This is the last thing you want to hear, but if you’re trying to conceive you need to cut out the hard stuff. Both of you. There’s strong scientific evidence it can affect your fertility. Yes, we all know that person who got up the duff after a wild night on the sauce, but it’s not the norm.
For women, just one to five units a week canreduce the chances of conception. Men areadvised no more than 14 units a week, spreadover at least three days. It’s not just aboutavoiding brewer’s droop: booze can lowertestosterone, sex drive and the quality andamount of sperm you produce.
Give those swimmers a sporting chance! Balls function at their fertile best at a cool 34°F. Back when we were cavemen this was fine: running wild and hanging free in not much more than a loin cloth. These days, sperm are sweating it out in skinny jeans, hot baths and tighty whities.
TRY AND AVOID
– riding bicycles and motorbikes
– using laptops on laps
– putting mobiles in pockets.
C: COMMUNITY SUPPORT
If you’re having trouble conceiving, you’re not alone. One in seven UK couples experience problems: that’s approximately 3.5 million people right now. It’s crucial to be surrounded by a supportive community. Knowing you’re not alone can help.
Hearing others’ stories – and sharing yours if you wish – can be therapeutic. You’ll discover every emotion you’re feeling is not just normal it’s totally acceptable, and there’s absolutely no need to feel guilty, embarrassed or ashamed.
D: VITAMIN D
During the winter months, many of us are vitamin D-deficient. Our bodies create it using sunlight and it’s fundamental for fertility and pregnancy. It affects your sex hormones – if you don’t have enough it’ll reduce your sex drive – and it’s been linked to ovulation disorders and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).
Although you can get some vitamin D from food (egg yolk, fortified foods, oily fish, red meat) the best way is through a supplement. The Department of Health recommends everyone over 5 years old takes 10mcg a day from October-March/April.
This is a pretty important part of getting pregnant. Whether you’re doing it the natural way, through IUI or IVF, you’ll probably need to shoot your load at some point.
Healthy ejaculation distances range from a gentle spurt to a metre or more. The average is 17-25cm. In terms of volume, it tends to be around a teaspoonful (3-5ml) but can range from 1-15ml. However, none of this has any bearing on fertility. The vagina’s designed to help sperm complete their journey, and doesn’t discriminate against size or speed.
Having a few issues in this department? Don’t worry – ejaculation problems are common, just book an appointment to see your GP.
F: FOLIC ACID
Folic acid is a synthetic B vitamin that’s vital in pregnancy: it prevents your baby from developing a variety of neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. The Department of Health recommends every woman who’s pregnant or trying for a baby take a daily supplement of 400mcg.
Folate, folic acid’s natural form, can be foundin certain foods, including whole grains, leafygreens (spinach, collard greens, kale), oranges,meat and pulses. However, it can be in verysmall quantities, so it’s almost impossible to eatenough to protect your baby: supplementationis advised.
G: GETTING JIGGY
It’s time to enjoy some horizontal dancing – and lots of it.
Ladies, knowing your cycle is vital. You’ll need to pinpoint your fertile window and aim to have sex every day or two during this time. If that’s too pressurised or brings on stage fright, simply do it three times a week, every week, and have fun.
It doesn’t matter what position you’re in and although the vagina’s naturally designed to move semen northwards, it can’t hurt to lie on your back with a pillow under your hips for 15 minutes afterwards. There’s absolutely no need for headstands though.
These chemical messengers are secreted by glands then travel round the body telling cells what to do. They’re responsible for everything from hunger to emotions. And – if they’re out of whack – can have a huge effect on fertility. Here are the key ones to know and their roles in conception.
Testosterone: gives us our male sexual characteristics and is a key player in arousal, libido, erection and sperm production.
Oestrogen: not just a lady-hormone – men need some too. It helps regulate many factors including testosterone, libido, sexual function, sperm count and seminal fluid.
Progesterone: regulates oestrogen levels and helps sperm to penetrate the egg by ‘hyperactiving’ their tails.
Luteinising Hormone (LH): tells your testes to produce testosterone.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): stimulates sperm production. FSH tests can help discover possible causes of infertility.
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone): helps produce testosterone and oestrogen, giving men sex drives and the ability to maintain an erection.
Cortisol:the stress hormone. Too much can lower testosterone, making it hard to get or maintain an erection.
Oestrogen: gives us our female sexual characteristics and regulates the menstrual cycle.
Progesterone: also regulates the menstrual cycle and is responsible for libido and fallopian tube function. It’s a key hormone in supporting a developing embryo and determines our susceptibility to diabetes and insulin resistant PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).
Luteinising Hormone (LH): responsible for ovulation – releasing the egg from the ovary. This is the hormone monitored by ovulation prediction kits.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): stimulates the ovarian follicles to produce eggs. Testing it can help diagnose fertility problems, menopause, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and ovarian cysts.
Anti-Mullerian (AMH): produced in your ovarian follicles. Some clinics test it to find out your ovarian reserve (how many eggs you have left).
Cortisol: the stress hormone. Too much may cause miscarriage or infertility. Testosterone: although primarily a male hormone (aka ‘androgen’), we have a bit in our bodies too. It helps build bones and boost sex drives.
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone): helps produce oestrogen and testosterone and declines with age.
I: IUI / IVF
For those having trouble conceiving naturally, IUI and IVF could be the next step. Over 250,000 babies in the UK, and over five million worldwide, have been born this way.
IUI (intrauterine insemination) involves separating fast and slow swimmers from a fresh semen sample and inserting the fast ones into the womb. Often a precursor to IVF, the procedure is timed to happen just after ovulation. It’s quick and pretty painless.
With IVF (in vitro fertilisation), women are given hormones to stimulate follicles in the ovary: any eggs released are removed under anaesthetic and mixed with sperm in a laboratory. Fertilised embryos are transferred to the uterus – or, if there are several, may be frozen for use in repeat cycles.
Up to a billion sperm are held in your testicles. 200-500 million are released every time you cum. But not all will reach the egg. In a healthy man, only around 20% will be any good.
To keep your semen in top condition, live healthily and make sure your body is getting enough of the vital minerals zinc and selenium. Also, great news – have regular orgasms – three to four a week are recommended. More than once a day will give you a permanently low sperm count, as your body won’t have enough time to replenish its stores.
And although masturbation’s great, if the aim is to make a baby it’s worth saving orgasms for when your partner’s around. Unless they’re away for a few days, in which case it’s totally acceptable to clean out the tank.
Sometimes life isn’t as easy as we’d like it to be. Trying for a baby can be hard: hormones can send your emotions haywire, and you might find yourself arguing with your partner more often. This is all normal. Be kind – to your partner and yourself.
L: LADY BITS
The female reproductive system is an incredibly delicate, clever, complicated beast: from fallopian tubes to ovaries, eggs, uterus, breasts, vulvas and vaginas. And to conceive it needs to be in good working order. If you’ve any concerns, it’s worth going to see your GP. Spotting, very heavy periods or pain in the reproductive area are some things to watch out for. Half of women having trouble conceiving have reproductive issues, which can range from endometriosis to PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and fibroids.
Tracking your monthly cycle is important: you’ll learn what’s normal for you, can spot patterns and irregularities, and share this data with your doctor. There are plenty of cycle tracking apps online, just don’t rely on them to tell you when you’re ovulating – you’re better off getting a specific test to monitor your LH levels – as everyone’s cycle is different.
M: MOVE IT
Being physically fit puts your body in the best possible shape for conception. It lowers stress, blood pressure, can reduce the risk of ovulation disorders in women and build up testosterone in men.
For women, moderate, low intensity exerciseis the goal: five 30-minute sessions a week.However, if you’re continually smashing PBsor topping the CrossFit leader board and havingtrouble conceiving, ease off. Extreme exercisingcan lower fertility by disrupting your hormonalbalance, your ovulation cycle, and letting yourbody fat fall too low.
Nutrition is crucial when it comes to conception: food affects everything from your cells to your blood sugar and hormones.
Go for a ‘rainbow’ of fruit and veg. Pump up your protein and calcium with eggs, full-fat dairy, meat, nuts, beans or tofu. Boost your blood with iron, from red meat if possible. Choose unprocessed wholegrains for your carbs.
And get friendly with your local fishmonger. Ladies, have a couple of low-mercury, oily fish dishes a week: omega 3 fatty acids may help regulate your cycle and improve egg quality. Guys, it’s time to get shucking: oysters are full of zinc which boosts testosterone and improves sperm quality. Added bonus – they’re an aphrodisiac.
The flip side is it’s time to say goodbye to alcohol, caffeine (reduce to two cups a day; cut if you’re having trouble conceiving), refined carbs, low-fat food options (often high in sugar), trans fats (check ingredients: they can affect ovulation), junk food and refined sugar.
You can only get pregnant at time of ovulation, so aim to have sex every other day during your fertile window – the five days before ovulation and ovulation day itself. Sex during the rest of the month is great practice, keeps sperm fresh and couples connected, but it won’t make a baby.
Ovulation’s often said to be 12-14 days before your period, or day 14 in a 28-day menstrual cycle. But for most women this isn’t true. Your cycle could range from 21-45 days and you could ovulate on a different day every month.
The most accurate way to pinpoint your fertile window is with an ovulation predictor kit.
They test your hormone levels – but aren’t always 100% accurate.
Natural signs you’re ovulating might include a change in cervical mucus (stretchy, clear, egg white consistency), mild pain on one side of the lower abdomen, heightened sense of smell and increased libido. You can also track your basal body temperature (BBT) throughout the month: it rises – marginally – for a day or two after ovulation.
P: PATIENCE & POSITIVITY
Although we’d all love to conceive on the first go, it’s not usually that simple or stress-free. The good news is 84% of couples will do so within a year of having regular, unprotected sex (three times a week, every week). However, as women get older – and potentially men as well – fertility decreases, and it might take a while longer.
Give yourselves the best chance by living healthily and enjoying regular nookie, and if you’ve no joy after a year or two make a visit to see your GP. They’ll check for any underlying reasons or refer you to a fertility clinic.
Before you go rooting through the depths of Doctor Google, it might be wise to see your GP. They’re the best primary source of information for any would-be parents. Everyone’s different – some of us conceive immediately, some take years – and until you start trying you won’t know which camp you belong to. They’ll be able to advise on lifestyle changes or refer you to clinics as necessary. Knowledge is power, and you’ll be in a better position to move forward.
Several studies have shown stress affects fertility. This might be down to an increase in the hormones cortisol or epinephrine in women, the way stress affects the lining of the uterus and subsequent implantation of the egg, or the negative effect it can have on sperm production and erectile function.
The concept of creating a mini human is equal parts exciting and terrifying. As such, trying to conceive can be stressful, and (ironically) detrimental to your sex life. That’s why it’s important to take time out and relax. Stop making it all about babies, and start enjoying the now. So take up yoga, meditate, do reflexology, have a massage, go on holiday or try acupuncture.
There’s good nutrition – and then there’s super nutrition. Superfoods are starting to be recognised for their positive effect on fertility. Here’s a couple to watch out for:
When it comes to female fertility, it balances hormones, improves regularity of menstrual cycles, can enhance ovulation and support sexual function. Men benefit from better sperm quality, count and motility, as well as improved sexual function. A spot of trivia: this Peruvian miracle is one of the porn industry’s best kept secrets – boosting male and female libido and allegedly accounting for some pretty spectacular ejaculations.
Hailing from Brazil, this plant’s been used for centuries to deal with problems including rheumatism, influenza and gastrointestinal upsets. But it’s really known as an aphrodisiac – and is commonly called “potency wood”. It stimulates libido and boosts physical performance in both sexes, helps support healthy erections in men and a more intense orgasm in women. Winner. Just don’t forget to check with your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you’re already pregnant.
Too Much Information can send you round the bend. Who do you listen to and who do you ignore? (Yes, we appreciate the irony.) For your sanity, it’s important to set boundaries.
Let’s start with friends and family. Trying toconceive is no one’s business but yours: if youdon’t want to tell them, don’t. If you don’t wantadvice: ask them to stay stum. Remember, thisis your journey and other people’s input, albeitwell-intentioned, can often make you feel likea failure – you’re not.
When it comes to personal research, it’s the same as when you’re sick: if you Google it, you’ll probably wish you hadn’t. Begin by getting medical advice from your doctor, and only ask people you trust or use reputable sources of information. Keep an open mind and don’t obsess over strangers’ stories: everyone is unique, every situation different.
Everybody’s journey to parenthood is unique. Don’t have any hard and fast expectations. Don’t make any assumptions. Even if all your immediate family have had identical experiences, it doesn’t mean you will too. Listen to your body, talk to your partner and decide what your path is once you’re on it.
Men and women can both maximise their chances for conception by making sure they’re getting the right combination of vitamins.
For women, folic acid and vitamin D are recommended by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence). Also, make sure you avoid an excess of vitamin A in foods or supplements, as it can cause problems in the developing foetus – high doses are found in liver and liver products such as pâté.
For men, zinc is essential (100-200mg, daily). It’s reported to increase sperm count and motility as well as testosterone levels. Selenium contributes to normal spermatogenesis and L-carnitine improves sperm quality. Vitamin C is said to stop sperm sticking together, giving them more chance of reaching that egg.
Obesity can affect male and female fertility. In women, hormones can be affected, making conception less likely and insulin resistance more likely. Obese men can experience a drop in testosterone levels and are more prone to erectile dysfunction. If your BMI’s over 30, a healthy diet and lifestyle changes can go a long way to increasing your chances of conception.
Kiss your partner. Frequently. Surprise them with date nights. Surprise them in the sack! Give them a big hug. Send them a saucy text. Tell them you love them. Just make sure you keep the romance alive. It’s easy to find you’ve lost the spark because it’s all become about baby-making. Yes, it can be stressful. But you’re doing this together and it’s far easier if you have fun while you’re at it.
Remember: you and your partner are the most important parts of this story. Your journey to conception is only just beginning and it’s easy to become overwhelmed with advice, judgements, hopes and fears. Which is why it’s so important to look after yourself. Resolving to stay emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally balanced will put you in the best shape for whatever lies ahead.
Your bed isn’t just for baby-making antics, it’s also for sleep. And without a trip to the land of nod you’re not going to be in the best shape to procreate.
Guys: if you have interrupted REM cycles – when you dream – it could affect your testosterone production. This means lower libido, poor concentration, fatigue and weakness. You should aim for a solid eight hours a night.
Girls: while you’re getting some shut eye, your prolactin and leptin supplies are being replenished, helping regulate periods and ovulation. Fertility mainstays oestrogen, progesterone, LH and FSH are also being produced and secreted. You should aim for seven to nine hours a night.
Bud are a new range of fertility supplements that target the male and female hormones developed by clinical nutritionists and are 100% natural and are available at Little Bud. For more information, help and support visit Little Bud
>> PLEASE NOTE: The information provided in this guide is for informational purposes only and is based on personal experience from the Bud Nutrition team and should not be construed as medical advice or a substitute for medical care.