school health class and have used birth control methods that muted the normal signs of fertility," says Romano. "But with just a month or two of practice, it's easy to start identifying the fertile window when conception is most likely to occur."
Charting your temperature, using ovulation predictor kits (OPKs), and getting up close and personal with your cervical mucus are all good places to start. Ask your doctor or take a class to learn more about fertility and fertility tracking methods.