There are few things more exciting than welcoming a baby into this world. It’s one of the most beautiful things that we, women, get the honor of doing. But getting pregnant, carrying a baby and going through labor and delivery are not always as easy as the movies make it out to be—in fact, most of the times, they’re nothing like what’s portrayed on the big screen.
While most women don’t have difficulty getting pregnant, and go on to have relatively normal and uncomplicated pregnancies, approximately 10 percent (or 6.1 million) women who have trouble—when it comes to getting pregnant and staying pregnant. So in honor of April being National Infertility Awareness Month, here are some surprising things that might help your chances of getting pregnant.
Putting on a little extra weight
This is only true if you’re underweight or slightly underweight. While you might have spent most of your womanhood trying to shed pounds, there’s no room for this kind of behavior when you’re preparing your body for pregnancy. Just as topping the scales can give you trouble, so can weighing too little. When your body fat percentages are too low, under 19 percent, you might have difficulty conceiving. My best advice is to try your best to maintain a healthy weight by nourishing your body with enough of the right kinds of foods and making sure you’re getting your daily doses of vitamins and minerals. Here are some fertility foods I recommend.
Let me be clear: You do not need to have an orgasm to get pregnant. That being said, researchers have argued for decades whether or not having one may help your chances of getting pregnant. Essentially, the theory revolves around the fact that your uterus contracts during an orgasm, which may cause the vagina to “suck up” the semen. They were even able to somewhat prove this theory in a study, which measured the amount of semen that leaked out after sex. They discovered that when the female orgasmed a minute or less before the male ejaculated, sperm retention was higher. Hey, it can’t hurt to try test this theory yourself!
Choosing the right lube
Whether or not you prefer to use them is completely up to you, but these days certain lubes tout fertility-boosting benefits. The most basic way they help you conceive is keeping things, well, lubricated down there so the semen has an easier time traveling up to your uterus, where it will fertilize one of your eggs. My opinion is to skip anything that’s unnatural or contains ingredients you can’t pronounce. Also, avoid anything that contains glycerin, which is known to damage sperm. A good all-natural brand is Sliquid Oceanics, a toxic-free, water-based lube that’s infused with organic botanicals.
Keeping track of your cycle
Apart from eating a healthy diet, exercising and cutting back on the drinking, you can get ahead in your pregnancy planning by keeping track of your cycle. Did you know that you only have about six days in the month during which you can really get pregnant? It’s called your fertile window and it happens about five days before ovulation and continues through the day of ovulation. There are plenty of apps out there, like Glow, Fertility Friend and Ovia, that do all of the hard work of calculating your ovulation dates for you. All you have to do is enter in the necessary information, like when you had your last period and when you last had sex.
Following a low-glycemic index diet
There’s lots you can’t control when it comes to fertility, like your age and genetics, but you do have a say when it comes to what foods you fuel your body with. In fact, researchers have found a connection between low-glycemic index food—foods high in good carbohydrates (like veggies and whole grains) and low in bad ones (cookies)—and fertility. One study, in particular, came out of Harvard. Researchers followed 17,544 married nurses without any history of infertility as they tried to get pregnant. They found that women whose diets had the highest glycemic load were 92 percent more likely to have ovulatory infertility than those whose diets had the lowest glycemic load.
While eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is of utmost important when you’re trying to conceive, there are certain supplements that can help ensure you’re getting the right amounts of vitamins and minerals. A prenatal vitamin will give you your main essentials, one being folic acid, which you should start taking around three to four months leading up to conception. Aim for 400 mcg of folic acid when you’re TTC. Research has shown countless benefits for pregnant women taking folic acid supplements including a healthy birth weight, higher Apgar scores and lowered risk for birth defects. B vitamins are also essential, including B1, B2, B6 and B12. They’re also linked with a healthier birth weight, as well as helping fight mood swings for mom during pregnancy. I always tell my patients to add in magnesium to aid with ovulation. It relaxes your muscles, helps with cramping and is also a natural stress reliever. Take it in the evening to help you relax and make you sleepy. Aim for 200 mg a day of magnesium.
Doing a 28-day detox
While the word “detox,” may be relatively new, at least to the last century, cleansing has been around since ancient times. It was used by the Egyptians, Japanese and Native Americans. It’s a great way to keep the body healthy and remove toxins and excess hormones, which is ideal around the time you’re trying to conceive. I recommend cleaning up the digestive system by removing gluten, dairy and sugar from your diet for approximately one month’s time. This encourages the liver to cleanse the body and supports female organs like the uterus and ovaries.
Getting a good night’s sleep
Eight hours a night is crucial, especially when you’re trying to conceive. But it’s not only the amount of time you lie in bed that puts points on the pregnancy score board—it’s also the quality of your sleep that impacts all your bodily systems. Specifically, sleep impacts the hormone leptin, which has a big effect on ovulation. If your body’s not properly producing leptin, you might have trouble conceiving. My best advice: Sleep consistently—at least from 11 p.m. and until 5 a.m.—for an easier pregnancy.
Relaxing and having fun
When you’re deep in the throes of pregnancy planning and trying to conceive, nothing can be more frustrating than someone telling you, “Just relax and it will happen.” But they may have a point. While stress does not cause infertility, there’s no doubting the fact that it works the other way around: Infertility can definitely cause stress. Stress boosts levels of the hormones adrenaline, catecholamines and cortisol in our body, which, not only break down our immune system, but can also inhibit the sex hormone, GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone). If we’re stressed, we’re less in the mood to have sex, and also completely exhausted from the high levels of stress hormones in our body. So, all in all, it is a good idea to try your best to relax. Take a yoga class, meditate or enjoy a warm bath with soothing essential oils. Trust me: You won’t have this free time when baby arrives!