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The top foods to eat if you're trying to get pregnant
Women may become more conscious of the food, beverages and drugs they are putting into their bodies and set aside time to exercise. To optimize women's fertility, taking better care of their bodies is a good first step. What else can women do to improve their odds of having a baby? The most important advice for a woman who wants to get pregnant is to get to know her body, specifically her menstrual cycle, said Dr. Here are 12 tips that may help increase a healthy woman's chances of becoming pregnant, assuming that neither she nor her partner have a known fertility problem. Conversely, her periods may be irregular, meaning her cycle lengths vary from month to month. By tracking this information on a calendar, a woman can better predict when she might be ovulating, the time when her ovaries will release an egg every month. A woman's egg is fertile for only 12 to 24 hours after its release , according to the March of Dimes. However, a man's sperm can survive in a woman's body for about 6 days, notes Planned Parenthood. It's harder to predict ovulation in women with irregular cycles, but it usually occurs 12 to 16 days before the start of her next period. There are several methods women can use to help determine their most fertile days each month. Home ovulation-prediction kits can take some of the guesswork out of figuring out when a woman is ovulating. They're good to use for this purpose, Pavone said, but she suggested reading the instructions before using the products, since each kit can be a little different. Sold at drug stores, the kits test urine for lutenizing hormone , a substance whose levels increase each month during ovulation and cause the ovaries to release an egg. The three days right after a positive test result are the best time for couples to have sex to increase their odds of becoming pregnant, reports the American Pregnancy Association. Other clues to ovulation include the basal body temperature method, in which a woman takes her temperature before she gets out of bed every day and charts this on a graph for at least three menstrual cycles. After a woman ovulates, her basal body temperature typically increases less than half a degree Fahrenheit 0. A woman is most fertile during the two to three days before this slight rise in body temperature, reports the Mayo Clinic. A second method is tracking cervical mucus, which involves a woman regularly checking both the amount and appearance of mucus in her vagina. A study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that women who checked their cervical mucus consistently were 2. Just before ovulation when a woman is most fertile, the amount of mucus increases and it also becomes thinner, clearer, and more slippery , said the March of Dimes. When cervical mucus becomes more slippery, it can help sperm make its way to the egg. These are the days each month when a woman is most fertile. Some women are turning to new technology tools, such as fertility tracking apps and websites, to help them keep tabs on when they may be more likely to conceive, but a study done in suggests the apps may not be that accurate. One study found that intercourse is most likely to result in a pregnancy when it occurs 2 days before ovulation. Research has shown that there hasn't been a big difference in pregnancy rates between couples who had sex every day during the "fertile window" 37 percent compared with couples who did it every other day 33 percent , Pavone said. There are plenty of common misconceptions and old wives' tales about conception. For example, there's no evidence that sex position will influence a couple's chances of having a baby, nor does a woman lying on her back for a certain amount of time after intercourse increase the odds of conceiving, Pavone told Live Science. But she said there are some water-based vaginal lubricants that can decrease the movement of sperm, so Pavone recommended using Pre-Seed rather than Astroglide or K-Y Brand Jelly when lubrication is needed. Research has shown that a woman who is overweight her body mass index , or BMI, is greater than 35 can take twice as long to become pregnant than a woman whose BMI is considered normal, Pavone said. A woman who is underweight her BMI is less than 19 might take four times as long to conceive, she said. Having too much body fat produces excess estrogen , which can interfere with ovulation. Losing 5 to 10 percent of body weight before a woman starts trying to get pregnant could improve her fertility, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. A study done in found that couples in which both partners are obese may take from 55 to 59 percent longer to become pregnant, compared with couples who are not obese. Women who are too thin might not be getting regular periods or could stop ovulating. This way a woman can find one that's more agreeable to her system and stay on it during pregnancy, she said. Another possibility is to take a daily multivitamin, as long as it contains at least micrograms mcg per day of folic acid, a B vitamin that's important for preventing birth defects in a baby's brain and spine, Pavone said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges women to take mcg of folic acid every day for at least one month before getting pregnant to help prevent birth defects. Getting a head start on folic acid supplementation is a good idea because the neural tube develops into the brain and spine 3 to 4 weeks after conception occurs, before many women may realize they're expecting. This means eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, dairy and healthy sources of fat. Besides taking a supplement containing folic acid, a woman can also obtain this B vitamin from foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, fortified breads and cereals, beans, citrus fruits and orange juice. High Cholesterol Levels May Make It Harder to Get Pregnant ] When trying to get pregnant, eat lower amounts of high-mercury fish, such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish. And limit albacore white tuna to 6-ounces per week to reduce exposure to this toxic metal, the Food and Drug Administration recommends. Also, go easy on caffeine: Consuming more than milligrams of caffeine a day has been linked with a decrease in fertility in women. Having 1 to 2 cups of coffee, or less than mg of caffeine, per day before becoming pregnant appears to have no impact on the likelihood of conception, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. But getting too much exercise or doing frequent strenuous workouts could interfere with ovulation. Doctors see a lot of menstrual disturbances in women who exercise heavily, and a lot of times these women need to cut back on their workouts if they want to become pregnant, Pavone told Live Science. With advancing age, there's also an increased risk for some health problems, such as uterine fibroids , endometriosis and blockage of the fallopian tubes, which can contribute to a loss of fertility. There's a gradual fertility decline in women beginning in their 30s, a sharper decline after age 37 and a steep decline after age 40 , Pavone said. These declines mean it may take longer to become pregnant. Chemicals found in cigarette smoke, such as nicotine and carbon monoxide, speed up the loss rate of awoman's eggs , said the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Smoking ages a woman's ovaries and depletes her supply of eggs prematurely, according to the Mayo Clinic. It's also a good idea for women to stay away from secondhand smoke, which may affect their chances of becoming pregnant. Marijuana and other recreational drug use should also be avoided while trying to conceive. A woman should also stop consuming alcohol if she stops using birth control because she wants to get pregnant. However, a study found that about half of pregnant women in the United States drink alcohol around the time they become pregnant or in early pregnancy, usually before they know they are expecting. Drinking alcohol at moderate one to two drinks per day or heavy levels more than two drinks per day can make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant , according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Once a woman becomes pregnant, there's no safe amount of alcohol, Pavone said. She can take steps to minimize these exposures by protecting her face with a mask or wearing protective gloves, glasses and clothing around potentially toxic materials, recommends the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Stress management is also important. Trying to get pregnant is stressful enough for many couples. Although its exact role in a woman's chances of conceiving is unclear , it makes sense for women to develop good coping strategies to help manage stress at home and at work. Find ways to relax the body and mind, whether by exercising, taking deep breaths, listening to music or doing yoga. A study published in the journal PLOS One also concluded that for women over the age of 35, it may be appropriate to start investigation and treatment more quickly than for younger women. Pavone also recommended that a woman who is under 35 and her partner should consult a fertility specialist if she has failed to become pregnant after one year of having unprotected intercourse on a regular basis. This article is for informational purposes only, and is not meant to offer medical advice.
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