1. Try Straight Away
So many of the young women we see in their thirties have been on the pill for fifteen years and have no idea about their natural cycles any more. Women used to be advised to wait for the pill to “come out of your system” before trying to conceive, but research now shows that you’re actually more fertile immediately after stopping the pill, as there is a big hormonal push within the body. Although many women can get pregnant quite quickly, for others there are delays and it’s not unusual to have cycle disturbances for six to seven months and cycle irregularities as well – this is completely normal though.
2. Know your cycle
If you’ve been on the pill for a while then you won’t know your natural cycle. Now’s the time to really get to grips with it.
- Your menstrual cycle begins on day one of your period and ends the day before your next period. 28 days is an average cycle length, but as long as it’s between 23 and 35 days and is regular (no more than 7 days’ variation each month), then this is considered normal.
- Each month, around 20 immature eggs start to develop within the follicles in the ovaries and usually only one of these will develop to full maturity while the others shrivel away. Around mid-cycle, this egg will then be released, which is ovulation.
- While you can use ovulation sticks and thermometers to track ovulation, by the time you see the result you want to see, ovulation may have occurred and you’ll miss your fertile window. The best way to determine when you are fertile is to understand your cervical secretions. The quantity and consistency gradually changes, from dry, to moist and sticky, to wet and slippery (like raw eggwhite) and back again. It’s during the ‘eggwhite’ stage you are at your most fertile,
- By understanding your cycle, and especially your secretions, you may find that you actually ovulate much earlier or later than mid cycle.
3. Have plenty of sex
Couples who are trying to conceive often fall into the habit of only having sex around the time when they think the woman is fertile, meaning that chances aren’t being maximised and by the time you get around to having sex again, the sperm waiting to be released are old. Given that the egg can only be fertilised in the first 24 hours after ovulation and sperm can survive two to three days at least in the female productive tract, it is important that regular quantities of fresh, active healthy sperm are present and ready to attempt fertilisation. Plan to have sex at least three times a week.
4. Take the pressure off
This is something we see all the time with couples, they start trying, then if it hasn’t ‘worked’ a couple of months later, they start to lay unnecessary pressure on themselves. But it’s not unusual for it to take 8-12 months, so take the pressure off each other, relax as much as you can, and try to enjoy yourselves.
5. Clean up your lifestyle
Inevitably, the way you live your life will have an impact on your fertility: alcohol, cigarettes, excessive stress, lack of exercise, work/life balance…all affect your chances of conceiving. In an ideal world it would be preferable not to drink at all while trying to conceive, but there isn’t any evidence to suggest that the occasional glass of wine affects fertility. However, we advise our clients to drink no more than 5 units per week for a woman, and 7 for a man. There is some research which suggests you shouldn’t drink around ovulation, so try to avoid this time. When it comes to cigarettes and drugs however, these absolutely affect male and female fertility, so now is the time for you both to stop.
6. Look at your diet
Nutrition is a key building block of fertility, and by giving careful consideration to what you eat, while making changes where necessary, you will boost your chances of getting pregnant. Rather than focusing on specific foods, aim for a sensible overall healthy eating plan; we all have good days and bad days so don’t put pressure on yourself to stick to a strict healthy eating plan, just make sure you are eating healthily, consistently.
7. Manage your stress
Another lifestyle trigger which affects fertility for both partners is stress, and these levels definitely rise when trying for a baby if it is taking longer than expected. When a woman is stressed and secreting high levels of stress hormones, these interfere with the secretion of sex hormones which in turn can disrupt menstruation and ovulation. Stress can also disrupt sleep, which makes couples too tired for sex. It can also affect hormone balance.
8. Exercise more
Regular exercise is definitely recommended for fertility and as a preparation for pregnancy. It only becomes harmful if you are exercising so vigorously and frequently that it affects your hormones and menstrual cycle. Exercise helps by relieving stress, helping digestion, controlling blood sugar, increasing blood flow, managing weight and helping create a strong immune system; all key factors for fertility.
9. Take supplements
We’re often asked if you need supplements if you eat a balanced diet. In an ideal world if everybody had a balanced diet it would be wonderful and we might not need them, but we all know that’s often not the case. 30% of people don’t eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and the way that we lead our lives in the 21st century doesn’t help. If you’re stressed, eating processed food, eating on the run, drinking alcohol…you’re depleting your body of vital nutrients. Even if you’re eating healthily, how and when you eat can have an adverse effect on how well your food is absorbed and the benefits you get from it.
Zita West supplements for fertility:
Vitafem is a simple, effective way for women to support their fertility and ensure they are getting the essential nutrients they need while preparing for pregnancy. Vitafem contains a broad range multivitamins such as; vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin E and B vitamins as well as the most important minerals.
Vitamen contains a broad range multivitamins and minerals that men need and possibly lack through their diet. It’s specially formulated to help support male fertility and to help prepare the body for conception.
We usually recommend both men and women take VitalDHA alongside Vitafem and Vitamen. Vital DHA contains Omega 3 essential fatty acids, plus a small amount of zinc. It has been designed to help protect both partners’ DNA from oxidative damage during preconception as well as to support normal fertility and healthy sperm production. It also helps build a woman’s reserves of Omega 3 in readiness for pregnancy.
Many couples can be deficient in Vitamin D. It plays a critical role in reproductive health. Both Vitafem and Vitamen include it, but as it’s simple and relatively inexpensive to take on its own, lots of people choose to take a bit extra.
10. Get checked
Be prepared for pregnancy – make sure your smear test is up to date and check your rubella status.