1. Eat like you're already pregnant.
All of the healthy dietary changes you plan on making when you're pregnant—like cutting down on fast food and not skipping meals—can actually help you conceive now. "A diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, complex carbs, and lean protein will keep your blood sugar low and is less likely to disrupt insulin levels, which influence ovulation," says Angela Chaudhari, M.D., a gynecologic surgeon and assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. Consuming plant-based fats such as nuts, avocados, and olive oil in moderation, as well as and foods rich in B vitamins may help balance out your hormones.
2. Stop smoking.
You know you should kick the cigs for your future kiddo's health. Doing it right this minute can help preserve precious fertility that smoking destroys. "Smokers undergo menopause four years earlier than other women, on average," says Jani Jensen, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist and assistant professor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Also, both tobacco and marijuana use are linked to problems with fetal development. Convinced to quit yet? We thought so.
3. Get your weight under control.
Women with excess body fat tend to have a higher level of estrogen, making it harder to ovulate normally. "Obesity is also linked to a higher chance of miscarriages," says David Ryley, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at Boston IVF fertility clinic and clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School. The ideal BMI for conception is 20-25; if your body mass index is 30 or greater, ask your doctor if you need to lose a certain amount of weight before you plan to get pregnant. Bonus: Getting to a healthy weight is shown to improve sexual function.
4. Limit your alcohol intake.
It's a smart idea for you and your partner to limit alcohol—and skip illicit drug use. Experts advise you stick to social drinking while you try to conceive, but that means something different to everyone. "Some people define it as a minimum of three beers per day, and that amount of alcohol can be toxic if you were to find out you're pregnant," says Kelly Pagidas, M.D., a fertility specialist with Women & Infants Center for Reproduction and Infertility in Providence. "You can have a few glasses of alcohol per week, but the key is to space out your consumption, with no more than a drink at a time." Recent CDC recommendations actually recommend women who are TTC abstain from alcohol altogether.
5. Try right after you go off birth control.
It should take only three months to start ovulating again once you're stopped taking hormonal birth control (maybe six if you've been on Depo-Provera). "Some data supports that women have a higher likelihood immediately after coming off the Pill," Dr. Chaudhari notes. "I always tell women that there's no reason to stop months or years in advance of intended pregnancy."
6. Have sex before—and right after—ovulation
"At least a third of couples are missing the boat for conception because they're having relations when they think they're ovulating," Dr. Pagidas says. Although it's wise to track your fertility with an ovulation kit or a basal body temperature chart, neither method is foolproof. Dr. Pagidas's recommendation: "Having sex in the five days leading up ovulation, plus the two days thereafter, is a safe bet to cover your entire fertility window."
7. Get busy every other day—but skip the lube.
If you want the best-quality sperm for baby making, more frequent nookie may not be better. "It's been shown that men regenerate sperm somewhere between every 36 and 48 hours, so you only need to expose your eggs to them every other day," Dr. Chaudhari says. One study revealed that you have a 22 percent chance of getting pregnant per cycle if you engage in every-other-day sex; the odds were negligibly higher (only 3 percent) with daily sex. Whenever you get busy, skip the commercial lube, as it's been shown to impair sperm motility.
8. Monitor your over-the-counter meds.
Antihistamines are made to dry you out, but that may be too much of a good thing when you're trying to conceive. "It's thought that they impact the quality of your cervical mucus when you want it to be as wet as possible," says Jill Blakeway, a licensed acupuncturist and co-owner of The YinOva Center in New York City. Consider limiting their use before and during ovulation. The same also goes for decongestants, diuretics, and large doses of vitamin C.
9. Get your man moving.
Need another reason to whip your couch potato husband into shape? A new Harvard University study showed that excessive television watching and lack of regular exercise are linked to male infertility and decreased sperm quality. It's probably due to the increased heat that testicles experience when guys sit still.
10. Aim for a better night's sleep.
"Sleeping for at least seven uninterrupted hours per night can aid ovulation," Dr. Chaudhari says. Try making your bedroom a little cozier (buy a pillow topper for your mattress), cooler (68°F is the optimal sleeping temperature) and less connected (turn off tech devices and the TV an hour before bed).
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