Most couples, in fact over eight in 10, will conceive within 12 months if they have regular sex and don’t use contraception.
If you’ve been trying for a while, it might be worth checking to see if your lifestyle could be affecting your chances. Could it be any of these?
1. You live off processed food and ready meals
According to a Harvard study of diet and fertility, the more healthy diet changes you make, the better your chances of conceiving.
Based on an eight-year study of more than 18,000 women, the results have also been published in the Fertility Diet book.
The authors advise the following diet changes:
- Eat more ‘slow release’ complex carbs and cut back on highly processed ones (choose wholegrain brown bread, rice and pasta over white).
- Opt for healthy unsaturated fats and avoid trans fats all together (avoid products that list partially hydrogenated fat or oil on the label).
- Go for vegetable sources of protein (such as beans and lentils) over red meat.
- Choose full-fat dairy foods over non-fat and low-fat options – aim to eat one or two servings a day of whole milk or full-fat yogurt.
- Take a daily multivitamin that contains at least 400mg of folic acid and 40 to 80 milligrams of iron. Choose a supplement specially formulated for conception and birth – ordinary ones contain too much vitamin A for pregnant women.
- Cut out all sugary drinks and drink coffee, and go for tea and alcohol in moderation only.
To ensure your weight is in the "fertility zone" – your BMI should be between 18.5 and 24. Exercise for 30 to 60 minutes each day to help manage your weight.
2. You’re still drinking wine
While the ‘Fertility Diet’ suggests drinking alcohol in moderation only, other studies have shown that women who give up the booze entirely improve their chances of conception.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine looked at the conception rates of 124 women and found that those who had one alcoholic drink a week had a conception rate of 11 percent, while those who were teetotal had a conception rate of 18 percent.
Advice from the Department of Health says: “The Chief Medical Officers for the UK recommend that if you’re pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all, to keep risks to your baby to a minimum.”
Drinking too much during pregnancy increases your risk of miscarriage and has been linked with low birth weights and premature birth.
3. You love a caffeine hit
While caffeine doesn’t cause infertility as such, studies have shown that women who drink more coffee take longer to get pregnant.
Studies have shown that women who drink more coffee take longer to get pregnant
The study from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine found that women who drank about one cup of coffee a day had a conception rate of 12 percent, compared with 20 percent among women who drank just a quarter of a cup of coffee.
During pregnancy, it’s recommended that women shouldn’t consume more than 200mg of caffeine a day – which equates to around two mugs of instant coffee or four mugs of tea.
If you’re a chocoholic or drink a lot of cola, it’s worth remembering that these count towards your daily intake too – 50g of plain chocolate can contain as much as 50mg of caffeine while a can of cola contains 40mg.
Cutting back now will make it easier to stick to your new regime once you get pregnant.
4. You’re still smoking
Studies show that men who smoke are more likely to have a lower sperm count and risk damaging their sperm. But it’s not just men who are affected. Women who smoke tend to take longer to conceive too.
Again, stubbing out the habit before you get pregnant will mean you’re less likely to light up during pregnancy. Women who smoke during pregnancy put themselves at increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth and having a low birth-weight baby.
If you’re struggling to quit, speak to your GP, or visit nhs.uk/smokefree to find support and help near you. There are even services available specifically for pregnant women.
5. You take street drugs
Research shows that taking recreational drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine, may have a negative impact on ovulatory function, making it harder to conceive.
It’s possible that some medications prescribed by your doctor or available over-the-counter could have an impact on your fertility too. Speak to your GP if you’re concerned.
Like alcohol and smoking, women who take drugs during pregnancy could be putting their baby’s health at risk.
If you think you might have a problem, make sure to get help. Speak to your GP or contact a charity such as Talk to Frank for advice.