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How couples can increase their chances of becoming pregnant

For couples contemplating pregnancy, there are steps both women and men can take to increase their chances of conceiving a baby. Step one for both men and women: maintain your overall health, says Pavna Brahma, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist with Piedmont Healthcare.

This includes proper nutrition, a regular exercise regimen and maintaining a healthy weight, especially for women. “Make sure you are watching your weight so you’re not overweight or underweight, as both can make it harder for women to ovulate and achieve pregnancy,” she explains. As soon as you’re contemplating pregnancy, start taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid. “It doesn’t necessarily improve your chances of getting pregnant, but it improves your chances of a healthy pregnancy.” Stress reduction is also important for women trying to conceive. Unfortunately, many stress relievers people use - like alcohol, caffeine and tobacco - can sabotage pregnancy efforts. Exercise, meditation, yoga and getting enough sleep can all help reduce stress.

Know your health status

“Start tracking your period cycles to see if they are happening regularly,” she says. “You can also use a kit for tracking ovulation. If you have questions, contact your physician for additional testing.”   Women should get their annual Pap smear as well as STD testing. “Pelvic infections can affect not only the uterus, but also the fallopian tubes. By treating infections, you can help prevent fertility problems down the road,” she explains.

What men can do to increase their partner’s chances of pregnancy

“We know that smoking cigarettes and marijuana can affect sperm,” says Dr. Brahma. “Certain prescription medications can also impact sperm. Check with your doctor about medications you’re on to see if they have an impact on sperm.” There are also some lifestyle changes men can adapt. “Biking frequently, heat exposure and exposure to toxic chemicals can all impact sperm function,” she cautions. “If you have questions about the lifestyle patterns you maintain, talk to your doctor to see if those should be modified as you [and your partner] attempt pregnancy.”

What couples can do to increase chances of pregnancy

“Couples should make sure timing is appropriate and that they are having intercourse at the right times of the month,” says Dr. Brahma. “That’s where tracking ovulation and periods is important. There is a misconception that you should wait until you are ovulating before you begin having intercourse, but it should be more frequent than that. It’s not ideal to hold out until the last minute. You might miss that window.” She recommends couples begin having intercourse around day 10 of a woman’s cycle and every other day leading up to and through ovulation.

The surprising things that can sabotage your pregnancy attempts

“Lubricants like KY Jelly contain spermicidal agents,” warns Dr. Brahma. “Lubricants that are water-based are safe to use.” That daily cup of coffee can also affect your chances of conceiving. “Caffeine has a high impact on overall fertility.

This is an area where research is expanding upon now,” she explains. “We’re just beginning to learn its effects on egg quality and the ability to conceive. High doses can increase the risk of miscarriage or loss. I recommend limiting your intake to one or less caffeinated beverages a day. If you’re  going to Starbucks and getting a huge coffee, that’s more like two daily doses of caffeine in one drink. You’re probably drinking more caffeinated doses than you’re aware.”

When to see a specialist

The amount of time it takes for a woman to become pregnant is linked most closely to a woman’s age. When women are under age 35, the majority of them who are going to conceive on their own conceive within 12 months. “If you’ve been trying for more than 12 months and you’re under 35, see your gynecologist or a fertility specialist for a workup to look at the function of your ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus,” says Dr. Brahma.

“If you’re over 35, we think of the timeline on a shorter track. If after six months of trying a woman does not conceive, we recommend she seek someone’s advice at that point. Egg numbers and quality decline with age, so we don’t want to take too much time before we find an answer.”

However, for many couples, infertility is not an issue – conception simply takes time. “My best advice is to be aware of your body and take care of your health as you’re trying to get pregnant,” says Dr. Brahma. “Some of those simple changes can increase your chances of conceiving on your own. If you would ever like to have the advice of a specialist, we’re always available to consult with you.” If you need to consult with an infertility specialist, Click Here.

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