diet and lifestyle changes to boost fertility

Did you know that approximately 10 percent of women struggle to get pregnant? When you want to start a family, this reality can quickly become frustrating and potentially heartbreaking for many couples.

If you’ve been trying to conceive but aren’t having any luck, you’re probably wondering how to make yourself more fertile. For many women, working with an infertility specialist is the key to getting — and staying — pregnant. During the infertility process, you might experience a feeling of helplessness or a need to “do” something. When this feeling arises, many women turn to the internet to find helpful “hints” for how to make themselves more fertile.

A lot of information is out there about the influence that diet, exercise and lifestyle in general can have on your chances of getting pregnant. Much of it can be confusing and, in some cases, even contradictory. One website will insist that certain vitamins are the key to pregnancy, while others will swear that those same vitamins are terrible. One website will attest to a certain diet, and another will insist that avoiding those same foods is the key to overcoming infertility.

The truth is, what you eat and how much exercise you get may not guarantee pregnancy, but these factors are key to improving your overall health and your body’s ability to sustain a pregnancy. If you want to make sure your body is healthy and prepared for a pregnancy when the time comes, you can make certain lifestyle changes to better your chances.

Follow a Healthy Diet

One of the best lifestyle changes to improve fertility is to adopt a healthy diet. Sounds easy, right? Unfortunately, there’s so much floating around these days about healthy — and unhealthy — eating, that it’s easy to get confused. While there’s no “Fertility Diet” your doctor can just hand you, your doctor is a great resource for offering specific and personalized suggestions on how to adopt a healthy diet because they can make recommendations based on your needs and goals.

However, you can follow some general guidelines if you want to improve your diet and prepare it for pregnancy. Here are five examples.

1. Eat the Right Fats

Trans fats, such as those found in baked goods, fried foods, margarine and processed foods have been found to have a negative impact on fertility. Avoiding foods that contain these fats is important. On the other hand, when food manufacturers replace fats in foods in order to make them “low fat,” they often replace the fat with sugar. Rather than adopting a low-fat diet, consider swapping “bad” fats for the “good” fats. For example, replace red meat with fish or — as we’ll mention later — swap meat proteins with vegetable proteins.

Another way to get the right fats is to consume one or more servings of high-fat dairy products each day, such as whole milk rather than skim. Moderate consumption of high-fat dairy products has been linked with an increase in fertility.

2. Cut Down on Carbs

Studies have shown that adhering to a low-carb diet is particularly beneficial for women who have been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) because it is helpful in regulating the body’s insulin levels. However, this means more than just swapping a sandwich for a salad — it means paying attention to what kind of carbs you’re consuming. Sugary drinks, processed grains like white bread, pasta and white rice, processed foods and desserts have a high glycemic index, which can cause unhealthy spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.

Since higher insulin levels can have a negative impact on PCOS, it’s important to avoid foods that will cause insulin spikes. But, the body does need good carbs to function properly, so stick to fruits and veggies, potatoes and whole grains.

3. Get Picky About Protein

Meat is a popular source of protein, an important nutrient when you’re trying to lose weight and get healthy. But if you’re trying to improve your chances of getting pregnant by changing your diet, you might want to reconsider where you’re getting your protein from.

Rather than relying on meat for your total daily amount of protein, consider swapping out some of your daily protein with vegetable protein sources, such as nuts, seeds and beans.

This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a steak or a piece of chicken. Instead, find small ways to swap these items with others. For example, instead of having eggs for breakfast, consider making a smoothie and adding chia seeds, which are a great source of vegetable protein.

don't skip breakfast

4. Don’t Skip Breakfast

Sure, it’s the most important meal of the day, if it’s done right. When you eat breakfast, it prevents your blood sugar from dropping and gives you energy for the day. It can also set you up for healthy eating throughout the day by preventing overwhelming hunger later on. However, this is only true if you’re eating a healthy breakfast. Skip the pancakes dripping in maple syrup and opt for healthier options, such as eggs, oatmeal, whole-grain cereals and fruit.

5. Take Your Vitamins

If you’re trying to get pregnant, taking a daily prenatal vitamin may be beneficial because it raises your body’s folic acid levels, which is known to prevent birth defects. Check with your doctor if you need a recommendation for a good prenatal vitamin.

You’ll find plenty of information online about the potential benefits of certain vitamin supplements when you’re trying to get pregnant. When you’re experiencing infertility or eager to get pregnant, it can be tempting to load up on vitamins. But, this can be dangerous. In fact, women who are attempting to conceive should be wary of using vitamin supplements without consulting their doctor. Certain vitamins, such as Vitamin A, may complicate pregnancy and are best to avoid while a woman is attempting to become pregnant.

Exercise to Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

When it comes to nutrition, it’s clear that taking care of your body and making smart, logical choices is important to a woman’s overall health and wellbeing. However, eating healthy is only part of the journey. There is also a significant connection between a woman’s body weight and potential for infertility.


If a woman is overweight, then her extra body fat will increase her body’s insulin levels. When insulin levels are elevated, the ovaries produce too much testosterone. When there is too much testosterone present, a woman’s body won’t ovulate. If this problem cannot be corrected, it’s natural to inquire about the use of IVF to become pregnant. However, women who are overweight are also less likely to respond well to IVF treatments and fertility medications.

exercise to maintain a healthy body weight

If you are overweight, losing weight may aid in balancing hormones and allowing your body to ovulate again. Eating healthy and exercising are the two best ways to accomplish this. Your doctor can provide recommendations on diet and exercise plans that will be the most beneficial to your body.

Depending on how much extra weight you’re carrying, it’s especially important that you work with your doctor in order to lose weight in a safe and healthy manner. It’s easy to think starting an intense exercise regimen is the best way to lose weight — however, excessive exercise may actually have a negative impact on fertility. So, as with all things, moderation is key.

When addressing issues of body weight and infertility, losing weight often gets more attention than the plight of women who need to gain weight. In some cases, women who are underweight will also struggle with infertility because low body mass index can cause a hormonal imbalance that impacts fertility. If this is the case, then it is also extremely important to consult with your doctor about the impact of exercise on your body’s ability to conceive. In some cases, a woman may need to gain weight in order to balance her hormones and prepare her body to handle a pregnancy.

Make Lifestyle Changes to Improve Fertility

In addition to maintaining a healthy diet and body weight, you can follow other suggestions to take charge of your health and develop a healthier lifestyle that will promote fertility and set you up for success. Here are four of them.

lifestyle changes to improve fertility

1. Relax

While stress itself doesn’t prevent pregnancy, it can lead to certain behaviors that may impact your ability to conceive or sustain a pregnancy. Stress can lead to an increase in drinking alcohol or smoking. A woman might avoid sex or forget to take her medications on time because she is so consumed with stress.

Yes, the infertility process can be stressful at times, but it’s important to do what you can to relax. Confide in a partner or friend, take a warm bath, laugh, read a book — find ways to take your mind off the things you can’t control, and you’ll find that stress will fade. If you do these things and still struggle with stress, then talk with your infertility team about other ways to calm yourself during this process.

2. Avoid Excessive Drinking

Besides interfering with your ability to handle stress, consuming large quantities of alcohol can reduce fertility. This doesn’t mean you should never have a glass of wine or participate in a champagne toast on New Year’s Eve — just limit how frequently you drink and limit the amount you consume.

3. Stop Smoking

Women who smoke are 60 percent more likely to be infertile than their non-smoking female counterparts. Smoking is known to speed up the death of your healthy eggs, as well as bring on menopause earlier than in non-smoking women.

4. Brush Your Teeth

Periodontal disease can interfere with the success of fertility treatments. Why? Because it’s a chronic bacterial infection, and infection has been shown to prevent IVF treatments from being successful. Maintaining good oral hygiene will prevent problems like periodontal disease before they arise, which will prevent infection from interfering with your fertility treatments.

Lifestyle Changes for Men

While much of the conversation around boosting fertility centers around women, many couples forget to consider the other half of the equation. One-third of infertility issues are traced back to male partners. In some cases, an issue may require surgical intervention or medication, but other times it’s not quite so clear why a man may be infertile. In these cases, it may be beneficial for the man to also make some lifestyle changes for fertility, such as these six.

fertility lifestyle changes for men

1. Stop Smoking

Smoking decreases a man’s sperm count. And, the sperm they do produce may not be formed right. If you want to have healthy sperm — which increases your chances of pregnancy — then put down the cigarette.

2. Cut Back on Alcohol

An occasional beer or two isn’t going to impact your fertility, but frequent alcohol consumption can lower sperm count and testosterone levels. In some cases, it can even cause erectile dysfunction.

3. Avoid Drugs and Certain Medications

Illegal drugs like marijuana and cocaine can reduce the quality and the overall number of sperm available. But, it’s not just drugs that can interfere with a couple’s fertility. Certain prescriptions can interfere with sperm production, so if you’re on any medications, talk with your doctor about the impact they could have on your ability to conceive.

4. Shed the Extra Pounds

Being overweight can reduce a man’s sperm count, as well as slow down the speed at which they move. It can also lead to overall hormone imbalances that can impact fertility. If you’re overweight, find an exercise routine that works for you and make some diet changes for fertility, too. Unsure where to start? Talk with your doctor for suggestions and resources on how to reduce your body weight.

5. Keep Cool

No, we don’t mean stay calm. Higher-than-average temperatures — especially in proximity to a man’s scrotum — can slow down sperm production, resulting in lower chances of getting pregnant. To prevent becoming overheated, avoid spending time in saunas or hot tubs, using your laptop on your lap and wearing tight-fitting pants.

6. Be Safe

Unprotected sex with multiple partners increases the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD), which cause poor sperm movement, low sperm count and even sperm DNA fragmentation. If you have had unprotected sex in the past, be honest with your partner and your doctor so that you can be tested and, if needed, treated.

How Can I Boost My Fertility?

Each family’s journey is special and unique. At times, it can also be stressful. Navigating the fertility process is incredibly overwhelming, and no one should have to navigate this journey alone.

The Centers for Disease Control have named the Western Fertility Institute the top fertility clinic in the United States because our success rates for IVF exceed those of other fertility clinics nationwide. Our team of renowned physicians is dedicated to helping women and couples achieve their dreams of becoming parents through cutting-edge technology, as well as a compassionate understanding of the infertility journey.

Based in California, the Western Fertility Institute has assisted in the fertility journeys of thousands of parents. We firmly believe there is no greater joy than watching a long-fought-for dream become a reality.

If you are ready to start a family, the Western Infertility Institute is ready to help. Contact us today.