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Planning your pregnancy

tips & methods to prepare your body for a successful pregnancy | fertility tips

Ovulation - the basics

Every month, the reproductive organs of a healthy woman prepare for conception.

The complex interaction between the pituitary gland in the brain, the ovaries and the uterus create the ideal environment for ovulation (the release of an egg), for the sperm and egg to meet and for the fertilized egg to implant in the uterus.

Each month, the pituitary gland in the brain secretes a hormone. This hormone causes the ovaries to produce a series of fluid-filled cysts called follicles. When the follicles develop, they release a hormone called estrogen. Estrogen works to thicken the lining of the womb for conception. On the seventh day of your cycle, all but one of the follicles stop growing. This follicle continues to grow and feeds the mature egg (oocyte) inside.

On day 12, the mature follicle releases a surge of estrogen into the bloodstream. The estrogen then circulates in the bloodstream. When the estrogen reaches the pituitary gland in the brain, it reacts by releasing luteinizing hormone. This hormone causes the follicle to grow rapidly. Shortly before the ovulation, the egg divides inside the follicle. The follicle releases a chemical that stimulates the fallopian tubes to approach and begin to surround the follicle.

The follicle expels the egg and fluid into the abdominal cavity and swells until it opens. Tiny finger-like projections at the end of the fallopian tube, called fimbriae, brush over the ruptured follicle and pick up the egg. The egg is carried to the entrance of the fallopian tube. Once inside the walls of the fallopian tube, muscle contractions gently push the egg towards the uterus.

As the egg passes through the fallopian tube, it either meets a sperm and is fertilized or it enters the uterus without fertilization and is absorbed by the body.

young pregnant woman relaxing park outdoors

It’s important you prepare your body and adjust your lifestyle to maximize your chances of conception. Here are some tips that can really make a difference to your level of fertility:

It’s important you prepare your body and adjust your lifestyle to maximize your chances of conception. Here are some tips that can really make a difference to your level of fertility.

Make your vaginal environment as sperm-friendly as possible. Avoid vaginal sprays and scented tampons (which can cause an imbalance in the pH of your vagina), artificial lubricants, vegetable oils and glycerin (because they can kill sperm), saliva (because saliva can also kill sperm) and enemas/douches (because they can change the normal acidity of the vagina, cause vaginal infections and/or pelvic inflammatory disease, and remove the cervical mucus needed to carry sperm).

Folic Acid

Looking for a delicious way to introduce a little more folic acid into your diet? Start your day with a tall glass of orange juice or a fresh, juicy orange. Both are excellent sources of folic acid – an important nutrient for any woman trying to get pregnant.


If you haven’t quit yet, do it now. Studies have shown that smoking only 10 cigarettes a day reduces a woman’s chances of getting pregnant by 40%.

Women have a 40% lower chance of getting pregnant if they smoke, according to a report published by the British Medical Association (BMA). Smoking decreases sperm count and increases sperm abnormalities in men. Ask your GP or Nurse for help in quitting.


Do you take vitamins? High doses of some vitamins can be harmful to your baby’s development. Switch to a prenatal vitamin before you get pregnant.


Are you a coffee drinker? It’s time to quit or switch to decaf! Caffeine is thought to limit the growth of the developing baby by constricting blood vessels and reducing blood flow to the uterus. 

In addition, some studies show that excessive caffeine consumption (i.e. more than three cups of filter coffee per day) can lead to fertility problems. However, this has not yet been definitively established.

Stress less

There are so many people who worry excessively about becoming pregnant and once they release that stress, their body reacts to the new peace by creating a new life. So try not to worry and enjoy the fun of trying to conceive.


Taking a supplement(s) specially formulated for/before conception will provide you with additional support. 400mcg folic acid and other nutrients such as l-arginine vitamin D and vitamin B12 help support the nutritional requirements of women trying to conceive.


Have sex often, at least 3 times a week, the more often you try, the more chances you get at becoming pregnant.

Lay low

Lying down for at least a few minutes after sex increases the odds that the sperm will be able to keep their date with the awaiting egg.


Make sure that you have been properly screened for STDs. Pelvic inflammatory disease is common amongst women with the number-one cause being an untreated sexually transmitted disease.


If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter drugs be sure to ask your doctor if it’s safe to continue taking them once you start trying to conceive. Contrary to popular belief, taking the contraceptive pill, antibiotics or analgesics should not affect the accuracy of your pregnancy test.


When trying to conceive it is very important to drink lots of water (about 8-10 cups a day). This helps the kidneys to flush out waste products from the body and increases fertile quality cervical fluid.


Keep a menstrual calendar and note the date when your period starts, the number of days it lasts and anything else your doctor or midwife might want to know.

Numbers game

Keep in mind that baby making is a numbers game. Even if you do everything ‘right’ you still only have a 25-30 percent chance of conceiving in any given cycle.


Don’t go on a crash diet. They affect your ovulation and consequently your fertility.

Dietary advice

Eating a healthy balanced diet when trying to conceive helps the body to be in optimum condition for conception and pregnancy, and also helps to build adequate stores of vitamins and minerals for the baby to call upon when needed.

Foods to consume while trying to get pregnant:

Leafy greens such as broccoli, fortified breakfast cereals, citrus fruits and pulses provide folic acid which is important for the baby’s neural tube development.

Fortified breakfast cereals, lentils, soy beans, dried fruit and leafy greens such as spinach are great sources of iron.

New research (Dr Jorge Chavarros, Harvard School of Public Health) indicates women who want to get pregnant should eat a Mediterranean-style diet rich in avocados and olive oil but light in diary and meat.

Eating mono-unsaturated fat – found in peanuts, almonds and cashews may support conception too.

Fish, wholegrain breads, asparagus, spinach and watercress will provide zinc to help keep the immune system strong, which is essential when trying to get pregnant. Zinc can also help the production of healthy eggs, as well as healthy sperm.

Fibre rich beans and whole grains keep the bowels healthy, helping to flush away the bodies waste, thereby increasing the chances of getting pregnant.

It is also a good idea to consider taking a supplement designed to support conception which contains 400mcg folic acid and other nutrients to help support the nutritional requirements of women trying to conceive.

grapes strawberries pineapple kiwi apricot banana whole pineapple

Good to know

If you or your partner are regularly exposed to hazardous substances at work, consider changing jobs or careers before starting a family. 

Some substances can affect both sperm quality and embryonic development.

If you have not yet been tested, make an appointment with your doctor to review your medical history and discuss your pregnancy plans.

Are you currently taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications? Ask your doctor if it is safe to continue taking these medications if you are trying to get pregnant.

If you have diabetes, it is important to control your blood sugar before you become pregnant. Studies have shown that women with poorly controlled insulin-dependent diabetes are four to six times more likely to have a baby with birth defects than women without diabetes.

Make sure you are properly screened for STDs. More than one million North American women are affected by pelvic inflammatory disease each year. The most common cause is an untreated sexually transmitted disease.

Tempted to light a cigarette or have a glass of wine? You should assume you are pregnant until you are sure you are not. One of the most critical periods of embryonic development occurs before a woman even knows she is pregnant.

Want to know more? Simply make an appointment and get the inside scoop.

Fertility myths unravelled

Planning for a baby is one of the most important times in a couple’s lives, but for many it can be confusing and complicated. Here we dispel some of the common fertility myths below.
Couples trying to conceive are encouraged to have intercourse regularly to increase their chances of conception, but having intercourse every day is likely to leave you exhausted, particularly as it takes many couples 6-12 months to conceive. However, as sperm can survive up to 5 days after release, and predicting ovulation is an in-exact science, most GPs advise having intercourse every 2-3 days to maximize the chances that sperm are around to fertilize an egg once ovulation occurs.
While women cannot conceive during menstruation as the hormones resulting in menstruation are the opposite of those required for a pregnancy to occur, she can conceive from sex during menstruation as she may ovulate early and sperm can survive for up to 5 days after release. Research in the USA1 has found that women may be fertile as early as day 4 of their cycle (day one is taken as the first day of bleeding) therefore pregnancy could occur at any point in a cycle.
Not true. The human egg is viable for fertilization for around one day after it is released from the ovaries. However given that sperm can survive for up to 5 days after intercourse and women may produce more than 1 egg in a 24 hour period, technically a woman can conceive from intercourse occurring from anything up to 5 days prior to or even up to 2 days after ovulation, i.e. for one week of each menstrual cycle.
Not true, this is a myth perpetuated by the pill which makes all menstrual cycles regular and 28 days in length. In fact menstrual cycles can vary from anything between 21-35 days, and not only vary between women but can vary considerably in any individual woman from month to month.
While there is no scientific evidence to support this approach, some people claim it helps and as it is totally harmless it has to be worth a shot.
There is a grain of truth in this because oysters are a rich source of zinc, low levels of which can be a factor in hampering fertility. Take stock of your diet and ensure that you are eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, wholegrain cereals, which are rich in antioxidants, include oily types of fish twice each week (e.g. salmon, herring, sardine, etc) to boost essential fatty acid and cut down on caffeine and alcohol both of which can hinder conception if taken in excess. Don’t forget to keep active and if you are a smoker, quit.
This is definitely not true, and in fact all women are advised to take a supplement containing 400mcg of folic acid daily while trying to conceive and for the first 3 months of pregnancy. Taking a folic acid supplement is important for neural tube development in the baby. As most of us don’t manage to eat a perfect diet all the time, taking a supplement specifically designed for conception or pregnancy can help to ensure that there are plenty of all the vitamins and minerals important for conception.

Fertility Facts

Age & fertility

According to research, women are leaving it later to start a family. The Office of National Statistics has reported that, since the 1980s the rates for women giving birth at age 30 or over have gone up, while the rates for women giving birth aged under 30 have fallen.

Fertility falls more sharply for women as they age than for men. women are most fertile between the ages of 20 and 24 years – as women grow older the likelihood of getting pregnant falls while the likelihood of pelvic inflammatory disease

  • Look for blockage of the fallopian tubes or for other causes of infertility rises sharply. Men can remain fertile for much longer but male fertility still declines with age, although less dramatically.

  • young woman holding pregnancy test

    Tips for you

    As women get older, there are a number of factors that can make it harder to get pregnant. Fertility factors that change include:

    • Ovarian reserve – this is the number of functioning follicles still in the ovaries. As women get older, they have fewer viable eggs left; in cases of early menopause, eggs run out much earlier than usual.
    • Menstrual cycle – as women approach menopause, their menstrual cycles may become irregular and shorter.
    • Uterine lining – the lining of the uterus may become thinner and less hospitable to a fertilized egg.
    • Mucus secretions – vaginal secretions may become less fluid and more hostile to sperm.
    • Diseases affecting the reproductive system – some diseases can damage or worsen the reproductive organs over time if not properly treated, such as endometriosis, PCOS, and chlamydia.
    • Chronic diseases – some diseases can have a negative impact on fertility.

    Tips for him

    Men can do a lot to improve their chances of conceiving by taking care of their health and lifestyle. The following is a checklist for men trying to have a baby.


    • Avoid alcohol – It lowers men’s sperm count, even if they drink only small amounts.
    • Have sex – Have it in the morning, because research shows that a man’s sperm count is higher at this time – take advantage of it!
    • Keep a cool head – Men have higher sperm counts when their genitals are kept at a cooler temperature. So stay away from hot baths, hot showers, and tight-fitting underwear.
    • Smoke – Don’t. Smoking has been shown to decrease both sperm count and sperm motility.
    • Nutrition and supplements – When men are malnourished or don’t eat enough of the right foods and nutrients, their sperm count can suffer. Take a dietary supplement that contains specific nutrients like zinc for male reproductive health.
    • Workaholic – Fatigue can affect a man’s interest in sex, so it’s important to find a balance.
    • Toxins – Stay away from environmental toxins and hazards. This includes pesticides/insecticides, organic solvents, lead, ionizing radiation, heavy metals and toxic chemicals.
    • Drugs – Even moderate amounts, such as cannabis, can cause low sperm count, poor sperm velocity, and increased sperm abnormalities.
    • Exercise – Swap the exercise bike for the treadmill. Repeatedly bumping your groin against the bike seat can damage critical arteries and nerves.
    • Cell phones – missing the info??? Looks like this got cut off According to research by Hungarian scientists, men who carry their cell phones turned on in their pockets or on their belts have significantly reduced sperm counts and risk dropping their fertility by up to one-third. Sperm motility can also be affected by long phone calls.