When you start thinking about trying to conceive it is advisable that both you and your partner start looking after your health. Chinese medicine places great importance on balancing both body and mind when preparing for conception and pregnancy.

Many lifestyle factors can affect your chances of getting pregnant and can influence the length of time it takes to conceive. Below we list changes which you can incorporate into your daily life to help your fertility and increase the chances of a successful pregnancy.

STRESS – Stress can negatively affect both the menstrual cycle and sperm production and it can also impact the quality of sleep and energy levels, both of which are important factors in fertility. Try to find ways to relax and unwind after a busy day or week. Exercise can help, because it releases endorphins.Try walking, swimming, pilates, yoga and/or meditation. These are all good ways to reduce stress.

DIET – A balanced diet is very important. It should be low on caffeine and alcohol and high on fresh, natural foods, organic if possible. Avoid processed food.

CAFFEINE – Try to limit intake of coffee. Research has shown that a caffeine intake of three or more cups a day doubled the rate of miscarriage and caffeine also has a negative impact on sperm motility. It can also almost double the time it takes to get pregnant. More than 1 cup per day is considered “a moderate to high caffeine intake”.

ALCOHOL – Alcohol impacts both male and female fertility negatively. With male fertility it interferes with the secretion of testosterone and increases the percentage of abnormal sperm. It puts stress on the liver and, with female fertility in Chinese medicine, the liver is vital for a smooth menstrual cycle. A link has been identified between alcohol consumption and miscarriage.

SLEEP – This is a very important factor when it comes to fertility so try to make sure you are getting enough sleep and good quality sleep. If you are taking prescribed sleeping tablets or tranquillisers be aware that they can affect foetal development, so talk to your GP about gradually coming off them and finding an alternative instead. Herbs such as valerian and passiflora are natural sedatives and can be used effectively in combination. Alternatively, or in combination, you can use calming aromatherapy oils such as bergamot, lavender and camomile in your bath or on your pillow at night.

EXERCISE – A moderate amount of exercise daily is very important to maintain a healthy body. 20-30 minutes of exercise can help burn off excess body fat and normalise hormone levels. Over-exercising can adversely affect fertility and cause irregular ovulation and an irregular menstrual cycle. Know your BMI and try to be in the correct range.

ENVIRONMENTAL TOXINS – Try to avoid pesticides and chemicals such as hair dyes and chemical household cleaners. These are harmful to sperm.

RECREATIONAL DRUGS – While trying to conceive try to avoid marijuana and other recreational drugs which have a negative effect on both male and female fertility.

SMOKING – A sperm count has been measured in males who smoke as being on average 17% lower than in males who don’t and smoking can also affect the quality of the sperm. For females, smoking can increase the time it takes to conceive as well as raise the risk of spontaneous miscarriages. Reducing /stopping smoking can produce positive results very quickly; sperm count can increase by up to 80% and women are likely to get pregnant faster and more easily.

BODY WEIGHT –Pregnancy is most likely to occur in women with a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 20 and 27. Being underweight or overweight can cause problems with ovulation and impact your chances of getting pregnant.

VITAMIN & MINERAL SUPPLEMENTS – although it is good to try and get your nutrients through your food, some supplements are also advisable to boost your fertility. Taking a daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement which is specifically for pregnancy will ensure you have the essentials. One example is Fertility Plus which is available for both women and men. You might also consider consulting a nutritionist to discuss your specific needs.

ZINC DEFICIENCY – is the most widely studied nutrient in terms of fertility. Zinc maintains the menstrual cycle, helps produce good quality eggs as well as the growth and development of the foetus. For men, zinc is vital for the proper development of sperm. 30 mg of zinc per day is recommended for men and women. Other vitamins that are helpful for fertility are Vitamin C, B Complex, Vitamin E and Selenium.

SEX – Rather than just focusing on the ovulatory period, try to have sex 4-5 days prior to ovulation, (sperm can live from 3-5 days inside the woman’s body). During the ovulatory period it is best to have sex every other day, rather than every day. Have sex at other times too. Women have been known to get pregnant at very different times in their menstrual cycles. However, it is most important not to get stressed about when to have sex.