If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re not pregnant yet but would like to be soon. For approximately 85 percent of American couples, conception happens fairly easily, and we hope you’re among them. During the times in your life when you’re trying not to have a baby, you know that having unprotected sex just once can result in pregnancy. But the truth is, conception doesn’t happen quite as quickly as you may think, particularly when you’re 35 or older.
Even if you’re younger and you time intercourse perfectly, “you have only a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant each month,” says Bryan D. Cowan, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist and chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. In the following pages, you’ll learn how to improve your chances of getting pregnant “naturally,” and find expert information on what to do if you don’t.
Before you start trying
Cut out caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes Caffeine may increase the risk of endometriosis, a known cause of infertility. (It also can damage sperm.) Having as few as five alcoholic drinks a week can impair conception, according to Resolve, an infertility association. And smoking can speed the loss of eggs, affect sperm quality and may even accelerate menopause by several years.
Stop Overexercising Women who regularly do vigorous aerobic exercise may stop ovulating. While most doctors believe moderate exercise is fine, some disagree. “For certain women, even moderate levels of exertion may contribute to infertility,” says Alice D. Domar, Ph.D., director of the Mind/Body Center for Women’s Health at Boston IVF. She recommends that women who are not conceiving take a three-month break from any exercise that raises the heart rate to more than 110 beats per minute.
Achieve your ideal weight Having too much or too little body fat can cause irregular or infrequent ovulation. “Women whose body mass index [BMI] is between 24 and 30 are most fertile,” Domar says.
Reduce stress and depression There’s evidence that negative emotional states can make it harder for a woman to conceive, Domar says.