20 ways to increase your chances of getting pregnant
Things to try when you’re trying to have a baby – including healthy lifestyle habits, sex positions, fertility trackers – plus more advice from fertility experts
Sometimes getting pregnant is easy – and sometimes, well, it’s just not. And when you’re in that boat, you’ll be keen to try anything to help speed up the conception process.
Firstly, we’d say: please try not to stress, or obsess. Take everything you read here and do definitely give some of it a go, but don’t go mad with it, and remember to take a breather if the pressure of trying to conceive starts to feel overwhelming ?
In the right mindset, implementing these lifestyle changes, and trying a few new of the new things experts suggest, can help...
Here are 20 ways to increase your chances of getting pregnant…
1. Have a check-up
If you think you might have a problem getting pregnant, it may be worth getting it checked out before you start trying.
For instance, if you've always had irregular periods, or you have a particularly short or long cycle - for example shorter than 25 days or longer than 31 - ask your GP if your hormone balance can be checked.
Ask your parents if there have been any fertility problems in either of your families in the past. Talk to your doctor about any operations you've had on your thyroid or pituitary glands or in your abdomen.
And if you’ve ever had any STIs, see if that could have impacted your fertility, too.
2. Have sex regularly
One of the most obvious ways to get pregnant is to have regular sex, but it's often overlooked in a relationship due to outside pressures.
Professor Geeta Nargund, Medical Director at CREATE Fertility, says: "Often, when I ask patients how long they've been trying to have a baby, they'll say for the past six years.
"But when you get down to it, they haven't been trying for six years because they haven't been having regular sex.
“Professional couples often work in different places and have busy lives so don't find time to have sex at the right time of the month.
“You should try to have sex at the time of ovulation which is around day 14 of your menstrual cycle.'
Experts also recommend you should have sex at least 3 times a week throughout your cycle.
3. Consider your sex positions
Professor Geeta doesn't think that sexual positions have any impact on fertilisation.
However, Toni Weschler, an American public health specialist who has explored the subject of fertility, recommends that you avoid straddling your partner as this means semen will leak out, and that you place a small pillow under your hips after intercourse.
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This means your cervix rests in the pool of semen for around 20 minutes and allows the sperm time to swim up through the cervix. If you have a tipped uterus, try having sex from behind, on your hands and knees.
By having intercourse in this position, a woman with a tipped uterus allows the sperm better access to her cervix, according to Weschler.
4. Don’t become sex-obsessed
Many of these experts say regular sex at the right time is a big fat YES. But going overboard? Not necessary...
“I think the main thing is not to become too obsessed [with sex],” says acupuncturist and fertility clinic owner Zita West.
Gerad Kite, acupuncturist and fertility writer, agrees: “Having sex every day is too demanding for most people, and sperm volume reduces under this strain,” he explains.
“Keep the fun and excitement. Remember that a great orgasm will further increase the chance of the sperm finding the egg.”
5. Consider the lube you're using
There's no concrete evidence to suggest that using lubricants like KY Jelly will lower your chances of getting pregnant.
However, some small studies have suggested that lube can slow sperm swimming speeds down a bit... so it's worth having a full read of the evidence here.
Our forum mums have told us about some 'sperm-friendly' lubes, like Conceive Plus or Pre-Seed, which one anon reader says worked wonders friends of hers:
"A couple of my friends have had success with using Conceive Plus or Pre-Seed – they are lubricants designed to simulate the sort of cervical mucus you get naturally at your fertile time of the month, which is needed to transfer sperm."
If you're game to try anything, you may feel like giving it a go - here's what you need to know about lubricants and trying to get pregnant.
6. Understand your cycle
It's easier to have sex at the optimum times if you know how long your menstrual cycle is.
An average cycle is 28 days, but it can be longer or shorter. Anything between 24 - 36 days can be considered 'normal'.
It also helps to know if you ovulate regularly, as having sex during ovulation gives you the best chance of conceiving.
Most women ovulate mid-cycle, and your body gives you various subtle clues that this is happening. Your cervical and vaginal secretions change, your temperature rises slightly and your cervix looks and feels slightly different.
Fertility expert Zita West notes: “Your egg is only viable for 24 hours and sperm, if it’s good, can last up to 5 days inside a woman. It’s important to remember that the window for conception is 5 days leading up to, and including, the day of ovulation.”
To find out more, make an appointment to see the fertility awareness nurse at your family planning clinic. Or you could...
7. Use a fertility tracker
A fertility tracker can help you keep track of your cycle, making it easy for you to become aware of when you’re most fertile – alerting you to the best time to have sex for baby-making purposes.
Lots of our mums and mums-to-be have used a variety of fertility trackers - there are plenty - and we'll have a guide to MFM mum-approved trackers coming really soon.
For now, take the word of Victoria M, now a mum-of-2, who told us:
"Having polycystic ovary syndrome, I tried for 4 years to get pregnant. Then I bought a fertility monitor and I was pregnant after three months. I’d recommend it to anyone."
"I used a period tracker phone app for my last 2 pregnancies, which advised when my fertile days were. On both occasions, I fell pregnant within the first month during those days," adds mum-of-3 Pamela M.
8. Aim for your ‘optimum weight’
There's a general consensus among fertility experts that you should try to get to your 'optimum weight' when trying to get pregnant, as being over or underweight can affect the regularity of your periods and inhibit ovulation.
If you carry too much weight around the stomach, it's possible that it could affect your hormone balance and impair fertility and getting pregnant.
It's recommended you take on some light, regular exercise - going for long walks, or the odd swim session is a good place to start.
Give your GP a bell if you feel like your weight, or a lack of exercise, is something you'd like to change, in order to help you conceive. They'll be able to offer advice tailored to your current lifestyle.
9. Quit smoking
Ideally, you should stop smoking. If that seems like too much of an impossible task, it’s worth seeking support from the NHS' Stop Smoking services.
Smoking robs the body of essential nutrients for fertility including zinc, selenium, and vitamin C. It increases levels of toxic substances like cadmium and lead in the blood.
If you smoke you're more likely to have lower levels of vital fertility hormones and it’ll likely take you longer to conceive.
Oh, and if your partner smokes, he should stop now. Male fertility is also affected by smoking as male smokers have a lower sperm count than non-smokers.
If you feel you can't give up completely, try cutting down as much as you can. The less you smoke, the better.
10. Limit your alcohol intake
Limiting your alcohol intake can also help increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Research shows women who drink less than 5 units (so 5 small glasses) of wine a week are TWICE as likely to get pregnant within 6 months, than women who drink 10 or more units.
If you're a smoker who often lights up after a drink, you might also find drinking a bit less helps you smoke less, too ?
11. Check the medication you’re taking
While you’re trying to conceive, you’ll need to take care with over-the counter and prescribed drugs.
It's thought you might want to avoid, among others:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen, which is quite mild)
- Roaccutane, an anti-acne treatment
- Certain antibiotics
- Thyroid medication.
Don't panic, though. Simply speak to your doc or your pharmacist about what you're taking. Just let them know you're trying to conceive.
Paracetamol is fine for pain relief. ALSO: there's no evidence to suggest oral antihistamines 'dry up' cervical mucus, though MFM's resident GP Dr Philippa Kaye does point out they're best avoided in pregnancy.
She also advises following the guidelines for meds like these as if you're already pregnant, as hopefully, there'll come a point when you're in the very early stages of pregnancy and you don't know it yet.
12. Read up on your previous contraceptive
If you’re wondering why you’re not getting pregnant straight away, make sure you know exactly how long it typically takes before fertility returns after using a contraceptive.
Some women get pregnant straight after coming off the pill, but for many, it can take as long as 6 months before you start to ovulate again.
It varies a bit depending on the kind of contraceptive you were using, too. (We'll have a handy guide coming to you really soon, so stay tuned!)
13. Start taking folic acid
Folic acid is a must-take supplement in pregnancy, but it’s also thought that taking it 3 months before you even try to conceive can help reduce the risk of your baby developing neural tube defects, which leads to conditions such as spina bifida.
It's difficult to consume the recommended level of folic acid through food alone, so a single daily supplement of 400mcg folic acid is simple enough to take.
So, it's worth bringing up next time you're in to see your GP.
14. Be aware of your partner’s ‘scrotal temperature’
Well, there’s something we never thought we’d write – or that you’d ever read ?
But it’s not just up to women to ensure their bodies are primed for conception, you know. Men should, too. One way is by ensuring their testes are not too hot as this can kill sperm.
They can do this by avoiding hot baths, tight-fitting underwear and jeans, and using a laptop balanced on the lap as all these things raise scrotal temperature.
So, go for warm-but-not-hot temps, pop something sturdy under the laptop, and knock around the house in a pair of joggers. Simple!
15. Consider other vitamin supplements (if you need 'em)
Professor Geeta recommends that men take a vitamin E, C and zinc supplement to enhance sperm number and quality.
"Whilst it is important to aim to obtain all your vitamins and minerals from a healthy and nutritious diet, it is also recommended that women who are trying to conceive take 400 micrograms of folic acid per day.
“Other supplements that can be helpful in maximising health are Vitamin D, E and B12, zinc, iron and selenium.
"Introducing vitamins into an already healthy and balanced diet can help prepare the body for pregnancy as well as contribute to healthy sperm.”
Just make sure you're not overdoing anything - speak to your pharmacist or your GP before you buy.
16. Watch your stress levels
When you're under longterm or severe stress, your body uses energy on essential repair, maintenance and survival. Reproduction isn't deemed ‘essential', so it takes a back seat.
That's why many fertility experts believe stress can contribute to the time it takes to get pregnant. In women, stress leads to an overproduction of prolactin, a reproductive hormone, interfering with ovulation.
If you're living a hectic life, now might be the time to slowwww things down a bit. If that's not an option, prioritise your mental health and carve out some time just for you, to do something that helps you unwind and de-stress.
Too much stress is also a bit of a mood-killer. Getting pregnant will be easier, and more fun, if you enjoy sex and have time, energy and space for it in your lives.
Your partner should also try and reduce his stress levels as it will help improve sperm quality. So, he needs to take some chill time where he can, too.
Annoyingly, the pressure of trying to conceive can be the stress you’re desperate to avoid. It can be tough, especially if you’re really struggling to conceive, but be kind to and patient with each other.
“Stressed people have additional cortisol and adrenaline in their system, which has been shown to affect ovulation,” Zita says.
“The great thing about the body is it’s always trying to get the balance back, so there are many things you can do, such as breathing exercises, meditation, visualisation and yoga.”
Doesn't suit? Why not pop by the shops and treat yourself to something you love once a week? Doesn't have to be pricey. Find 15 mins in your day to lock yourself away with a book and a cuppa.
Mum-of-one Morgane R says a stress-free life was the ticket for her. "Just enjoy trying for a baby, the more you relax, the better it will be!”
“We are currently going for baby number two and I am just enjoying it! It’s the best feeling.”
17. Eat fertility-friendly foods
Getting lots of protein and eating as healthily as poss is a good (and simple) way to boost your chances.
Daily portions of meat, poultry, fish and dairy improves egg production. Go for fresh meat, fish and vegetables rather than processed ready-meals, and healthy snacks like fruit and nuts rather than chocolate and crisps.
(Though, of course, don’t go so mad with your food choices that it stresses you out, creating a vicious cycle.)
Gerad recommends including protein in every meal, including breakfast, which helps with egg production, and eating earlier in the day generally.
“Eat more early in the day and less at night, as this helps with deep, restorative sleep when body cells regenerate. It also helps with the maturation of healthy sperm and eggs,” he says.
18. Drink LOTS of water – but avoid caffeine
Caffeine should also be on your banned list - more than one cup of coffee a day can increase the time it takes to get pregnant by up to 50% - so try switching to herbal teas. You should also drink around two litres of water daily.
“Most importantly, always keep well hydrated," says Gerad. "Being dehydrated is worse than being malnourished.”
Try to cut down on flavourings and additives, especially aspartame and monosodium glutamate.
Your partner should also drink at least 2 litres of water a day as semen is largely made up of water.
"Both my husband and I were surprised to fall pregnant on the first try, despite being nearly 40," says mum-to-be Camilla G.
"Afterwards, I read about how green tea and wheatgrass juice, which we both drink a lot of, boost your fertility."
19. Get a sleep pattern going
Making sure you’re getting a good night’s sleep ensures you’re as relaxed and well-rested as possible.
This'll help you with lots of the stuff we've mentioned above - especially stress, and maintaining your healthy lifestyle. Can’t hurt, right?
20. Think outside the box
Reflexology, acupuncture, acupressure, yoga and hypnotherapy are all things we’ve seen TTC women try.
Whether there’s any evidence to prove it can help speed up the process is one thing, but Professor Geeta explains that it can’t hurt to try for other reasons…
“Trying to conceive can be a stressful and emotional process, so taking some time to relax and rest is one of the most important recommendations,” she says.
“Many women and experts would recommend acupuncture, meditation and yoga for relaxation. These activities offer additional emotional support that can help to encourage better implantation rate.
“Ultimately, I would recommend anything that helps you to relax, improve circulation and optimise your weight. The activity itself is less important as long as you are doing something positive that helps you to unwind.”
Share your stories
Did a lifestyle change make all the difference when YOU were trying to conceive? Perhaps you’ve got an app you’d recommend, or a treatment you found really relaxing?
Whatever it is – tell us in the comments below, or drop us a line on Instagram
Images: Getty Images