Have unprotected sex — and bam, pregnant. Contrary to popular high school sex ed advice, and unfortunately for couples trying to conceive (TTC), getting pregnant isn't as easy or straightforward as that. Instead, the reality is that many will find themselves navigating a lengthy, arduous, and frustrating journey to get that second line to show up on the pregnancy test. Research shows that 12% to 15% of couples will have trouble conceiving after one year of unprotected sex (1).
But as comforting as that may be to learn, simply knowing that you’re not alone in your TTC struggles isn’t enough. You want a baby. And you’re wondering how to get there. Good news: this article is here to sprinkle some baby dust on you. Below, learn five fertility-boosting things you could do to increase your chances of welcoming a new member (or members) to your family.
#1: Time your “baby dance” during fertile days
The egg doesn't survive for long after ovulation. More specifically, it lives for less than 24 hours (2). Meaning? The sperm only has this very narrow window to fertilize the egg. So, to maximize your chances of getting pregnant, you’ll want to time your between-the-sheets action carefully — prioritizing the five days before (note: sperms are a little “hardier” than eggs; they’re known to remain viable for up to five days within the female reproductive tract) and on the day of ovulation (3).
And no, not every woman ovulates on day 14 of the menstrual cycle. The length of the menstrual cycle varies from woman to woman (4, 5). Some have shorter cycles, while others have longer ones. To further complicate things, the number of days in an individual's cycle may also vary monthly. So, um, if a woman's ovulation date in relation to their menstrual cycle isn't "fixed", how would you know when to rev up the baby-making efforts? You could get a better idea of the exact ovulation date by (6, 7):
- Using ovulation predictor kits (OPKs)
- Tracking basal body temperature
- Noting changes in cervical discharge
That said, if you think these are too much of a hassle, you could also try to “cover all bases” by having sex every other day (or daily — although, safe to say, this isn’t for everyone).
#2: Keep stress levels super low
Imagine that your stress levels are through the roof. Would you be in the mood for "sexy time"? Yeah, same. But beyond simply dulling your interest in sexual activities, studies show that stress can have a real, adverse physiological impact on ovulation and sperm quality:
- Egg development and release: A 2016 study published in Epidemiology had 259 women take perceived stress assessments (8). The researchers found that the high-stress group had lower levels of estrogen, luteinizing hormone, and progesterone, plus higher levels of follicle-stimulating hormone during the luteal phase of their cycles, which translated to a higher likelihood of anovulation. For the uninitiated, anovulation refers to a menstrual cycle in which the release of an egg from the ovaries does not occur.
- Sperm concentration and speed: According to a 2014 study published in Fertility and Sterility on 139 men between ages 38 and 49, researchers found that life stress was associated with reduced sperm concentration and speed and abnormally shaped sperm (9).
Obviously, "just relax" is about as helpful as trying to get pregnant three full days after ovulation … so here are a few actionable tips you could consider implementing to bring those cortisol levels down:
- Manage the symptoms: Meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises, yoga, and aromatherapy could help you take control of your stress levels — in turn, improving your conception chances (10, 11, 12). “Stress supplements”, like Dr. Danielle’s Stress Lift, that are formulated with plant-based adaptogens (e.g., ashwagandha) are also worth considering (13).
- Address potential causes: Are there any external factors stressing you out that you could eliminate (or at least minimize) in your life? Examples include striving for a better work-life balance and being firm when setting personal and professional boundaries.
- Seek professional psychological support if necessary: This 2017 study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests that psychosocial care for couples can reduce cortisol levels and emotional distress, which can help improve pregnancy outcomes (14).
#3: Cut back on (or eliminate) smoking and alcohol intake
Need another reason to snuff out those cigarette butts and dial back on booze nights? You got it: infertility rates in both female and male smokers are about twice those of nonsmokers (15). And according to this cohort survey-based study of 7,393 Swedish women published in Fertility and Sterility, researchers found a dose-response relationship between the amount of alcohol consumed and the risk of seeking treatment for infertility (16). This aligns with the findings of several past studies investigating the relationship between alcohol consumption and fertility (17, 18).
Still, staying away from alcohol and cigarettes is often easier said than done. Here are a few tips that may make the process a little easier for you:
- Let trusted friends and family members know you’re cutting down — and ask for their support (19)
- Use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT); research shows that all licensed forms of NRT, including gum, transdermal patch, and nasal spray, can help increase the rate of quitting smoking by 50% to 60% (20)
- Do your best to "re-configure" your triggers (i.e., the things that make you want to drink and/or smoke). Let's say, for example, you always feel like drinking when watching TV. One way to dissociate watching TV from smoking is to find a replacement activity. Chew gum. Eat sugar-free candy. Or try an alcohol-free beverage.
#4: Take care of your gut health
What does gut health have to do with reproductive health and fertility? As it turns out, a lot. The authors of this 2021 study published in Gut Microbes, for instance, state that an unhealthy gut — characterized by an imbalance between “good” and “bad” gut bacteria and a reduction in gut microbiota diversity — could result in a reduction of circulating estrogens (21). Given that estrogen's responsible for growing and maintaining the endometrial lining (i.e., where a blastocyst would implant), you can probably see why gut health's critical for female fertility (22, 23, 24). But what about male fertility? Well, research paints a similar picture. Evidence suggests that the gut microbiome can affect the secretion of various sex hormones that regulate sperm production, including luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and testosterone (25).
Bottom line? Improving your (and your partner's) gut health should be a priority for the best chances of getting pregnant. And to do so, eat:
- Probiotic-rich foods, like fermented foods (e.g., yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and tempeh) (33). Alternatively, you can consider using a probiotic supplement, like Dr. Danielle’s Probiotics.
#5: Prioritize these micronutrients
While there are no magic vitamins or minerals that’ll guarantee successful conception, science suggests that the following may help support fertility:
- Vitamin C: This study involving infertile men published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that taking 1,000 mg vitamin C supplements twice a day for up to 2 months increased sperm motility by 92% and sperm count by more than 100% (34). Research suggests that vitamin C could help regulate a woman's menstrual cycle and promote normal ovulation (35). Psst: one serving of Dr. Danielle’s Elderberry Immune Assist gives you exactly 1,000 mg of vitamin C.
- Vitamin B12: Insufficient vitamin B12 levels have been reported in more than half of infertile women (36). Additionally, studies suggest that vitamin B12 — which you can find in Dr. Danielle’s Organic Vitamin B12 liquid spray — can improve sperm quality (37, 38).
- Zinc: Here’s another reason to add Elderberry Immune Assist to your cart. It contains zinc. According to a 2019 review published in Nutrients, lower blood levels of zinc are linked to a longer time trying to conceive in women (39). This micronutrient is also essential in producing healthy sperm (40).
- Vitamin D: Research shows that vitamin D-deficient men are more likely to have low testosterone levels, which is, in turn, linked to male infertility (41, 42). A 2018 comprehensive review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health also maintains that vitamin D deficiency is a risk marker for reduced fertility in women (43). Interested in getting yourself a vitamin D supplement? Dr. Danielle’s Vitamin D3 + B12 Gummies could be a fun (and delicious way) for you to meet your vitamin D requirements.
Consider seeing a fertility specialist
Repeatedly getting your hopes up, then having them dashed by a negative pregnancy test cycle after cycle, again and again (and again), can really take a toll on your — and undoubtedly your partner's — emotional state. But as helpless as you may feel on this journey, know that there are plenty of fertility treatment options you can explore. You may wish to consider scheduling an appointment with a fertility specialist to find out what may be hindering your baby-making efforts and what you can do about it if the woman is (44):
- Under 35 and have been having unprotected sex for 12 months, and
- 35 or older and have been trying for six months to get pregnant without birth control