How To Get Pregnant Fast – 9 Step Fertility Series

How To Get Pregnant Fast – 9 Step Fertility Series

by Dr Emma Gray - 27th June, 2018

Step 1 – Getting Started

This blog post is designed to help you to prepare both your mind and body for pregnancy and to survive the time it takes you to get you to this point.  It is based on my professional and personal experience of infertility, I am a mother of 4 boys, all conceived after the age of 35, the last at 44, despite being told that I was infertile.

The post consists of 9 steps and the accompanying YouTube videos (all found in the playlist above) and will cover what to eat, what supplements to take, how to maximise your chances of conception, the right work-life balance to supercharge your fertility, complementary approaches, emotional well-being, surviving miscarriage and trying to conceive over 35yrs. This post will give you the key facts and highlights, but for more details check out the book I have written to accompany this series:

How To Get Pregnant Fast by Dr Emma Gray

A Game of Chance

The first thing to remember is that conceiving a baby is a game of chance, those that tell you that their partner only had to look at them for them to get pregnant are not more fertile than you, they have just been luckier. With the odds of conceiving in a single cycle at 20-25% for the most fertile among us (20-24 year olds), each month you roll the dice. Some of us just have to roll that dice a few more times before we hit the jackpot.

The second thing to remember is that you are more likely to get pregnant than not. Only 5% of fertile couples (i.e. those who have not been identified as infertile) will not have conceived within 2 years of trying (regardless of age). The data ends at this point so some of this group will conceive if they continue trying. This means that the longer you can stay in the game the better your chances of success.

This programme will help you to focus your energy in a helpful direction whilst you wait for your baby, it will give you control over the elements of this process that are within your control and help you to accept those that are not. And maybe, most importantly, it will give you the psychological knowledge and tools to stay in the game as long as you need to, to have your baby.

The 12 Month Pregnancy

Experts say that women who are planning a pregnancy should begin preparing for it at least three months prior to actively trying to conceive. This is because it takes 3 months for immature eggs (oocytes) and sperm cells to mature, meaning the quality of the egg and sperm that develops into a baby will be dictated by your lifestyle at least 4 months before you receive a positive pregnancy test. This coupled with the fact that the greatest risk to the feotus for congenital anomalies and birth defects happens between the first two to eight weeks of pregnancy has led many experts to think of pregnancy as a 12 rather than 9 month process.

This programme will help you to prepare your body and that of your partner so that the building blocks for your baby (the eggs and sperm) are of the best quality. This will not only maximise your chances of conceiving and carrying a healthy baby to term but it will also maximise your future child’s physical and psychological health.

Good luck on your fertility journey!

One more thing before we start…….

It can be incredibly reassuring when you are trying to conceive to know that you are doing everything you can. However, it is important that your life is not put on hold during the process as this will cause stress, resentment and frustration. These emotions will negatively impact not just on your fertility and your ability to stay in the game as long as you need to but on other aspects of your life, ones which have the potential to bring you comfort, satisfaction and happiness. So, use this programme to tailor your own individual approach to improving your fertility, one that suits your personality and outlook but most importantly one that is sustainable. A good rule of thumb is the 80/20 rule; follow your fertility programme 80% of the time and give you self a break from it the rest of the time. This is not meant to encourage a ‘bingeing’ approach to those things that you are cutting out but to encourage some flexibility and self-kindness when you are faced with special occasions or just when you fancy a little treat.

Step 2 – Diet Tips to Boost Fertility

Studies have shown that a balanced healthy diet is crucial for our fertility, the better the quality of the environment the egg follicle grows in, the better the quality of the egg. This also applies to the environment that the sperm cells are developing in. In a recent survey conducted by Foresight UK looking at 1,578 couples who completed their preconception programme (involving changes to diet, lifestyle and supplements), 89.8% of couples conceived and the miscarriage rate was under 3% (the national average is 25%). Most of the couples were over 33, many over 40 and some were even over 50.

So, the first step in preparing the body for a healthy pregnancy is to ensure that what you put into your body is as toxin-free and unprocessed as possible. In this blog we will look at how to optimise your body for pregnancy through your diet.

The 12 month pregnancy

As discussed in Step 1, it is important to think of your pregnancy as a 12-month process so ideally you should make changes to your diet at least 3 months before you and your partner begin actively trying to conceive.

1. Detox

Every day we absorb heavy metals such as mercury, lead and aluminium which affects hormones and our reproductive systems.  Contamination of lead and mercury in particular can cause deformities of the uterus and the foetus. So it is worth considering removing these toxic substances from the body before you start the process of trying to conceive. Zeolite is a natural mineral that has been proven to remove toxins, metals and free radicals from the body. It comes in a number of different forms but the one most easily absorbed by the body is Activate Liquid Zeolite.

To support the use of Zeolite, take it alongside a diet of organic fruits and vegetables and exclude junk food so as to cleanse the body.

2. General Tips

Try and eat foods as close to their natural state as possible.

Acidic foods can unbalance the pH level in your reproductive system which will create an inhospitable environment for sperm. So, eat plenty of non-citrus fruits, vegetables, sprouts, cereals, grasses and herbs to ensure your system stays in balance. Also, avoid alcohol and caffeine, and eat meat and dairy sparingly.

Cruciferous Vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels sprouts all contain the compound Di-indolylmethane (DIM), which is known to increase the metabolism of estradiol (a form of oestrogen) in the body.

Organic foods are frequently recommended by fertility experts as it is believed that they have a higher nutritional content and a lower exposure to pesticides. Recent research at Newcastle University supports this to some extent but most nutritional experts stress that it is what you eat that is important, not whether it’s organic or conventional. It’s whether you eat fruit and vegetables at all that is going to make the biggest difference to your health and fertility.

 3. Things to Include

Superfoods

For convenience and sustainability, it is worth considering preparing a smoothie each day, including as many superfoods as possible for both you and your partner to drink. To prevent nutrient loss eat the foods raw and keep your smoothie as coarse as possible, don’t over blend.

Tip: If your diet has previously been high in refined carbohydrates and sugar, artificial trans fats and processed food it will take your palate a little while to adjust to a more natural, unprocessed diet. In the meantime, if your smoothie tastes a little ‘sprouty’ add an extra banana to temper the flavour.

An encyclopedic list of fertility boosting food can be found in the book that accompanies this series: How to Get Pregnant Fast

In the meantime here is a fertility boosting smoothie to try:

1 x Avocados
Avocados contain monounsaturated fats thought to lower inflammation in the body and therefore improve female fertility. A study measuring the diets of women undergoing IVF showed that those on a diet high on the fats found in avocados were 3.4 times more likely to get pregnant.

1x Bananas
Bananas are packed with vitamin B6, which regulates hormones and is needed for good egg and sperm development.

Handful of blueberries and raspberries
Blueberries and raspberries are packed with antioxidants which help prevent damage and ageing to your body’s cells, including the cells in your reproductive system and egg cells. So, a diet that’s rich in berries may help keep your eggs healthy and increase their shelf life.

2 x tsps of Maca Powder
Maca powder has been scientifically researched for the use of increasing fertility since 1961 and has been shown to contain specific compounds called glucosinolates which support hormonal balance in both men and women. It is available in powder, capsules or tincture and the powder has a malty flavour so goes well in a smoothie. Maca is particularly recommended for those with PCOS.

Directions:
Mix ingredients in blender with semi-skimmed organic milk or nut milk. Freeze the banana and berries for a milkshake texture.

Step 3 – Supplements to Boost Fertility

It is best to get vitamins and minerals from food as it contains thousands of phytochemicals and fibre that work together to promote good health, a process that cannot be duplicated with a pill. However, even the best diet in the world may not contain all the nutrients you need to maximise your chances of conceiving and there is now a substantial body of evidence supporting the use of nutritional supplements in re-balancing hormones, eliminating nutritional deficiencies and improving sperm production and mobility.

Although supplements can support fertility they can unbalance things so before taking large doses of vitamins try to enhance your fertility through your diet for 6 months first and only take them after other fertility tests (semen analysis, HSG to test for open tubes) come back normal.

It is important not to self-prescribe supplements but if you don’t have access to a practitioner who can individually tailor a supplementation programme for you, a good way of identifying vitamin and mineral deficiencies is hair analysis. For more information follow this link: www.naturalhealthpractice.com/Fertility

Once you are pregnant stop all supplements apart from a specially formulated prenatal supplement e.g Vital Essence which offer a different formulation for the 3 different trimesters: www.zitawest.com

In my book you can find a wider range of supplements along with the evidence that supports their effectiveness in boosting fertility. You can also find supplements specifically for Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a short luteal phase and if you are over 35 years old. However, here are some general recommendations for supplements to consider taking daily.

Aspirin (75-80mgs)
A low dose aspirin per day (formerly called baby aspirin) is thought to help to increase the flow of blood to the ovaries, the uterus, improve the quality of the egg and make the uterine lining healthier, thereby helping with implantation (all of which are sometimes a problem for women over 35).

Doctors will usually tell you to stop taking the baby aspirin after the first trimester as it can interfere with the baby’s blood flow.

B-complex
This family of vitamins that are necessary to produce the genetic materials DNA and RNA, not only of the egg but also the sperm and so are thought to be essential during the pre-conception period.

Vitamin C: 750mgs
A moderate amount of supplemental vitamin C improves hormone levels and increases fertility. Vitamin C also enhances sperm quality, it is thought, by protecting the sperm’s DNA. It also appears to keep the sperm from clumping together, making them more motile.

DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid)
It is thought by some experts that DHA will become as important as Folic Acid for preconception and pregnancy. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid and is beneficial for neurological health, the central nervous system and optical development of a foetus. While it’s not always included in prenatal supplements, it is highly recommended that both pregnant and breastfeeding women take a DHA supplement. DHA can be found in appropriate quantities in fermented cod liver oil.

Folic Acid: 400mgs
It is now known that folic acid can prevent spina bifida in your baby so it is essential that you get plenty, both before and during pregnancy. Together with vitamin B12, folic acid also works to ensure that your baby’s genetic codes are intact.

Step 4 – Maximising the Chances of Conception

The reality is that if you are having sex regularly most couples will conceive within 2 years, regardless of age. However, there are a few things that you can do to speed up this process.

1. Timing Sex

When you and your partner have sex will make a big difference to how quickly you conceive. You are most likely to conceive if you have sex on day 1 and/or 2 before ovulation, twice as likely in fact than if you have sex on day 3, 4 or 5 (before ovulation). Conception on these days is also less likely to lead to miscarriage. And, timing sex in this way eliminates the age difference, so if you are 35-39 and have sex 2 days before ovulation you are just as likely to get pregnant as a woman aged 19-26.

2. Pinpointing Ovulation

This is of course necessary if you are going to achieve No. 1. The most effective ways of pinpointing ovulation are:

  • Monitoring Cervical Mucus
  • Monitoring the position of your Cervix

Detailed information about how to do this are given in the book.

To confirm that you have ovulated each month you should measure your Basal Body Temperature, this is reasonably straightforward, but detailed guidance is given in the book.

There are also a number of useful monitors and apps that can help with this process. For a useful comparison of currently available fertility apps and monitors visit yourfertilityjourney.com.

3. Positions

Some experts recommend rear entry (‘doggy style’), missionary and side-by-side as optimal positions to allow for the deepest penetration and contact with the cervix, while minimising the chance of leakage.  Other experts also suggest having your partner keep his penis inside you for as long as possible after his orgasm as this is thought to create a good barrier and keep the semen concentrated close to the cervix. These are both theories that are yet to be proven, but you have nothing to lose in trying these!

4. After Sex

It is often suggested that after sex you should elevate your hips to assist the sperm in their journey into the cervix. However, your pelvis does not move when you do this so it is sufficient to just lie down for 10-15 minutes and allow gravity to get the sperm going in the right direction. The sperm that is going to reach the cervix will have done so in this time.

5. Safeguarding Sperm

Try to have sex at least every five days during the time you are not trying to conceive to flush out the sperm. This will ensure that you have healthy sperm when you need them! Then approximately 5 days before you will ovulate, have sex either every day or every other day up until and including the day of ovulation.

Finally, most lubricants and saliva can damage sperm so during your fertile window abstain from oral sex and if you use a lubricant use one that is sperm-friendly.

Step 5 – Lifestyle Tips To Boost Fertility

Moderation is key, anything extreme (too much or too little) is likely to upset the natural balance of your fertility.

The Work-Life Balance

Finding a work-life balance is particularly important if you are trying to conceive because a lack of equilibrium here can lead to a whole range of problems from anxiety, depression and anger to physical health problems, all of which will have a negative impact on your fertility.

The best way to find a balance is to weigh up what you NEED to do against what you WANT to do. A good place to start is to depict your various time commitments in a pie chart and ask yourself if you are happy with what you see?

Weight & Exercise

Many women in the underweight and obese categories will not have a problem becoming pregnant. However, having a body weight outside of the normal range (Body Mass Index {BMI} 19-25) can disrupt your hormones which increases your chances of having problems with ovulation.

If your BMI is either less than 18 or greater than 29 you may need a combination of nutritional and psychological support to bring your weight back within the normal range.

Exercise

Moderation again is key. Regular workouts may improve reproductive function. On the other hand too much exercise can lower fertility. Mostly because there have been no controlled studies, follow the Department of Health’s advice regarding exercise:

Also, this is not the time to start a rigorous exercise programme if this is not what your body is used to, even if your BMI or body fat percentage stays the same the stress can have a negative effect on fertility.

Alcohol, Smoking and Sleeping

There are three exceptions to the moderation rule, alcohol, smoking and sleeping.

1. Alcohol

Studies on alcohol and fertility have produced mixed findings. The book that accompanies this series goes into more detail but, in summary, drinking more than 6 units per week can have a negative impact on women’s fertility.

The Department of Health advises that women trying to get pregnant should avoid alcohol altogether. If you choose to drink, the recommendations for women are to drink no more than 1-2 units, once or twice a week.

For Men, keep in mind that drinking more than three to four units of alcohol a day can damage sperm.

2. Smoking

Both active and passive smoking affects fertility. Smokers take longer to conceive than non-smokers and are more likely to have fertility problems.  So, if you are serious about getting pregnant fast, stop smoking. The good news is that most of the negative effects of smoking on fertility are reversed a year after stopping smoking.

3. Sleep

An adequate amount of sleep is necessary to balance a number of fertility hormones. So, to protect your fertility get a minimum of 7 hours sleep per night. To boost your fertility aim for 8-9 hours.

Step 6 – Supercharge Fertility With Alternative Approaches

In this Step I am going to show you how to supercharge your fertility with some Alternative and Complementary Approaches including Chinese Medicine, Yoga and Massage.

Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture

Studies suggest acupuncture can boost fertility. By placing needles at key energy meridians linked to the reproductive organs, acupuncture stimulates and restores the flow of Qi, a form of life energy that according to theories of Chinese medicine must flow through the body unhampered if illness or malfunctions such as infertility are to be avoided. A more western understanding of the process is that acupuncture increases blood supply by dilating the arteries to the ovaries so that they receive greater amounts of hormonal stimulation and to the lining of the uterus so that it is better able to absorb the nutrients and hormones necessary to help it grow strong enough to hold on to an implanted embryo.

To find a qualified practitioner visit The British Acupuncture Society.

Chinese Herbs

Chinese herbs have been used in the treatment of infertility and miscarriage since 200 A.D. Large scale clinical trials in modern China suggest that between 50-90% of infertility treated with Chinese herbs resulted in pregnancy or restored fertility.

To find a practitioner in Chinese Herbal Medicine visit The Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine.

Yoga

Women who are under constant stress produce prolactin, cortisol and other hormones, which can interfere with or even block regular ovulation. Studies show that yoga can help reduce stress and bring some calmness and balance to the mind which can affect fertility. Some experts also believe that specific poses can help promote conception by increasing blood flow to your pelvis, stimulating hormone-producing glands, and releasing muscle tension.

Click here for more information and specific yoga poses.

(Self) Fertility Massage

Fertility massage has been used for hundreds of years to support conception.

The best time to practice (self) fertility massage is between days 6-14 of your cycle as it can help ensure a regular supply of oxygenated blood and the distribution of hormone towards the reproductive area while the egg is being developed and released. Avoid fertility massage during the time that you are menstruating as fertility massage may increase your blood flow and also during your luteal phase to ensure that you don’t interfere with implantation.

Femoral Reproductive Massage increases the blood flow to the pelvic organ providing extra nourishment to the uterus and ovaries. This video gives more specific information, a demonstration of the technique and how to do it yourself.

If you are interested in exploring this area further you will find information on how to boost your fertility using Reflexology, castor oil packs and Lunaception in my book How To Get Pregnant Fast.

Step 7 – Emotional Well-being

In this Step I am going to explain the importance of emotional wellbeing to your fertility.

The emotional challenge of becoming a parent

Becoming a parent is one of the major transitions of adult life for both men and women and the stress of not being able to experience this has been associated with a range of psychological problems including anger, depression, anxiety, feelings of defectiveness and incompetence, relationship problems, sexual dysfunction and social isolation. When you decide to have a baby you step onto a rollercoaster of emotions that doesn’t ever really end. Trying to conceive presents you with a raft of emotional challenges, once you conceive you face the challenge of pregnancy and then when your baby is born you face the challenge of parenting. Learning to better manage your emotions at this stage will benefit you not only now but for the rest of yours and your children’s life.

The link between emotional and physical health

Another reason to give this part of your wellbeing attention when you are trying to conceive is that evidence suggests that poor mental health has a detrimental impact on fertility. One study reported a 2-fold increase in the risk of infertility among women with a history of depressive symptoms. It is thought that depression and anxiety could directly affect fertility by elevating prolactin levels and disrupting the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, thyroid and immune function. Depression and anxiety have also been associated with abnormal regulation of luteinizing hormone, a hormone that regulates ovulation.

Managing your emotions

We have evolved to feel emotions and like all of evolutions creations emotions are fundamental to our existence and survival. Our emotions allow us to navigate through life, enabling us to face challenges, cease opportunities, avoid danger and ensure the ongoing survival of our species by creating a bond between us and our young allowing us to care, protect and nurture them.
There are 4 main emotions:

1. Happiness
2. Anxiety
3. Anger
4. Sadness

All other emotions are variations on these four. Identify the emotion(s) that you struggle with the most and go to the section on this emotion for strategies on how to manage it better. Although some people do struggle with happiness, this is usually an indication of a deeper level problem that is likely to need professional support (see section below) and therefore its management is beyond the scope of this book.

Getting more support

If after working through this programme you feel as if you need some additional help to manage the psychological and emotional challenges of trying to conceive a child and becoming a parent a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy may be useful for you. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy which equips you with a comprehensive understanding of why you are struggling with an issue and a clear set of psychological and practical tools to resolve this. CBT has a robust evidence base across a range of emotional and physical difficulties including fertility problems. For example, in a study of women who were not ovulating, one group received CBT and the other group was just observed. 80% of the women who received CBT started to ovulate again, as opposed to only 25% from the randomized observation group.

The British CBT & Counselling Service is a team of Doctors of Clinical and Counselling Psychology specialising in the use of CBT for individuals with fertility problems and the associated psychological and emotional challenges. For more information on CBT please contact them directly.

Step 8 – Miscarriage

This Step is about miscarriage, why it happens, the stats and how to cope if it happens to you.

Unfortunately for many women miscarriage is a part of having a family. With 1 in 3 pregnancies ending in miscarriage most women who have had 2 or more children will have experienced at least one. Miscarriage is nature’s way of ensuring the survival of the human race by allowing only the strongest and healthiest pregnancies to continue. Unexplained miscarriage is therefore not a sign that something is wrong with us, it is a sign that our bodies are functioning as they should and that next time we are more likely than not to carry a healthy baby to term

Recurrent Miscarriage

Recurrent miscarriage is a term used if you have lost 3 or more pregnancies. It is at this point that most medics will begin to investigate the cause of your miscarriages. Up until this point it is usual to be told that you have just been unlucky and to keep trying. There are various causes of recurrent miscarriage, some of which are treatable, but for some couples no cause is ever identified. However, 60-70% of women who have had repeated and unexplained miscarriages go on to have healthy pregnancies.

One study looking at recurrent miscarriage suggests that some women’s wombs are too good at letting embryos implant and will accept all embryos including the poor quality ones that other women would reject. The study concludes that in these cases ‘super fertility’ is responsible for unexplained recurrent miscarriage. So, if you have experienced recurrent miscarriages instead of ‘there’s something wrong with me’ maybe try thinking ‘my body is too good at this’. How you think about things has a significant impact on your mood and your mood will determine you ability to cope with miscarriage.

For more tips on how to cope with miscarriage watch my video:

Pregnancy After Miscarriage

Pregnancy after a miscarriage is always a challenge, but there are a number of ways to ease your anxiety that history will repeat itself:

1. Take one day at a time and try to distract yourself as much as you can by filling your time with activities that give you a sense of achievement and enjoyment.

2. Keep your mind focused on what is happening now and try to resist the urge to make predictions about what might happen in the future, particularly catastrophic ones. To keep your mind present practice meditation which research has shown to be extremely helpful in managing distress and other negative emotions.

3. If you find statistics helpful, this day by day miscarriage risk chart may help you to manage your count down.

4. Check out the self-help programmes in the book that accompanies this blog series to help you to better manage your emotions.

Step 9 – If you are over 35

Step 9 is about getting pregnant over 35 years and why you do not need to worry that you have left it too old to conceive, even if you are over 40. I had 4 children over the age of 35, the last one at 44!

There is a lot written about the accelerated decline in fertility once a woman passes 35, however, much of this has been overstated:

1. Most of the data is based on church birth records in rural France between 1670 and 1830 when life expectancy was shorter and modern medicine, antibiotics and indoor plumbing amongst other things, didn’t exist.

2. A more recent study (1990) found that 50% of 35-39 year olds were pregnant after 3 months of trying to conceive, 82% within a year and 90% after 2 years.

3. A 2013 study found that of women aged 40-43, 60% got pregnant within 6 months.

4. In the 1920s the average age that a woman gave birth to her last child was 42. It is the baby boomers that have skewed our perception on age and fertility.

5. In the past it has been thought that we are born with all of the eggs cells we will have for the rest of our lives, hence the reason age can have such an impact on egg health. Recent research has found that women may produce eggs throughout their reproductive years.

6. Both environmental and genetic factors contribute to depletion of the egg pool and reduction in egg quality, meaning that biological and chronological ovarian age are not always equivalent. So even if you are a bit older this is only half the story. Your chronological age can be manipulated through diet, lifestyle and Chinese medicine.

7. IVF favours younger women as it works best if the ovaries produce a lot of eggs at once and as this is less likely if you’re older the data here is less encouraging. However, don’t be discouraged, if you can rule out tubal and sperm issues, your best chance of conceiving is naturally.

The further past 35 you are the longer it may take you to get pregnant so use the wisdom those extra years have given you to measure your expectations, cultivate patience and most importantly, do not lose hope just because it is taking longer than you would like.

For more reassuring facts about conceiving over 35, particularly if you suffer from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, check out my book How To Get Pregnant Fast.

Good Luck with your fertility journey!

If you are suffering with any of the issues discussed in this article and would like to seek professional help then you may find our Fertility Page helpful.


Dr Emma Gray

Dr Emma Gray

I am often the first person with whom my patients share significant and intimate thoughts and memories; I never take that privileged position for granted nor the opportunity to help someone to feel better about themselves and discover a more fulfilling life. One of my colleagues once described me as a natural psychologist; I guess she was alluding to the fact that I feel at ease being a therapist, I can empathise with people’s distress and discomfort but don’t feel overwhelmed by it, I can understand their problem and know how to help, it has always just felt like what I should be doing.


Read more about my approach to counselling here...


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