When trying to conceive, it seems like everyone has an opinion on foolproof ways to get pregnant. All of your mom besties —and, most likely, your mom — swear by whatever worked for them because, hey, they literally have living proof. There may be consensus around some of the most obvious advice but our bodies, schedules, and relationships are not all the same.
There are thousands of books and articles that give the lowdown on basic lifestyle changes to increase your chances of conceiving. Just in case you’re waking up from a long winter’s nap, these habits include women’s multivitamins with folic acid, tracking your ovulation, exercise-but-not-too-much-exercise, leafy greens, no smoking, avoiding alcohol and getting your zzz’s. But there are lesser-known, odd but true healthy habits backed by medical studies that your doctor may not have touched on during your last appointment.
We spoke to fertility experts who spilled the magic beans on which habits to adopt or avoid during this exciting but nerve wracking time in your life. And although there is no research to back it up, we’re sprinkling baby fairy dust all over this post for your big fat positive moment.
These days, most of us stay clear of plastic products made with bisphenol (BPA), but did you know how many products still contain the chemical? To lower your risk of ingesting these harmful toxins, registered and licensed dietitian and author of Fueling Male Fertility, Lauren Manaker advocates breaking up with plastic altogether.
“Hormone disrupting chemicals are lurking in so many household items. One simple way to limit exposure is to make sure hot food is not in contact with plastic. This includes not microwaving food topped with plastic wrap or storing leftovers in a plastic Tupperware box,” she tells SheKnows.
According to The Mayo Clinic, BPA can be found in other products such as food cans, bottle tops, and dental sealants.
It’s not too soon to integrate prenatal vitamins in your daily routine. In fact, Dr. Brian Levine, MD, FACOG, founding partner and practice director of the fertility clinic, CCRM-New York, recommends nourishing your body with these key nutrients several months prior to attempts at conception.
“Before and during pregnancy, a woman needs a minimum of 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to help prevent major birth defects of the fetal brain and spine called neural tube defects,” he tells SheKnows.
Omega-3 fish oil is a super nutrient with a myriad of benefits to a baby and mom-to be. According to the American Pregnancy Foundation, most of us are not getting enough from our diets so these supplements are essential. When searching for a prenatal vitamin that will serve your body the best, choose a brand free of synthetic dyes, colors, and artificial flavors and includes Omega-3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) critical in your baby-to-be’s brain, eyes, and nervous system development. Studies have also shown that Omega-3s are mood boosters which can effectively treat mood disorders such as depression.
Is it possible to dance your way to conception? Dr. Aumatma Shah, Naturopathic and Holistic Fertility doctor, author, and the creator of the Fertility Success Method tells SheKnows, getting your groove on can help.
“We often spend too much of our day sitting, which blocks off blood flow to the uterus and ovaries. Dancing is also a wonderful way to get into your hips and get more blood flow to the ovaries and uterus!” So, crank up your baby-making Spotify playlist and dance like no one (or everyone) is watching. Doctor’s orders!
Staying healthy tops our experts’, and The Mayo Clinic’s, healthy habits list. Being over or underweight both have negative effects on the body’s ability to conceive.
“While no particular food reduces fertility, the consequences of eating too much or too little certainly impairs reproduction. A low Body Mass Index (BMI) of under 18.5 can cause the body to stop producing estrogen, which halts menstruation and ovulation. Conversely, obesity can prevent ovulation because fat cells release estrogen that causes the body to react as if it’s on hormonal birth control—stopping menstruation and ovulation,” Dr. Mark Trolice, OB-GYN and reproductive endocrinologist and director of Fertility CARE in Winter Park, Florida, tells SheKnows.
This piece of advice isn’t about whether or not you should reduce your stress level (spoiler alert: you should), but how you go about finding your inner zen. Muscling your way to a more peaceful state won’t get you anywhere except tied up in stress knots. Meditation is the super-heroine with the power to tune out all the noise and illuminate the path to our happy place. And it only requires a closed door, your smartphone and a pair of earbuds.
Dr. Jason Kofinas, OB-GYN and Director of IVF at Kofinas Fertility Group, agrees. “Keeping your stress level under control can help boost your chances of getting pregnant naturally. Meditation has a strong impact on lowering the stress hormone cortisol. There are great apps that can be downloaded for guided meditation,” he tells SheKnows.
Worried about your ability to erase grocery lists, work to-do’s, and dinner plans from the brain? Dr. Kofinas suggests starting your meditation sessions at five minutes and working your way up to longer bouts. “Typically meditating in the morning is the best way to get your day started.” he adds.
While recreational use of marijuana has been legalized in ten states and doctors are now prescribing medical cannabis to treat everything from headaches to nerve pain, using marijuana is not recommended for those trying to get pregnant. A 2018 study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics on marijuana and its effects on pregnant women found that the drug’s compound THC may cross the placentapotentially resulting in lower birth weights, newborn irregularities and unusual sleep patterns.
Dr. Brian Levine, MD, FACOG, founding partner and practice director of the fertility clinic, CCRM-New York, also notes cannabis’ effect on fertility. “Smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, heavy caffeine consumption, and the use of recreational drugs such as marijuana have all been associated with reduced fertility,” he tells SheKnows.
The secret to getting a good night’s sleep is not just unplugging your devices but turning off all electricity, period. “One odd but true way to increase your chances of getting pregnant is by sleeping in total darkness for eight hours which increases the body’s natural melatonin,” notes Dr. Trolice.
A 2011 study published by the National Institute of Health states that sleeping in the dark also helps lower blood pressure, body temperature, and glucose levels. Invest in a pair of blackout curtains and be amazed at how deliciously disorienting it is to sleep until 11 a.m. like a teenager. Enjoy it now before your baby arrives and is affecting your shut eye for up to six years.
You may think secondhand smoke would have a minimal, if any, effect on trying to conceive, but a study published in American Society For Reproductive Medicinesuggests otherwise.
In fact, this a habit for both men and women to quit immediately. Smoking affects a man’s sperm count and secondhand inhalation in the house has proven to be just as damaging as actual smoking, reducing fertility by 16 percent and 20 percent respectively.
Stocking up on leafy greens, protein, and quality saturated fats are probably on your OB-GYN’s list of foods to increase fertility but is bone broth?
Certified holistic health and fertility coach Lauren Chambers encourages women to incorporate this broth rich in macro-minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and sulfur essential for a healthy positive into their diets. It is also known to alleviate intestinal inflammation. “This is important because when our guts become inflamed it can lead to a leaky gut, which can result in autoimmune diseases and disrupt hormones critical for fertility like estrogen, progesterone and your thyroid gland. Look for brands that are labeled organic and pasture-raised,” she says.
Bone broth can be used in soups and is also available in powder to scoop into your smoothie. Lauren reminds us that the quality of both the egg and sperm begin developing 90 days prior to conception so no time like the present!
This post is sponsored by Nature Made Prenatals and was originally published on She Knows on May 16, 2019.