Statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) show that 12 out of every 100 couples in the United States struggle with becoming pregnant. Struggling couples in this statistic may feel discouraged or disheartened by the long journey toward conception, but it is important to remember that there are plenty of practices women and their partners can adopt to improve their odds.
The good news is that much progress has been made in terms of research on fertility and conception to help struggling couples stay positive and informed on the latest advice for achieving a successful pregnancy.
With that said, here are 5 tips to help increase your chances of becoming pregnant:
1. Take care of your body
Just as important as understanding what helps in boosting fertility, such as maintaining a healthy weight or eating a healthy balanced diet, is knowing what habits to avoid. Some practices to avoid or minimize in order to improve your odds of conceiving include:
Results from 12 studies in Smoking and Female Infertility: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis comparing 10,928 smoking women with 19,179 non-smoking women showed that women who smoked were 60% more likely than female non-smokers to be infertile.
While the link between alcohol and infertility has not been clearly established, some studies recommend that women avoid high alcohol consumption. The Eggert et al. prospective study of 7,393 women in Stockholm concluded that high alcohol consumption was associated with increased risk of infertility examinations, and advised that the female partner of an infertile couple trying to conceive limit or avoid alcohol consumption.
The Caffeine Intake and Delayed Conception: A European Multicenter Study on Infertility and Subfecundity study by F. Bolumar et al. warned that high caffeine intake (500 mg of coffee per day or its equivalent) is associated with increased relative risk of subfecundity (defined in the study as time to pregnancy taking 9.5 months or longer) in the first pregnancy. The study concludes that fertile women who consume high levels of caffeine may experience delayed conception.
The Mayo Clinic cautions that five hours or more of strenuous or intense exercise per week has been associated with decreased ovulation.
Large weight gain or loss
Women looking to become pregnant are also advised by the Mayo Clinic to maintain a healthy weight, as being either overweight or underweight is shown to be associated with increased risk of ovulation disorders.
2. Timing is everything
Find your fertile window
The best time to have intercourse is during the “fertile window,” which according to the 1995 Wilcox et al. study is a six-day interval ending on the day of ovulation. Findings from the study also revealed that intercourse leading to successful pregnancy is most likely to occur during a three-day interval ending on the day of ovulation.
How can women identify this fertile window for themselves so that they can plan for intercourse with the highest chances of conceiving? This is when tracking your menstrual cycle and monitoring ovulation becomes important for boosting your chances of getting pregnant.
Track your cycle
Traditionally, women have been encouraged to manually take note of ovulation signs and symptoms such as changes in vaginal secretions, basal body temperature, and hormone surges.
The importance of tracking lies in the fact that each woman’s body is different, and cycles even more so. Not all women fit neatly in the mold of the 28-day cycle in which ovulation falls perfectly on day 14.
Over-the-counter ovulation kits have become a popular form of ovulation tracking by measuring hormone changes in urine. With the advent of digital tracking apps and kits for women trying to conceive, hormone tracking and pregnancy planning has been made even more convenient and efficient.
Digital ovulation kits like the Eveline Digital Ovulation Test take ovulation testing and tracking one step further by using artificial intelligence technology to more accurately predict your days of peak fertility and individualize recommendations based on your unique results. This digital ovulation test has also helped couples to successfully begin their pregnancy journey as a result of using the Eveline app. By synchronizing test results directly to a dedicated app, these digital ovulation kits eliminate the need to manually jot down ovulation changes and aim to help women pinpoint exactly when they have the highest chance of conceiving. Reminder app notifications are also sent to women when they are near peak fertility so couples do not miss their window of opportunity.
3. Just do it
Once you have identified your fertile window where your odds of getting pregnant are highest, you and your partner will need to make time for intercourse.
This approach works best for busy couples with less time to dedicate to having consistent intercourse throughout the month or whose schedules just don’t align. For those couples, coordinating intercourse during this fertile window would be the most efficient way to improve the odds of getting pregnant.
Couples with less hectic schedules and able to dedicate more time to trying to conceive can really improve their odds by having intercourse consistently throughout the month. The National Health Service (NHS) advises that the best way to get pregnant naturally is to aim for intercourse with your partner every 2 to 3 days throughout the month. With this approach, you won’t need to actively monitor your menstrual cycle or make sure that intercourse coincides with the day of ovulation or days leading up to ovulation.
4. Factor in your age
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a woman’s best reproductive years are between her late teens and late 20s. For healthy couples in their 20s to early 30s, 1 in 4 women will become pregnant in any given menstrual cycle. These odds decrease with age, and by age 40, the numbers show that 1 in 10 women become pregnant per menstrual cycle.
A woman’s fertility starts to decline gradually in her 30s, with a sharp decline by her 40s. This decrease in fertility is largely due to a decline in the quantity and quality of eggs, as well as higher risk for health problems including fibroids in the uterus and blockage of fallopian tubes. Figures from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) show that natural pregnancy is unlikely to occur for women over age 45, with use of donor eggs being the only reasonable alternative.
5. Know when to seek help
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines infertility as the inability to become pregnant after one year of unprotected intercourse. Most experts recommend that women younger than age 35 seek help from a healthcare provider if they have not conceived after one year of trying, and women aged 35 years or older visit their physician after 6 months of trying unsuccessfully to conceive.
Since fertility problems can affect either partner, it is important not to rule out male infertility as a reason for a couple’s inability to conceive.
Following the above steps is not a guarantee of a smooth and trouble-free road to successful conception, but should at the very least provide a solid start towards optimizing your chances of pregnancy.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to offer medical advice.
1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
2 Augood C, Duckitt K, Templeton AA. Smoking and female infertility: a
systematic review and meta-analysis. Hum Reprod. 1998;13(6):1532-1539.
3 Eggert J, Theobald H, Engfeldt P. Effects of alcohol consumption on female
fertility during an 18-year period. Fertil Steril. 2004 Feb;81(2):379-83.
4 F. Bolúmar, J. Olsen, M. Rebagliato, L Bisanti, European Study Group on
Infertility and Subfecundity, Caffeine Intake and Delayed Conception: A
European Multicenter Study on Infertility and Subfecundity, American Journal
of Epidemiology, Volume 145, Issue 4, 15 February 1997, Pages 324–334.
5 Mayo Clinic
6 Wilcox AJ, Weinberg CR, Baird DD. Timing of sexual intercourse in relation
to ovulation. Effects on the probability of conception, survival of the
pregnancy, and sex of the baby. N Engl J Med. 1995;333(23):1517-1521.
7 National Health Service (NHS)
8 American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)
9 American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM)
10 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)