by Dr Raewyn Teirney

Being a fertility specialist, helping couples have their dream of a family, is an extremely rewarding experience and a great privilege. Many come seeking or thinking they need expensive treatment like In-vitro fertilisation to help them get pregnant. Some do need treatment, however after the various medical investigations, most couples just need reassurance and encouragement to keep trying, and importantly – sound fertility guidance.

Common questions asked  are…. “what tips can I give them to improve the chances of a baby?” or “What should I be doing now to increase my chances?”

Factors such as improving male and female health plus modifying lifestyle behaviours in the pre-conception period and tracking the menstrual cycle for the fertile days will improve the chances of conceiving.

Key steps I recommend for couples are:

Eat a healthy balanced diet rich in anti-oxidants.  Eating a balanced diet is important in supporting a healthy body and providing good nutrition especially when pregnant. Eat a balanced diet from the five food groups, especially those high in anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants act as scavengers removing nasty free radicals that can impact on fertility. Examples of Anti-oxidants are vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, zinc, garlic, folic acid, lycopene. Foods containing these include leafy green veggies, tomatoes, carrots, beetroot, nuts, fish

Start a preconception vitamin containing folic acid for foetal spinal development and iodine which is important for brain development and vitamin D for increased fertility.

Be the ideal weight for fertility and pregnancy. An ideal BMI ( body mass index) is between 20 and 24.  Studies have shown that it is much harder to conceive when the BMI is greater than 25.  Additional studies have demonstrated that by losing just 5% to 10% of your weight will improve the chances of ovulation and subsequent pregnancy.

If you are smoking – stop! There is no safe level of smoking. Studies show that women smokers have lower fertility compared to that of non-smokers. In couples undergoing fertility treatment, studies show pregnancy success rates are also reduced, with a higher miscarriage and stillbirth rate. Men who smoke may have reduced semen volume and sperm count and more abnormal sperm compared to non or ex-smokers. Toxins found in tobacco smoke, such as cadmium, nicotine, lead and radioactive elements may directly affect the testes and sperm production.

Track the menstrual cycle for the fertile days leading up to and day of ovulation to time sexual intercourse – baby making. Famous studies have shown that 67% of couples get their timing wrong, while knowing the fertile days increases the chances of a pregnancy.

Based on medical evidence, couples can improve their chances of getting pregnant by following these steps.

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