If you’ve been trying to get pregnant month after month without any success, you might think that IVF will be your only option.
Although IVF can help you get pregnant, you may have to undergo more than one cycle, which can be emotionally taxing and costly. In fact, approximately 60 percent of women worry about how much they’ll pay for treatments, according to a survey by Prosper Marketplace.
Experts say before you seek out a fertility specialist, there are several things you should try first to help you get pregnant.
Up to half of infertility cases are due to male-factor infertility, yet many men don’t realize it. In fact, men are only able to identify 51 percent of the risk factors that can affect their fertility, according to a recent study in the journal Human Reproduction.
If you’re having trouble getting pregnant, your guy should have a semen analysis done at his doctor’s office or at a sperm bank.
The semen analysis will not only look at sperm count, but the volume, motility (movement), and the shape of the sperm— all things that are necessary to get pregnant.
When it comes to your own health, you should rule out medical conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), uterine fibroids, endometriosis and estrogen dominance, a common condition among women looking to get pregnant, said Julissa Hernandez, a naturopath in New York City and author of “The Naturopathic Approach to Fertility.”
However, if you have regular periods, you ovulate and your partner’s sperm is healthy, ask your doctor whether you need a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) test, which identifies abnormalities in the uterine cavity like polyps or fibroids and looks to see if the fallopian tubes are open, said Dr. Brian Levine, a board-certified OB-GYN and fertility specialist, and the New York practice director for the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine.
Some studies show that HSG may even slightly increase fertility for three months after the procedure. Your doctor can also give you a prescription for a fertility medication like clomid to stimulate ovulation.
You already know you should eat a healthy diet, exercise, lose excess weight, quit smoking and limit alcohol. You should also take a prenatal vitamin that has 400 micrograms of folic acid every day to prevent neural tube defects, which can develop before you even get a positive pregnancy test. But consider taking a coenzyme Q10 supplement too, which studies show may improve fertility.
Use the calendar on your phone or download a fertility app to track your periods and the length of your cycles. Then, ten days after the first day of your period, start to use an ovulation predictor kit to figure out when you ovulate.
You might think the more you have sex, the better your chances are to get pregnant but that’s a myth. The first day the ovulation predictor kit is positive, have sex and then continue to have sex every other day to take advantage of your fertile window.
You and your partner’s emotional well being may be just as important as everything else when it comes to conceiving.
If you have issues that are unresolved, are holding a grudge about something that happened with your partner or someone else, or have fear, anger or resentment, it can all affect your ability to get pregnant, Hernandez said.
Although you and your partner may both want to have a baby, your relationship has to be balanced too.
“I need them to have that close bond so that is transmitted to baby and the baby is also something that’s conceived out of love— real, pure love,” Hernandez said.
A plant-based diet is healthy for any woman, but those with fibroids, estrogen dominance and hormonal problems in particular should consider it. The hormones found in meat and dairy products are directly related to fibroids and other hormonal problems, so women with these issues should eliminate meat and dairy altogether, Hernandez said.
A lubricant can heat things up and make sex more comfortable, but read labels carefully because some lubricants can affect sperm motility and affect your odds, a study in the journal Fertility and Sterility found.
When purchasing a lubricant, look for one that specifically states it’s sperm-friendly.
Instead of your regular cup of joe in the morning, both you and your partner might want to switch it out for green or white tea instead.
That’s because it’s not just the caffeine, but the toxic nature of coffee that can affect fertility, Hernandez said.
In fact, a woman is more likely to have a miscarriage if both she and her partner drink more than two caffeinated beverages a day in the weeks leading up to conception, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health.
Infertility is already stressful but numerous studies show stress can also affect your ability to get pregnant. In fact, women who are under a ton of stress are 40 percent less likely to conceive when they’re fertile, according to a recent study out of the University of Louisville.
Find healthy ways to reduce your stress— a yoga class, meditation or doing something you enjoy.
Once you have ruled out any problems that may prevent you from getting pregnant, keep trying, but also try to relax.
“Just because you’re having a little trouble, doesn’t mean you need to do IVF,” Levine said. A tincture of time works well and even in the best hands, it’s not instantaneously.