Women are leaving it later than ever before starting a family. The most fertile time for a woman is in her 20s, however, more women are now having babies in their late 30s and 40s. While leaving pregnancy until you feel ready gives you the freedom to fulfill your other life’s goals such as career, or give you more time to find the right partner, it can bring along fertility issues.

Today, many women are finding that getting pregnant is not as easy as they expected and modern lifestyles with lots of junk food, toxins and alcohol do not help. A healthy couple at prime reproductive age has a 25 per cent chance of conceiving each month – but this declines dramatically after the age of 35. By the age of 40, the chance of conceiving drops to just five per cent per month.

But whether you are trying to conceive now – or putting it off until you feel ready, fertility experts say that taking lifestyle and diet changes now will give you the best possible chance of conceiving. So, start making positive changes as soon as you can if you plan to have a baby in the future.

Experts recommend a fertility-boosting diet and lifestyle plan for three months before trying for a baby. If you are a smoker, quitting will also help boost your long-term fertility. These research-backed tips we give here will protect your fertility, so follow them.

1. Take essential supplements

You may already know about the need to take folic acid if you are trying to conceive, but it is also time to add other supplements. Supplements are necessary for couples trying to conceive because even with the best intentions, it isn’t easy to get sufficient nutrients from the diet. The following are recommended:

Folic acid: This crucial pre-conceptual nutrient for women can boost fertility and reduce the risk of genetic defects in your baby, especially spina bifida.

Zinc: This mineral boosts fertility in both sexes. A deficiency can cause chromosome changes in men and women.

Selenium: This antioxidant helps protect your body from free radicals that can trigger chromosome damage and infertility in men and women.

Essential fatty acids: These are crucial for healthy hormone balance in women and healthy sperm in men. In men, they help sperm production – sperm is rich in prostaglandins, which are formed from these fats.

Vitamin E: This powerful antioxidant can increase fertility in both sexes. It reduces age-related ovulation decline.

Vitamin C: This antioxidant improves sperm quality and can help boost ovulation.

L-Arginine: This amino acid is essential for sperm production.

L-Carnitime: This elevates men’s sperm count.

2. Get enough vitamin D

Being exposed to the sun may help increase your chances of falling pregnant. A study published in the European Journal of Endocrinology found that sunlight could boost fertility in both sexes by increasing levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D may regulate your menstrual cycle and help balance hormones in women, boosting progesterone by 13 per cent and oestrogen by 21 per cent.

It can also increase sperm production, testosterone levels and libido. A sunshine holiday break may also improve fertility in other ways by reducing anti-fertility stress levels. If you can’t escape to the sun, take a multivitamin supplement that contains vitamin D.

3. Observe dental hygiene

Brushing and flossing may up your chances of getting pregnant. Women with gum disease can take up to seven months to conceive, compared to the usual five. Inflammation in the mouth may set off a reaction that disturbs fertility. Studies show that people with gum disease are more likely to have heart problems, type-2 diabetes and miscarriage. It has also been linked to poorer sperm quality in men.

4. Balance your blood sugar

Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar-laden products for at least three months before trying for a baby. Opt instead for whole meal foods as well as carbohydrates with the lowest glycemic index. Ensure your diet is packed with fruit, vegetables, wholegrain and healthy protein such as pulses, fish and lean meat. It is thought that refined carbs can hamper fertility by unbalancing hormones, as well as leaving less room in the diet for fertility boosters like fruit and vegetables.

5. Get enough sleep

Hit the sack early if you want to get pregnant. Insomnia and late nights can make conceiving more difficult. Lack of sleep can disrupt your body clock, which regulates your hormones and body temperature. It may also increase stress, disturb your menstrual cycle and lead to weight gain. Research shows that women who sleep six hours or less a night are more likely to be overweight, which reduces chances of conception.

In his book – The Ultimate Guide To Getting Pregnant – author Robert Green, a reproductive endocrinologist, points out that research shows that 80 to 90 per cent of ovulation occurs between midnight and 4am and insomnia may upset ovulation and conception.

6. Boost IVF treatment with natural therapies

Women who are struggling to get pregnant may be recommended to try IVF. Research shows that some natural therapies can boost your chances of getting pregnant. The best are:

Traditional Chinese medicine: Some traditional Chinese medicine may enhance the success rate of fertility for women undergoing IVF.

Hypnotherapy: This can give a tranquilising effect, helping to ease stress and reduce fears and anxieties about pregnancy, which in turn should improve your chances of conceiving. An Israel study found that hypnotherapy can help improve the pregnancy rate of women undergoing IVF.

Acupuncture: One German study found that acupuncture boosted chances of pregnancy in women undergoing IVF, possibly by increasing blood flow to the uterus and reducing muscle stress to help the embryo implant. It’s not clear whether it can help boost fertility more generally, but it is said to balance energy in the body that may be out of harmony.

Young pregnant black woman touching her belly – Photo Courtesy

Conception foods

Kale: Rich in folic acid, which protects against birth defects.

Flaxseed: High in omega fats that help balance fertility hormones. Aim for two teaspoons a day of ground flaxseed sprinkled over salad, porridge or blended in a casserole or smoothie.

Brown rice: Helps balance blood sugar and hormones.

Sardines: Full of fertility-boosting omega-3 fats and vitamin D.

Lentils: Nutrition-dense and full of fibre to help regulate blood sugar and keep hormones on an even keel.

Sesame seeds: Rich in zinc, a fertility super-nutrient.

Fertility enemies to avoid

1. Packaged cakes and biscuits – Often packed with artificial and unhealthy trans fats.
2. White bread – Sends your blood sugar soaring then plummeting, which can upset your hormones.
3. Mass-market chocolate – They contain a fertility-bashing mix of blood-destabilizing sugar, caffeine, and trans fats. A small amount of finest quality dark chocolate has antioxidants and is good for you.