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Dec 12, 2023

How to improve your fertility

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If you’re trying for a baby, your lifestyle can support your fertility health. It’s an important part of the recipe that brings healthy sperm and eggs together.


So whether you're trying to conceive naturally or with fertility treatment, try these ten tips from our fertility experts to boost your fertility at home.




10 tips from fertility experts





1. Aim for a BMI of 18 - 24.5

Healthy sperm and regular ovulation depend on the delicate balance of reproductive hormones like oestrogen and testosterone.


Fat cells release hormones, so being under or overweight can impact your hormone levels and reduce your fertility.


  • In female fertility, being overweight or underweight reduces fertility and increases health risks in pregnancy

  • In male fertility, being overweight affects the quality of sperm and being underweight lowers testosterone


Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of your weight adjusted for your height.


A healthy BMI is between 18 - 24.5 and you should aim for this if you're trying to conceive.


Calculate yours with the NHS BMI calculator.

wight

Changing your weight may sound challenging, but you don't need to do it overnight.


Small changes in your calorie intake and activity levels can help you shift the scales over a couple of months.

The key is to set realistic goals and be consistent.

Avoid 'yo-yo' diets or extreme approaches.


These can send your body into stress mode and spike your cortisol levels.


Other tips on this page can also help with a healthier BMI.

Did you know?

You need to have a BMI under 25 or 30 to have NHS-funded fertility treatment, depending on where you live. Private fertility clinics set their own BMI criteria, but it’s usually slightly higher.

2. Quit smoking

If you're a smoker, you might be tired of hearing health warnings.


But the facts are that cigarette smoke damages your fertility.


We know it’s not easy to kick the habit, but it’s worth it.


  • Cadmium and cotinine are two toxins in tobacco smoke that reduce sperm quality and egg production 

  • Smoking damages DNA, which reduces fertilisation success, and increases the risk of pregnancy loss

  • For women, smoking reduces the chance of getting pregnant by up to 40%

  • For male fertility, smoking lowers sperm quality


Vaping is thought to reduce fertility too.


But it’s a new trend, so more evidence and long-term data are needed.


If you're trying to conceive, now is the perfect time to quit.


Your fertility can improve within weeks or months, and it sets you up for a more healthy pregnancy and parenthood.




3. Swap to alcohol-free

It’s better to avoid alcohol when you’re trying to conceive.


Excess alcohol consumption is known to:

  • Change oestrogen levels, which can impact ovulation

  • Reduce the number of eggs you have (ovarian reserve)

  • Reduce testosterone and lower your sperm health

  • Increase the risk of miscarriage or premature birth during pregnancy

The good news is that going alcohol-free gives a quick turnaround for your fertility health, especially when it comes to sperm.


The testicles make new sperm all the time, so improvements can be seen within a few weeks.

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A word of caution. There is a growing market in alcohol alternatives including CBD-infused drinks and alcohol-free mood-boosting drinks.


There's not enough evidence to know how these impact fertility, but experts strongly advise avoiding CBD products before and during pregnancy.


Some alcohol-free alternatives are just vitamin-based drinks or juices.


These should be safe to consume during pregnancy, but we recommend doing your research on the ingredients first to be sure.





4. Check your medication

Some medications can impact your fertility and are not suitable to take if you’re trying to get pregnant.


If you regularly take prescription or over-the-counter medication, check with your pharmacist or GP.


Medications affecting female fertility include:

  • Long-term or high doses of NSAIDs like ibuprofen and aspirin

  • Antipsychotic medicines

  • Spironolactone (aka Aldactone), a medicine for fluid retention that can temporarily reduce fertility


Medications affecting male fertility include:

  • Anabolic steroids, which are synthetic hormones for medical or personal use

  • Some herbal remedies - cottonseed extract (Gossypol) or Thunder God vine extract (Tripterygium wilfordii)

  • Sulfasalazine (aka Azulfidine) – an anti-inflammatory medicine that can temporarily reduce sperm

Illegal drugs may also affect fertility.



5. Address the stress

Stress doesn't cause infertility, but it can:


  • Make it harder to eat healthily or exercise

  • Lead to smoking or drinking

  • Interfere with sex, which is a problem when conceiving naturally


Fertility can be an emotional rollercoaster, with unavoidable stresses and strains.


Rather than stressing about stress, put some things in place to help you cope.


This could be:

  • Talking to friends or family who understand what you're going through

  • Trying holistic therapies like acupuncture or massage

  • Joining a support network on The Fertility Network UK

  • Speaking with a specialist fertility counsellor

Remember, if you're having treatment with us at TFP Fertility, we offer fertility counselling throughout your journey. Reach out if you need to talk.

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6. Eat more vegetables and whole foods

A balanced diet means your body has all the nutrients it needs to make sperm and eggs or get ready to carry a pregnancy.


It can also help you reach your healthy BMI target.


Sadly, there are no magic ingredients or fertility superfoods.


Eating a wide range of healthy foods is what health professionals recommend.


A healthy diet includes:

  • Ideal calorie intake (not too high or too low)

  • Wholegrain foods, which are usually the brown versions of your staples – like brown rice, brown pasta, and brown bread

  • Lentils and beans

  • Unsaturated fats like nuts, oily fish, and seeds

  • Full-fat dairy such as milk or yoghurt

Did you know?

The calories you need depend on your size, age, sex, and physical activity. It’s around 2,000 calories for women and 2,500 calories for men, but it’s worth using a calorie calculator to check yours.

7. Boost your vitamins

As with diet, there’s not much evidence for any specific 'fertility vitamins'.


All you need is your regular daily vitamins to avoid deficiencies and maintain overall health.


There's no need to spend a fortune on obscure vitamins and health supplements, as this is unlikely to change your fertility.


Supplementing certain vitamins affects the absorption of other vitamins, and can cause vitamin deficiencies.


Only take supplements under the guidance of a health professional.


To promote fertility and a healthy pregnancy, you can:

  • Take a general daily multivitamin or prenatal vitamin, like well-woman or well-man. These are formulated to include the right number of vitamins. Look for a brand that includes antioxidants, Omega 3, zinc, and selenium.

  • Take a vitamin D supplement during the winter months

  • Take 400 micrograms (µg) of folic acid before pregnancy and during the first 12 weeks




8. Cut down the caffeine

Before you worry, we're not telling you to scrap your much-loved tea or coffee ritual.


Just be sure to stick to the recommended caffeine limit.


Experts recommend keeping your caffeine intake to 200mg a day.


Here's an estimate of how 200 mg of caffeine looks in your favourite food and drinks:

  • 5 cans of cola (40mg per can)

  • 2.5 cups of English breakfast tea (75mg per cup)

  • 2 cups of instant coffee (100mg per cup)

  • 1.5 cups of filter coffee (140mg per cup)

  • 2.5 energy drinks (80mg per can)

  • 10 regular bars of chocolate (25mg per bar)

If you’re still not sure, try out Tommy’s caffeine calculator.

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9. Keep the swimmers cool

It may sound strange, but keeping the testicles at the right temperature may help with male fertility.


Sperm are surprisingly sensitive to temperature.


It helps to:

  • Wear loose clothing and/or thermal-regulating clothing

  • Avoid hot showers, baths, saunas and Jacuzzis

  • Avoid cycling or long-distance running

  • Keep your laptop off your lap

  • Take regular breaks outside if you work in a hot environment




10. Speak to a fertility expert

If you've been taking the right lifestyle steps with no success, or you're simply worried about your fertility, it may be time to consider seeing a specialist.


A fertility specialist can:


  • Review your lifestyle to help make a personalised plan

  • Do a fertility assessment to check your reproductive health

  • Recommend if fertility treatment would help


A fertility assessment with TFP Fertility is a good first step to help you identify any problems and ways to increase your chances of getting pregnant.

Patient consultation


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