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With rates of successful conceptions dropping rapidly across the western world, and expensive IVF treatments becoming increasingly more common, there has never been a better time to empower women in taking control of their circumstances by ensuring that their bodies are vibrant and healthy while trying to conceive. Here are top 3 takeaways for improving your chances of falling pregnant.

1. Reduce Stress

Stress can be a major influencing factor when it comes to conception. In fact, if you’re struggling to fall pregnant, you may have already received advice along the lines of, “Just let yourself relax and it will happen.” As condescending as this may feel, there may actually be some truth to it.

The hypothalamus is the part of your brain that is responsible for regulating emotions, appetite and the hormones that cause your ovaries to release eggs. If you’re stressed, there’s a chance that your ovulation will occur later than it should; or not at all. Therefore, if you’re currently planning intimate moments based on your ovulation cycle, you may be missing that window of opportunity.

Negative stress isn’t the only type of stress that can affect ovulation; positive stress such as the stress associated with a wedding or planning a vacation can also result in a similar outcome. Naturally, these situations vary from woman to woman, with some finding that even a minor disruption in their routine can change their cycle, while others can experience high levels of stress without noticing any effect at all. While stress may impact the time at which you ovulate, it generally won’t diminish your overall chances of falling pregnant. If you know how to identify where you are in your cycle, there’s still a good chance of successful conception.

2. Increase Your Intake Of Good Fats

Worryingly, most supermarket shelves these days are littered with “97% Fat-Free” and “Reduced Fat” products which are the antithesis of a wholesome, natural fertility diet. Marketing and misinformation are the driving forces behind our society’s collective ignorance in this area, and yet good quality fats are one of the most fundamental factors in preparing your body for pregnancy. A Harvard University Nurses’ Health study found that the more low-fat products a woman consumed, the less likely she was to fall pregnant; while women who consumed full-fat foods increased their chances noticeably. In 2010, a similar Dutch study showed that women who consume a Mediterranean-style diet (naturally high in good quality fats) increase their chances of falling pregnant by up to 40%.

Good fats are essential in creating hormones that maintain the function of a female’s reproductive system. When women start consuming a low-fat diet, their estrogen levels drop which has the potential to severely disrupt their menstrual cycle.

As you might be aware, not all fats are created equal, and therefore it is important to select the right types of fats to incorporate into your diet. Avoid any processed fats and aim for products that are available in their natural state such as eggs, whole dairy products, nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and carefully sourced fish products.

3. Eliminating Chemical Intake

Thanks to our species’ apparent desire to pollute whatever natural landscapes we enter, synthetic chemicals can be found in almost every environment – the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat. Reducing your body’s intake of chemicals involves much more than just “going organic” or throwing out the aerosol deodorant; it’s a full-scale lifestyle change and one that can dramatically affect your chances of falling pregnant.

Let’s start with the obvious – eating organic food. If a woman is consuming fruits and veggies that are covered in pesticides, meat products that have been pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones, and heavily processed snack foods; their body is not going to be the pristine environment in which a new life should be nurtured. Eating local, organic produce and free range, grass fed meats is an excellent way to start reducing the amount of toxicity in your body in preparation for falling pregnant.

The water that you consume can also have a substantial impact on your wellbeing and the overall level of toxicity in your body. Most tap water in the U.S. contains chlorine, chloramine (the nastier version of chlorine) and fluoride – none of which are great for your health. Most bottled water, on the other hand, is full of BPA, an endocrine-disrupting chemical which is definitely not something you want infiltrating your reproductive system. The best option for clean water is either carefully sourced spring water in BPA-free bottles or a good quality filter for your tap.

The final stage of decreasing your chemical intake is to scrutinize the body care products, cleaning products, and other general household products that you’re using. Today, most of these products are a toxic cocktail of synthetic compounds which we have been told to rub into our skin and apply to our home environment without a second thought for the impact it might be having on our bodies. You can find natural alternatives to all of these products in most health food stores and online.

Trying to fall pregnant can be a nerve-racking experience for many couples and at the end of the day, you need to make choices that feel right for you. Being a parent is the most rewarding thing you will ever experience, so enjoy the journey and cherish every moment!

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For many couples, achieving pregnancy can be tough! Many would tell you that they have tried all the tricks in the book, yet are not able to achieve pregnancy, much less have a baby.

Of course, physicians say that the inability of a couple to achieve pregnancy can be due to many reasons, some of which they may not be practically responsible for.

However, while infertility is sometimes due to issues relating to the man or woman, experts are warning that too much exposure to stress, especially when it comes to the number of hours a woman works, may contribute to her inability to become pregnant.

A new study has revealed a connection between physical labour and the chances of pregnancy among working women.

The research, published in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal, and conducted by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, shows that women who are exposed to jobs that require more lifting exhibited lesser chances of getting pregnant.

Apart from the physical exertion, the study notes, women who work for more than 40 hours in a week also found it more challenging to conceive.

How does stress affect your chances of conception?

Consultant Gynaecologist, Dr. Funmi Samuel, warns that stress may actually play a role in up to 30 per cent of all cases of infertility.

Samuel says that in clinical practice, she has noted that among highly-stressed couples, when stress-reduction techniques are employed as a form of treatment for infertility, “something happens in some women that allows them to become pregnant when they couldn’t achieve the same before.”

Attributing some of the problems to hormonal issues, she notes that hormones such as cortisol or epinephrine rise and often remain high during times of chronic stress.

She explains, “Ordinarily, cortisol plays positive roles in the body. It is an important hormone that is secreted by the adrenal glands and it is involved in many bodily functions.

“Cortisol helps our body to properly process glucose — a simple sugar which is an important source of energy. It helps us to regulate our blood pressure, while it also aids the release of insulin for blood sugar maintenance, among others.

“However, when a person’s stress level is very high, cortisol is secreted in higher levels into the bloodstream and is therefore responsible for several stress-related changes in the body.”

Indeed, experts warn that when chronic stress sets in, the individual is prone to higher blood pressure, lowered immunity, slowed wound healing, and other secondary health consequences such as the possibility of having type 2 diabetes; as well as increased abdominal fat, which is associated with a greater amount of health problems such as heart attacks and strokes.

General Practitioner, Dr. Timothy Avwode, says there are women who are able to get pregnant easily, even if they smoke, drink and break all the rules in medical book; while there are women who do all the right things but are still unable to get pregnant.

“The difference might be in their stress levels,” he says.

“Alpha-amylase is an enzyme that correlates with stress. Women with high levels of this enzyme might have a harder time getting pregnant, even though they may not know that that’s where the problem is.

“Meanwhile, because of the pressure they face in their marriage as a result of their inability to get pregnant, their stress levels are likely to remain high for a long time, and in effect, denying them the opportunity to conceive in good time,” Avwode adds.

He notes that while some women do become pregnant even under some extremely stressful conditions such as rape, some are unable to achieve pregnancy once their stress levels are high.

“What this translates into is that some women are more reproductively sensitive to stress than other women.

“When a woman is extremely stressed, she may stop ovulating entirely. This condition is called stress-induced anovulation. And without ovulation, a woman can’t conceive. A specialist will be able to find out if there are other reasons you may not be ovulating. So, seek expert help,” Avwode says.

Physicians warn that if a woman is stressed, her cervical mucus may be a ready indication.

According to Samuel, “A highly stressed woman will discover that instead of experiencing increased cervical wetness as she approaches her ovulation, she might find patches of wetness interspersed with dry days. “It’s as if her body is trying to ovulate but the stress continues to delay it.

“The worst part is that stress can make a woman feel less interested in making love. And that is why it is necessary to know your stressors and to reduce them if you can’t avoid them totally.”

How to reduce stress

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America offers the steps to take when you are stressed:

  • Take time-out by listening to music or getting a massage.
  • Eat well-balanced meals. Do not skip any meals. Keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
  • Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.
  • Exercise daily to help you feel good and maintain your health.
  • Welcome humour. A good laugh goes a long way.
  • Maintain a positive attitude. Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
  • Learn what triggers your anxiety. Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify?
  • Talk to someone, especially a physician or therapist for professional help.