Increasing your Chances of a Pregnancy

Fertility and Lifestyle

We cannot emphasise enough the importance of optimising your lifestyle and nutrition. It not only affects the chance of a successful pregnancy and live birth, but it is becoming more evident that the general health of both partners affects the quality of the embryo and the long term health of the baby. Some changes that may increase your chance of conceiving include the following:

Cessation of smoking

Smoking can cause problems for virtually all areas of the reproductive system. Women who smoke are more likely to have difficulty conceiving and may not respond as well to fertility treatments. There is also the increased risk of miscarriage, complications during birth and having a baby with a low birth weight. 

For men, smoking may affect the development and quality of sperm, decrease the sperm count and reduce the volume of semen. In addition, there is a higher risk of impotence ( erectile dysfunction ).  

For information and advice on how to stop smoking, visit Quit Now at www.quitnow.gov.au or call Quitline on 13 78 48

Saying no to drugs

Illegal drugs such as cocaine and marijuana have been known to disrupt the menstrual cycle and ovulation process. For men, marijuana can also affect sperm count and quality.

A well balanced diet

A healthy balanced diet with low fat intake, plenty of fruit and vegetables, antioxidants and an adequate vitamin balance all contribute to good reproductive health.

For further information, please go to either:

  1. The National Health and Medical Research Council’s - Australian Dietary Guidelines (2013).
  2. Nutrition Professionals Australia.
  3. Government of South Australia, SA Health, Healthy Living.

In addition, Flinders Fertility recommends the following free publications that can be downloaded or ordered through the Government of South Australia, SA Health web site:

  1. Your Guide to a Healthier Today. The guide gives you a 14 day guide to taking your first steps to eating healthy food, being active, and feeling great.
  2. Healthy Food Fast cookbook full of delicious healthy recipes.

Reducing caffeine intake

High levels of caffeine may affect fertility and increase the likelihood of pregnancy complications. 

Restricting alcohol intake

Alcohol may increase the time it takes to become pregnant and affect the developing baby, and in males, alcohol may affect the sperm. Males should not have more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day.

Taking vitamin/antioxidant supplementation

Commencing 1 month prior to possible pregnancy and continuing for the first 3 months of pregnancy, we recommend a 0.5mg daily intake of folic acid. This reduces the risk of Neural Tube Defect, such as Spina Bifida. Folic acid is available at pharmacies and health shop foods.

We recommend a daily Iodine supplement (150mcg) when trying to conceive. Iodine is essential for normal development of a baby and the Australian diet is generally low in this essential mineral.

Exercise

Regular moderate exercise can contribute to good reproductive health and help reduce stress. We recommend exercise at a moderate level that makes you slightly breathless but still allows you to talk.

Optimisation of weight

Being over or under a healthy weight can affect fertility, decreasing the chance of conceiving a healthy pregnancy and increasing the chance of a miscarriage and pregnancy complications.

Focus on becoming fitter if you are overweight as losing a small amount of weight, even as little as 5kg, has been shown to improve fertility. For men, being overweight can also affect sperm quality.

Your weight is healthy if your Body Mass Index (BMI) is between 20 and 25. Women whose BMI is more than 29 (obese) or under 19 (underweight) may have problems conceiving. If your partner’s BMI is more than 29, his fertility is likely to be lower than normal.

To work out your BMI:

  1. divide your weight in kilograms (kg) by your height in metres (m),
  2. then divide the answer by your height again, to get your BMI.

Environmental influences

While there is some evidence that exposure to some chemicals and pollutants can affect fertility, it is not always possible to avoid exposure. Please consult your doctor if you have any concerns.

Timing of Intercourse

Ovulation normally occurs 14 days prior to the onset of menstruation, and in a 28 day menstrual cycle, ovulation usually occurs between days 12 and 14. Alternate day intercourse is recommended from day 8 to 16 as sperm can survive up to 5 days and the egg can still be fertilised up to 12 hours after ovulation.

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