You can boost your fertility - and you can boost your fertility fast.
Maybe you've been waiting years to get pregnant, or maybe you just decided it's baby time - whatever the case, these 7 steps will get you solidly on the way to a healthy pregnancy and a happy baby.
Though there are seven steps in this plan, this one is the first you should make - and the easiest. Diet changes may feel overwhelming at first, but you can make them little by little over a few weeks and see big benefits.
Researchers have proven that a high protein, low carbohydrates diet "greatly improves" fertility1.
It’s not surprising to discover that this diet also helps with insulin resistance, which is thought to play a part in PCOS 2. Changing your diet over to low-carb and high protein improves insulin response and it also helps your body maintain optimal hormone levels.
An easy way to start to make this change is to reduce grain products in your diet. Here are some example meals:
As you can see, each of these meals provides plenty of protein and keeps the carb-count low, too.
Quick Tip: You can enjoy fruits on a low-carb diet, but choose those that are naturally low-carb, like blueberries and strawberries. A few apple slices spread lightly with peanut butter are another sweet and protein-filled snack.
In addition to eating a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet, you need to make sure you're eating enough. It's true that you don't need as much as you will when you hit your 2nd and 3rd trimester of pregnancy, but you do need quality calories now.
Many women have trouble conceiving when they drop under 1500 calories a day, so try to hit a range of at least 1500-1800 calories a day.
We'll cover weight loss in Step 4.
Healthy fats are also crucial to conception. Research has shown that high-quality, full-fat dairy can greatly increase fertility 3.
This makes a lot of sense - the sex hormones all require fat for proper production. Many vitamins (such as vitamins A and D) are fat-soluble, meaning if there's no fat, you don't get these nutrients.
High levels of nutrients and proper hormone ratios are key to getting pregnant, so eating healthy fats is really helpful
There is a warning, however. The fats you've been told are "healthy" - like vegetable oils - are actually unhealthy and dangerous.
How do you know which fats to trust? Think about the fats your great-great-great-great-great-great grandma could have cooked with. If it's a traditional fat, it's likely safe. Here's a breakdown:
Make sure you're choosing healthy fats and staying away from chemically-extracted "new" oils - these are not healthy and can actually block nutrients you need for pregnancy.
You don't have to gorge yourself on fats - just choose the right ones and use them sensibly in cooking and flavoring your foods.
It sounds like something you'd learn about in your high school science classes, but "nutrient density" just means that you want to eat foods that pack a lot of nutrition into each bite.
That means avoiding processed foods. Choose foods that are loaded with nutrition.
You'll always see these "common" foods listed:
But I actually encourage you to reconsider what you think of as "nutrient dense" foods.
Since you're trying to stay lower carb, whole grains are fine but use them in moderation. The same is true with fruits.
Berries are an exception - they are loaded with antioxidants and nutrients and are naturally low in carbohydrates, so you can enjoy them in greater quantities than sugary fruits like bananas and oranges 😉
Let's look at nutrient-dense foods:
That's not to say that you can't have treats once in awhile, or that grain products and fruits are always bad for you. But when you're trying to get pregnant - and especially if you're overcoming infertility, it's really important that every bite you put in your mouth is full of nutrients that help your body. Your body needs many nutrients to support health, and the foods you eat give those - better than any supplement could:
Eating a diet filled with these foods will re-build depleted nutrient stores and give you vibrant good health. It will give you the vital nutrients needed to keep hormone production optimal, which will boost your fertility greatly.
Eating a nutrient-dense diet can and will normalize your cycle, help you have plenty of fertile fluids, and create a lush, safe environment in your womb - a place ready for your baby to nestle into and implant safely and securely.
Eating well is a great foundation and sets the stage for fertility, for healthy pregnancy, safe birth, and a great milk supply while breastfeeding... and it creates life-long health benefits for your baby-to-be.
But today soils are depleted, and it can make it hard to get all the nutrients you need, even with a perfect diet. That’s why studies show that taking a high-quality multivitamin can help boost fertility and make getting pregnant easier 4.
After you've added good foods into your diet, a quality multivitamin is the next step (and the easy step!). Get a rich, balanced vitamin. If you know that MTHFR may be an issue for you, be sure to choose a vitamin supplement that takes that into account. My personal favorite vitamin/mineral supplement is Seeking Health's Optimal Prenatal - it's what I take pre-conception, during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding (and personally I like the chocolate powder, though you can also get it in caps and in vanilla powder - the powder has some nutrients that aren't in the caplet form).
You already saw where I hinted about probiotics above. "Probiotic" means "good bacteria" and the "microbiome" means all of the bacteria (good and bad) that live within your body, especially in your digestive tract.
We are literally at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to research on the microbiota and probiotics, but they impact health in a major way.
I encourage you to eat traditional lacto-fermented condiments (like traditionally made pickles, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, etc.). These foods all contain "live, active cultures." You don't have to eat a lot of them - that's why they're usually served as condiments. But getting probiotic foods in every day is hugely beneficial to your body.
It helps boost fertility, and may help you avoid morning sickness when you fall pregnant, too 🙂
Having plenty of good bacteria in the microbiota helps your body work more efficiently to digest foods and process wastes, meaning your overall health increases - and you can absorb more nutrients out of your food.
You can also take a high-quality probiotic supplement. It may be a good idea to rotate supplements:
This cycling allows your body to get a wide range of probiotic bacteria. Also make sure that you eat plenty of pre-biotic foods, which are foods that help probiotic bacteria to thrive. Some examples are 5:
These tend to be easy to include in a well-rounded diet - and if you like grain products, this is a good reason to add a few servings into your meals every week 😉
Hormone balance is a real key to building health and fertility. And if you've followed Step 1 and worked on your diet, you've already gone a long way towards balancing your hormones!
That's because getting plenty of nutrient-dense foods in your diet nourishes your body and helps it produce the right hormones at the right levels at the right times. As we noted above, studies especially show that getting enough healthy fats in your diet can make a huge difference in hormone balance (because hormones are fat-soluble)
There are other steps to take to balance hormones, too:
Hormone production happens in your sleep. That means if you're chronically sleep-deprived it can make it hard for your body to produce hormones the way it's supposed to.
Today sleep deprivation has many causes:
Going to bed earlier is often an easy solution for lack of sleep - easy, but not simple.
There's a direct tie-in with stress for many of us... how do you get everything done in a day if you go to sleep earlier? We'll talk more about stress in Step 3, but for now, think about how you can wrap up your night a little earlier. Is there something you can delegate, or something you can drop, so you can get to sleep at an earlier time? Think it through.
Insomnia can be a very real, chronic issue, and I encourage you to work with a doctor, naturopath, or other provider to help sort through complex causes of insomnia. Sometimes, however, it's just a matter of training your body and your mind to slow down and go to sleep. Good sleep routines can help with that.
Here's an example of a good sleep routine:
Other things may help, too. For example, an after-dinner decluttering session can give you 10 minutes to straighten up your bedroom and create a calm, peaceful place to sleep. You can also adjust temperature so it's at the right level for easy sleep.
Lighting is really important to fertility
Again, this is because fertility is built on hormones, and hormones are dependent on light. Many hormones are manufactured in the dark, so you need to sleep in a dark room for that to happen.
In fact, Lunaception 6 proves just how powerfully lighting impacts us and our fertility. Women studying lighting and fertility discovered that sleeping in the dark for most of the cycle followed the natural pattern of the moon – and that having lights on for a few days of the month could induce ovulation – again mimicking the pattern of the full moon. Women in the past knew their cycles tended to follow the moon cycles and we now believe lighting is the cause of that.
Today's electronic lighting and electronic devices can really change that up. It's why you should make your room as dark as possible at night - except for a few days around when you want to ovulate. And if you use an e-reader device at night (like a Kindle or Nook, or your iPad), you should use it in its nighttime mode to block out the blue lights from the spectrum.
Diet (healthy fats and nutrient-density), sleep, and lighting go a long way towards helping you balance and normalize your hormones. Certain supplements are also very helpful and trusted for hormone balance, or for use in specific situations:
Vitex is a traditional women’s herb and is believed to act by regulating the pituitary gland. It has many powerful effects, including increasing progesterone. Many women find it helps with 7:
Vitex is meant to be taken as a long-term supplement. You could start to see results very quickly, but it's best to give the supplement time to work - up to six months. Lasting changes may come after a year of use.
A benefit of Vitex is that it's a nourishing, restorative herb. Using it is much like using other tonic herbs that boost your health.
It's definitely best to use Vitex along with the other strategies I've discussed so far - you'll see more benefits with proper nutrition and rest.
Watch Darlene from Natural Fertility Shop discuss common questions about using Vitex in this video. Click here to see their Vitex supplements.
Progesterone is an incredibly important hormone to fertility and pregnancy. It becomes especially important after conception, when it's needed to help you stay pregnant. Click here for my full article on what progesterone does.
Some women are able to conceive but lose pregnancies early on. Progesterone may help with this because it specifically supports the developing embryo. It stays important to the baby throughout pregnancy. It's also important to helping boost libido during ovulation and in producing fertile fluid.
One way to increase progesterone is to decrease estrogen. Estrogen is another important hormone, but with so many sources of excess estrogen in today's world, it's easy to have too much. Here are some ideas to naturally reduce estrogen overload:
Hormone testing can identify progesterone deficiences, but charting your cycle can really help too (we'll talk about charting further on). If you see high temperatures after ovulation, that's a good sign. Consistently low temperatures can signal a problem.
Vitex, which we covered above, can actually help with progesterone. Another solid strategy is to use a progesterone cream. If you can, get a prescription cream from your doctor. Or, consider using a natural progesterone cream.
Hethir from Natural Fertility Shop describes how to use a natural progesterone cream in this video (Click here for their natural progesterone cream):
It may feel really annoying when people tell you to “just relax, it will happen” – but studies have shown that stress does have an impact on fertility and pregnancy 8.
Here are some general tips to reduce stress:
One key to relieving stress is to create habits that will help counter-act stress. Stress is a normal part of everybody's life. It's part of your life and it will be part of your baby's life. You don't need to feel guilty about that.
The real key is modeling an appropriate stress response - and you can start right now, while you're still trying to conceive. Here are some helpful stress-busting habits:
All of these habits boost a helpful hormone called Oxytocin - oxytocin fuels the "calm and connection" cycle, which is the opposite of the "fight or flight" cycle controlled by adrenaline. Oxytocin is massively helpful to pregnant woman, and studies show that women who increase oxytocin levels before and during pregnancy have big benefits for themselves and their babies.
Spending time in the sun is a huge factor in stress relief and in overall well-being. This is something I struggle with at times myself - life seems so busy and it's hard to find time to be outside. The evidence for time in the sun is clear, however:
Vitamin D is a crucial hormone for fertility, as study after study is proving 11 12 . There is a chronic lack of sun exposure and time outdoors into today’s culture, but it’s one that’s easy to overcome. Let go of the bad information and start going outside a little every day – take a walk or a short hike, or spend some time playing a favorite sport, gardening, walking your dog, bird watching, etc.
Of course it's much easier to say than to actually stop stressing out about getting pregnant - especially when you've been trying for months or even years. But sometimes relaxing is the key. You've already gotten quite a few suggestions for stress relief in this article - and plenty of powerful strategies to boost your fertility through your diet. You might also be starting on some supplements to boost fertility.
Give these things some time to start working. Some women see results in as little as 2 weeks - for others, it takes 4 to 6 weeks to start seeing real changes. Be patient with your body.
Another good strategy at this time is to look for ideas to enjoy your spouse and spark intimacy and connection. Sometimes it's easy to focus only on making a baby when you're TTC - you forget to have fun with your sweetie (I personally love The Dating Divas for good ideas on bringing fun and a little romance into the relationship 😉
You've likely been told that losing weight can help you conceive - and it is true that shedding extra pounds can help you conceive and it's helpful during pregnancy, too.
One of the biggest benefits of losing weight is that it often helps to balance hormones. Weight and hormones are actually a "chicken and egg" question - we're not sure if being overweight is what causes hormones to get unbalanced, or if unbalanced hormones lead to weight gain. My own research leaves me thinking that both may play a role - and that adding extra weight in just adds to a cycle where hormones are unbalanced.
Having said that, and having examined the evidence, however, I think it's important not to get obsessed with weight. Many of the changes we've talked about already will go a long way towards bringing your weight down, including:
In fact, you may even find it helpful to eat more fats, as long as they're healthy fats and you're keeping your carbohydrate levels low.
An additional tweak to help shed some pounds is to keep your protein moderate, rather than eating "high protein." Why is this?
Your body can fuel in two different ways - with carbohydrates, or with fat. Your body tends to store excess carbohydrates in fat cells as glucose, a sugar... whereas it burns healthy fats. If your body is not getting a lot of carbohydrates, it can (and will) break down proteins into glucose and store those. When you fuel your body with healthy fats and moderate protein, it uses the protein as protein (building your cells with it, etc.) and uses the fat as fuel. If it needs extra fuel, it mobilizes stored fat.
Obviously this is pretty simplistic, but it works. Removing the excess carbohydrates and sugar from your diet also helps to balance out your hormones by normalizing insulin levels (insulin is a hormone) and bringing your body back into balance.
Where does exercise fit in with all of this?
Using exercise for weight loss tends to backfire on many people because increased exercise also brings increased hunger. Relentless "cardio" style workouts also tend to deplete the body rather than building it up, which is what you want to do when you're trying to conceive - and you don't lose much weight, either.
But exercise is helpful when you're trying to conceive. First, exercise tends to relieve stress, which is always a good thing.
Exercise can also help get your blood and lymph fluids moving, which increases health and fertility.
And exercise can really help balance out hormones. The best kind of exercise is resistance training - it builds strength and tone, and it balances out your hormones in the process. Short sprints and other high-intensity exercises done for short periods of time are also really beneficial.
This balanced approach to exercise has powerfully positive effects 13 , and is easy to fit into a busy lifestyle a few times a week.
You might also consider gentle exercises focused more stretching, movement, and body awareness (such as yoga or tai chi) - these exercises help relieve stress and grow your awareness of your own body, something really helpful in pregnancy and during childbirth 🙂
Again, I want to caution you against over-exercising. Studies clearly show benefits of moderate exercise and greater levels of activity for women trying to conceive, but also show that over-exercising lowers fertility 14.
Frequent, intense exercise actually lowers fertility
Stick to moderate exercise to stay healthy and balanced, while enjoying the stress-relief and fertility boost that exercise can bring to you.
Many women feel like their fertility is all about them, but that's actually not true - your environment has a huge impact on your body and on your fertility. What seems like a "fertility problem" may actually be the environment around you.
When you make changes to your environment, you give your body the chance to "detox" and re-balance, boosting your fertility in the process 🙂
I don't say this to be paranoid - I live in the same world you do and honestly, I don't panic every time I walk around or get in the car to drive through town. But even if we don't panic about the toxins in our modern world, we should be aware of them and work to counter-act them as much as possible.
One big hazard to look at is your workplace - are you working somewhere with hazardous chemicals or other substances? If you are, work with your employer to minimize (and ideally remove) your exposure to them.
Outside of big, obvious hazards such as chemicals in the workplace, you can work to make fairly simple changes over time and greatly reduce your toxin load:
The products you buy are a major source of chemicals. Now is a great time to work progressively to change over what you use in your home, on your laundry and dishes, and in your personal care routines:
You get the idea. If this feels overwhelming to you, I recommend you replace one product a month. This keeps it manageable and gives you time to adjust.
The wonderful thing about natural products is that they've gotten so much better. Natural cleaning products used to work poorly in comparison to conventional cleaners. That's not the case anymore. My family has been on a quest to find the best natural cleaners - trying a new thing every month or so, and I've been really pleased to find products I liked (you can click here to read more about our changes).
Here's another big step to cleaning up your environment:
Add air-cleansing plants to your home
Bringing plants inside your home helps purify the air naturally. Tending to plants also brings positive, stress-relieving effects.
Some people also enjoy having running water in their home - for example, a small desktop fountain. Natural features tend to balance the many electronic devices most of us have (and the effects they have on our homes).
I've already mentioned using the "night filters" most devices have built into them today to help counteract unnatural blue lights at night.
All of these are steps in cleaning up your environment and helping your body balance with greater fertility. These are also excellent steps to take in preparation for raising your baby in your home 🙂
Take a careful look at your lifestyle as you look at changes to make to get pregnant faster. We already talked about the benefits of getting outside more - and I want to remind you that those benefits are powerful. Being out in nature helps your body "detox" and brings down stress levels. It's good for hormone balance, too:
This plan will get you up and moving - and outside in nature. Do your stretching and exercise outside when possible.
The last big lifestyle issue to consider is slowing down. Are you living a fast-paced, high-stress, "jet set" kind of life?
If you are, it's likely time to slow down. Cut back on your hours at work and see if you can re-work how much you travel or are away from home. These are changes you'll strongly consider making for your baby, anyways. Women who have trouble conceiving or have high-risk pregnancies often find that they're able to get pregnant and have an easier pregnancy when they cut back some.
Now it's time to get to the nitty-gritty of this making a baby thing...
...when do you want to actually try for a baby?
That's where charting your cycle comes in handy. Here's a quick overview - click here for more detailed information:
Charting is the key to knowing when you should try to conceive. It will also help you to troubleshoot issues with your cycle, such as a short luteal phase or no ovulation. If you need to consult a doctor, your chart is a great tool to help him or her figure out what's going on with your fertility, too.
Keeping a chart is really simple today - there are many apps and online fertility trackers that make things really easy for you. You just track your fertility signs:
And the charting app does all the calculations for you.
It will tell you (based on your own body's signs) when it's a good time to start baby dancing and when you've ovulated.
Your fertile fluids are a big key in knowing when to start trying each month. Some women don't have a lot of fertile fluids, but if you're following this guide step-by-step and getting in more fats, plenty of nourishing foods, paying attention to lighting, lifestyle, etc., it's likely you'll start to see a healthy fertile fluid pattern.
Most women are "dry" when they're not fertile and "wet" when they are fertile. When there is a lot of fluid and it looks somewhat like egg whites (called "egg-white fertile") you are at your peak fertility. But the fluid builds up before this. You'll likely see creamy fluids and feel a more "moist" sensation - those are also days when fertility is building and good days to try for a baby.
After ovulation, most women see their fertile fluids dry up (or mostly dry up), indicating that the egg has been released and it's not possible to conceive anymore.
Pay attention to your fertile fluid patterns and get to know when you're likely to conceive.
Note: if you've just stopped a birth control method, your fertile fluid patterns may be all over the place for a month or two, but it will generally normalize pretty quickly (and it is possible to get pregnant the first cycle after birth control, though not all women do).
Research shows that it's better to "baby dance" (make love/have intercourse) several times during your fertile time. Some women try to wait and time things so they only baby dance on the day of ovulation, but it can be hard to pinpoint exactly when that happens.
It's better to start trying as soon as you see the beginnings of more fertile fluid, and keep trying until you know ovulation has occurred (your temperature shift is what tells you ovulation has happened).
There is evidence that having an orgasm can increase your fertility 15. Aside from being a pleasant experience, there’s now more reason to go for the big O when you’re trying to conceive 😉
Don't be scared away - we're not talking about hammers and wrenches here 😉 There are actually quite a few tools on the market that can help you pinpoint ovulation and make conception easier. Here's a quick overview (click here for detailed information on tools for TTC):
Ovulation tests, or OPK's, are quite popular right now because they can help you determine when you're about to ovulate. These are a good option if your fertile fluid patterns aren't clear - or if you want additional confirmation.
OPK's detect hormones that rise as you get close to ovulation and let you know that ovulation will happen in the next couple of days. You should baby dance as soon as you get a positive OPK, and for a couple of days after.
There are different styles of fertility monitor, but most work in a similar way to ovulation predictor kits - they test for hormone levels. Because the monitors are more robust, they test for more hormones. They're also more expensive, but can help you track patterns in your fertility across a few months and more accurately pinpoint ovulation.
They can also be really helpful if you're trying to conceive while breastfeeding and aren't sure when you're fertile or not.
Some monitors monitor your salvia (yep, you read that right!) because it actually changes as you get close to ovulation - you'll see more of a "ferning" pattern on the slide due to a change in the composition.
Most normal lubricants are actually damaging to sperm, so you should not use them when you're trying to conceive.
You can buy fertility-safe lubricants that actually nourish sperm. If you have low levels of fertile fluid, this is a good option, though if you've got plenty of fertile fluid, you likely don't need it!
We've mostly discussed what you can do as you try to get pregnant, but male fertility has a huge impact on conception, too. It's important to get your man on board as much as you possibly. Here are some bonus steps for him:
Diet, stress, lifestyle, etc. all play a big role in your man's fertility levels, too. Switch him over to the same diet you switch to, and help him lower stress and detox his lifestyle, too.
Sperm are actually pretty sensitive to temperature, so it's good to have your man keep things cool down there. The scrotum contains the testes, where sperm are produced, and it hangs away from the body for a reason. If your man is doing work where there's a lot of heat, ask if he can find a way to change things up temporarily. Pilots and other men working in areas where there's a lot of heat situated on the groin can often benefit from wearing boxers rather than briefs to help cool things down. Encourage your man to avoid hot tubs and other things that turn up the heat while you're TTC.
Resistance training is especially beneficial for men trying to conceive, because it helps boost his testosterone levels and balance his hormones. His body responds to resistance exercise in very powerful ways that are a huge help to fertility. See if you can get your man to join you in a couple of resistance-training sessions each week.
Just like weight is important for women, it's also important for men. When men have excess weight, they also have excess estrogens in their body. The same sensible diet (lower carb, moderate protein, healthy fats) that helps you shed weight will also help him. In fact, it's frustratingly likely that he'll lose weight faster than you, especially if he adds in resistance training 😉 This is because the male body is more naturally lean than the female body.
Again, losing extra weight will help balance out his hormones, increasing his fertility and sexual performance.
These two supplements are especially helpful for boosting male fertility, so if you’re trying to conceive, add them into your man’s morning routine. Conezyme Q10 is important to sperm production, and helps boost sperm health and swimming skills 😉 L-Arginine is essential to sperm and deficiency impacts fertility 16.
Extra zinc is another good option for men trying to conceive.
Pomegranate juice can help boost fertility and improves erectile function. Like other fruits and vegetables, it brings trace nutrients that are important to the body and optimal sexual function and fertility. 16
There's a lot of information on this page, but if you go step-by-step you will see a positive increase in your fertility - and you'll probably see it pretty fast. Get your man on board with simple steps to boost his fertility, and you'll be set to conceive quickly and easily in just a cycle or two 🙂
Want more information on fertility? I send helpful daily tips and further resources, as well as updates on new articles and research. You can get those and my fertility tip sheet here: