Starting a family is a big decision, perhaps one of the biggest you'll make, and while it's an exciting time, things don't always run smoothly. If you're trying to conceive and having little luck, here are a few tips on how to boost your fertility naturally.
If you're busy folk, it's easy to let the healthy, fresh diet slip into frequent weekday ready meals. But your body needs to be in tip-top shape if you're to improve your chances of conceiving, so concentrate on your diet. Deficiencies in protein, iron, zinc and vitamin C have all been linked to longer menstrual cycles, meaning less frequent ovulation, and could increase your risk of miscarrying, so a well balanced diet is a must. Lean proteins, dairy, beans, and plenty of nutrient rich fresh fruit and vegetables (aim for a whole range of colours) will all help to increase your chances of a baby. If you feel you're not getting enough of these essential nutrients, there are prenatal vitamin supplements available.
No cigarettes, less alcohol
Whether you're a prospective mum or dad, giving up smoking is essential. Cigarettes damage the eggs and cause the ovaries to age, and are known to reduce sperm production and damage DNA in men, so quit them and you'll have a better chance of having the family you desire. Besides, you should quit if you fall pregnant anyway to protect baby, so you may as well get a head start. Alcohol could similarly be affecting your conception abilities, since it can alter the oestrogen levels and harm fertility. Moderation is key, but as with smoking, you'll need to stop completely when you're expecting.
Maintaining a healthy body weight will undoubtedly increase your chances of conception. If you're overweight, it could disrupt ovulation, while if you're too skinny, your body may not be producing enough of the hormones that enable you to ovulate each month, so stick to that healthy diet and take frequent, moderate exercise to keep your weight in check.
Keep your cool
This one's for the chaps. Your body's optimum sperm producing temperature is 34.5 degrees Celsius, and that means you should think about cutting down on those hot baths. A three-year study at the University of California found that five out of 11 participants experienced a sperm count rise of almost 500 per cent when they stopped those hot soaks.
Though further research is needed, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that acupuncture could help couples to have a family. A 2002 German study found that women undergoing IVF treatment significantly increased their odds of becoming pregnant if having acupuncture - 42 per cent fell pregnant as opposed to only 26 per cent of those who did not receive treatment. Meanwhile a 2005 study published in Fertility and Sterility found that acupuncture was linked to an increase in the number of normal sperm produced by men with infertility.
Get into the rhythm
If you're trying to get pregnant, it's advisable to have sex often, and there is an optimal time to try. If you count the first day of your period as day one of your cycle, and ovulation occurs around 14 days before your next period is due, the best window of opportunity is six days before ovulation. Ovulation varies greatly from woman to woman, however, so if you're still having no luck, an ovulation test kit (widely available from pharmacies) might help.
Did you struggle to conceive? What steps did you take to get pregnant? Leave your comments below...