7 February 2018


Deciding to become a mother is an exciting prospect for many women. However, whilst some will successfully fall pregnant without any difficulties, for others the experience can be very stressful – especially if problems are encountered along the way.

There are several reasons why a woman may find it difficult to conceive. For some women, it can be due to medical reasons - such as ovulation disorders, PCOS, or low ovarian count. Others may encounter problems due to certain lifestyle factors. In these instances, some simple routine changes can make all the difference. This could include making dietary alterations, monitoring exercise, and/or reviewing sleeping habits.

To provide some insight on this topic, here fertility specialist Dr. Walker, of Institut Marquès offers her recommendations for how women can boost their fertility and improve their chances of conceiving:
Institut Marquès is a centre of international reference in Gynaecology, Obstetrics and Assisted Reproduction with offices in Barcelona, Milan, London and Ireland (Dublin and Clane). The centre has helped people from more than 50 countries to achieve their dream of having a baby. Institut Marquès offers the highest rates of pregnancy success, with 89% patient success per IVF with egg donation cycle.


Dr Walker says: “Simple changes like cutting out alcohol can make a real difference when trying to conceive. Alcohol affects oestrogen levels, which may interfere with egg implantation, making it more difficult to become pregnant. Although the occasional glass of wine is unlikely to harm your fertility, I would recommend that women avoid consuming large amounts, and stick to the recommended Government guidelines. This is not only beneficial in relation to your fertility, but for your general health too.
Smoking is also a big no-no! Not only does it lower the levels of hormones which stimulate ovulation, it can also impair the receptivity of the uterus towards the egg. If your partner is a smoker, it’s also worth bearing in mind that smoking can negatively affect a man’s fertility, impacting his sperm production and quality.”

Dr Walker says: “While regular exercise is always great for physical and mental wellbeing, try not to overdo it. Some studies have suggested a link between frequent vigorous physical activity and low fertility in women. When a woman is either underweight or exercises too much this stops the Hypothalamus – the part of the brain that produces hormones which trigger ovulation - from releasing hormones, therefore prohibiting eggs from being released.


Dr Walker says: The benefits of a healthy diet should not be underestimated when it comes to fertility. A diet filled with the right nutrients and minerals will boost your reproductive system as well as regulating your hormones. Make sure your diet includes all the key food groups, but try not to eat too much processed sugar and carbohydrates, or carbonated beverages and foods that contain a lot of artificial ingredients. Your diet should contain enough protein, iron, zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin D, because deficiencies in these nutrients have been linked to lengthened menstrual cycles and therefore less frequent ovulation.  

Although a healthy diet should provide you with all the nutrients and minerals your body needs, if for any reason you have low levels of a particular nutrient, then supplements are a great option. Supplements such as folic acid, vitamin B12, selenium, zinc and vitamin C have all been shown to be beneficial for fertility.”

Dr Walker says: Getting enough sleep is important for many reasons, one of these being fertility. When we are tired, levels of the hormone leptin fall, and research shows that there may be a link between leptin and low fertility in women. Try to aim for seven to eight hours a night – although we know this is easier said than done!”


Dr Walker says: “It may seem obvious, but the frequency a couple is having sex can make a real difference. Couples who have sex a couple of times a week are more likely to conceive than those who have sex once a week. This is because your partner’s sperm count and quality is negatively affected if it’s retained in the body for more than three days. Studies have shown that the best way to maintain a high quality of sperm is to have sex every 48 hours – however, I don’t recommend that couples put pressure on this so that sex becomes a chore.”


Dr Walker says: Studies suggest that there may be a link between stress and infertility. Stress can throw off your body’s hormone production, making your menstrual cycle less reliable. It can also contribute to a loss of libido, which in turn can reduce the amount of sexual intercourse a couple has - lowering your chances of conceiving. The more anxious you are about conceiving, the less likely it is going to happen, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Try to manage stress through relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga… or take a holiday!”


Dr Walker says: “By tracking your menstrual cycle, you can figure out when your ‘fertile window’ is. This is the four days leading up to ovulation, which is the time you’re most likely to get pregnant – as the sperm will be physically near the egg as it is being released. If your menstrual cycle usually lasts 28 days then it is likely you’ll ovulate on day 14 – half way through your cycle. Therefore, your fertile window would be between days 10 and 14.”


Dr Walker says: “Some sexual lubricants affect the mobility of sperm and make it harder for them to fertilise an egg. Try to avoid products with spermicidal agents and look for a lubricant specifically formulated for couples trying to conceive.”


Dr Walker says: “When it comes to falling pregnant, being overweight or underweight may slow things down. Excess body fat can lead to an overproduction of certain hormones that disrupt ovulation. Your cycles may also be less regular, meaning you ovulate less often and thus lowering chances of conception. In addition, too much body weight can cause hormonal imbalances such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Likewise, being underweight can also can have an impact on fertility, switching off your body’s ability to produce eggs, as it senses there isn’t enough fat to sustain a healthy pregnancy. If you follow a balanced diet, exercise regularly and ensure your weight is healthy, you will have a better chance of conceiving.”


Dr Walker says: “Increased caffeine consumption has been linked with infertility by researchers. Studies have suggested that caffeine can prevent an egg from maturing properly, and since a less mature egg may not fertilise successfully, this can affect the chances of falling pregnant.”


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