The age of first-time parents in America has been trending upwards for decades, and fertility challenges are a common complaint when starting a family later in life. At the same time, medical knowledge and interventions for such individuals is improving all the time.
For both men and women, an important first step in improving your fertility is actually letting go of the need to control the process. Even couples able to conceive without any medical intervention face some unpredictability. While you may be concerned about your work schedule, other life events, and the march of time, children bring a measure of chaos to life that starts before they even arrive on the scene and stressing about when and how you’ll start a family could decrease fertility.
You can start practicing letting go of the need to control the uncontrollable now, and as an added bonus, relaxing and letting things happen in their own time is actually an effective way to improve fertility. Go ahead and schedule that Caribbean vacation—you never know what could happen! However, it’s also wise to take a look at your lifestyle and see if there are any things that you could change to optimize your chance of conception, and, of course, have a qualified healthcare provider do a physical check on both parties to make sure there are no unaddressed barriers to overcome.
For women, you can start by monitoring your cycle to identify which days you are most likely to be fertile and proceed accordingly. Avoiding chemicals is also important—consider eating organic, whole foods, and monitor your environment and workplace for hazards that may be impacting you—many become so common that you overlook them. For example, some sexual lubricants actually inhibit the ability of sperm to reach the egg. Monitoring your vaginal health and avoiding introducing unnecessary substances, such as overaggressive cleansing routines, into the reproductive tract can also help improve your odds. Bring any medications you currently take or have taken in the past to the attention of your doctor, as some may have longer-term effects, try to maintain a healthy weight, stay hydrated, and cut back on caffeine.
For both men and women, cutting back or, ideally, eliminating recreational substance abuse is recommended. That includes tobacco, marijuana, party drugs and illegal substances, as well as alcohol. One of the reasons elimination is recommended is to avoid inadvertent damage to your baby when in the womb. Such consumption can also decrease sperm count, health, and mobility in men, and will lower fertility rates in women, negatively impacting your chances of getting pregnant.
Diet is another area that both men and women can optimize together. Focus on a well-balanced diet with whole foods including fruits and vegetables, and try to cut back on prepared and processed foods, as well as added salt and sugar. Stay hydrated and avoid tuna and mackerel (high in mercury) and liver (Vitamin A is bad for babies). Men should limit their intake of soy as it is thought to lower sperm count. Talk to your doctor about appropriate vitamin and mineral supplements—some may be recommended for general health, while others are more focused on creating a better environment for fetus development.
While fitness is a good investment for both men and women, men in particular benefit from regular exercise because it balances hormones. Men are cautioned not to overdo their exercise regimen, however, since pushing too hard can have a negative effect on fertility. Focus more on reaching a healthy size and state for your body type.
Dr. Erol Onel is known for his male fertility research and development and is a good source of tips for men specifically. He recommends avoiding hot tubs, steam rooms, and saunas because high heat can damage sperm DNA and its mobility. He also points out that regular sexual intercourse with your partner helps keep sperm healthy and it goes without saying that it increases the likelihood of becoming pregnant.
It’s important to see a licensed care provider and rule out any conditions requiring medical intervention, but in general there are many ways you can optimize your lifestyle to enhance fertility. Ensuring general physical health, including eating well, hydrating, and avoiding damaging substances can make a difference. Many things in our modern environment go unnoticed in day-to-day life, but may be barriers to your fertility, so stay up to date with fertility research and avoid known offenders to boost your chances. Reducing stress and having more sex both help, and are good practice in letting go the need to control your life and letting nature do its thing.