Knowing how to increase fertility makes all the difference if you've been trying to get pregnant for a while. We've looked into the best ways to boost your fertility and increase your chances of getting pregnant.
How to increase fertility (male and female) is a question with lots of answers. Luckily, loads of the options that you can try to boost fertility and help you conceive are simple and easy to introduce into your everyday life.
If you’re trying for a baby and not having much luck, don’t despair. Around 84 per cent of couples having regular sex will get pregnant within a year. But we understand a year can feel like a really long time. So, to maximise your chances of getting pregnant quickly, read through over 40 ways to boost your fertility to see what simple changes you could make to your lifestyle that could increase your chances of getting pregnant.
From diet and exercise to understanding your ovulation cycle and dispelling the myths, our guide to increasing your fertility will give you really useful information to help you get your body in the best possible shape to conceive. You can even try using our ovulation calculator to work out when you are most fertile.
It’s important not to forget it takes two people to make a baby, which is why we’ve also got tips for boosting male fertility in our round-up as well.
We’ve also got some advice on the best sex positions for conception, which will hopefully introduce a little bit of fun into what can be a pretty stressful time in a couple’s life.
Trying to get pregnant can be a challenge, but remember, no matter what path you ultimately take to parenthood, there’s lots of professional and personal help available to support you if you’re struggling.
Your fertility is affected by lots of different factors, including age, lifestyle and biology, so don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor and ask for advice to give yourself the best possible chance.
They’ll be able to reassure you and talk you through potential options for your fertility problems, including medication and IVF.
How to increase fertility: 45 ways to boost fertility
Don’t jump up and immediately go to the bathroom just after you’ve had sex. Take your time to relax your body for a minute whilst his sperm is still in you and give those little guys a chance to get swimming!
Some fertility experts think that by lying down for a few minutes, or putting your legs in the air, you’ll help the sperm on their journey towards the egg. Worth a try!
Also worthy of a try could be the FERTI·LILY Conception Cup (Boots, £32.99). The little cup is made from soft, flexible medical silicone and is inserted into your vagina after sex to push his semen towards your cervix, the opening to your uterus, to help boost your chance of conceiving.
2. Know when you ovulate
Many women have no idea what a normal menstrual cycle is – especially after years of regulated periods on the Pill. Few women have a 28-day cycle with some having a short one (25 days) or a particularly long one (35 days). The fertility cycle starts on the first day of your period but ovulation does not necessarily start mid-cycle.
If you have a regular 28-day cycle then ovulation occurs halfway through, around day 14, if it’s 25 days then ovulation occurs around day 11 and if it’s a 35-day cycle ovulation occurs around day 21.
Once you have worked out when you start ovulating be sure to plan in some bedroom fun for that time as you are most likely to get pregnant at this time.
Use our ovulation date calculator to work out when you’re most fertile.
3. Try reflexology
Stress can have a big impact on fertility so any relaxation technique, such as reflexology, can help calm you and boost your chances of conception.
Reflexology is based on the idea that specific areas on your hands and feet link to different organs in your body and that by putting pressure on these points will stimulate the energy flow to those organs.
Reflexology practitioner Jane Holt says: ‘By massaging specific areas on the feet you can help to regulate your menstrual cycle, improve ovulation and promote relaxation.’
4. Use a basal thermometer
A basal thermometer is another way to track your most fertile days.
Your basal body temperature is a measure of your regular temperature upon waking, which rises as a result of the hormonal changes during ovulation.
Using a sensitive basal thermometer you can track even the smallest basal temperature changes in your body which means you can pin point when you’re ovulating and most fertile. If you’re struggling to work out when you’re most fertile and want to be super precise, this is an easy and simple method to find out.
5. Deal with stress
Stress affects everyone differently – but it can affect your ovulation or put you off having sex, which can make it difficult for you to conceive.
Chronic stress can cause long-term exposure to flight-or-fight hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which are bad for general health. And when stressed, we produce a hormone called prolactin. That’s the same hormone produced by breast-feeding women in order to inhibit ovulation, so it will make conception more difficult, says Dr Gillian Lockwood, medical director at fertility clinic CARE Fertility Tamworth.
Take some time for yourself and make sure that you focus on winding down at the end of every day. Allow yourself half an hour every evening to relax your body and mind, whether that be a bath, reading a good book or exercise.
Maybe you could have a think about the things in your life that make you stressed and how you could tackle them. Could you make changes to your life, your relationship or sort out money worries? These are some of the big life stressors.
6. Stay away from chemicals
Avoid scented tampons and vaginal sprays as they can cause a pH imbalance in your vagina. Artificial lubricants, arousal oils and douches should also be avoided as these alter the normal acidity of the vagina, can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and can affect the cervical mucus that transports the sperm.
7. Eat some zinc
Zinc is an all-round essential nutrient to boost fertility. It ensures the production of good-quality sperm and can reduce the chance of miscarriage later on, so is helpful for both male and female fertility.
In men, zinc is important for producing testosterone, and can help with erectile dysfunction and the production of semen.
Zinc can be found in oysters, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds and crab meat – the daily requirement is 30mg.
And don’t forget legumes, such as beans, peas and lentils.’ They’re high in mineral levels, especially zinc,’ says nutritionist Elizabeth Stewart from vitamin supplement subscription service Vitl. ‘Legumes such as chickpeas and lentils are easy additions to warming soups and stews, increasing the nutrient value of any dish.’
Zinc is also found in dark chocolate – what’s not to like about that?!
8. Come off the pill four months beforehand
It’s generally recommended that you should come off the pill four months, or at least one month, before you attempt to conceive.
However, some research has shown that a woman actually has more chance of conceiving when she first comes off the pill. So definitely seize any opportunity from the moment you stop taking it.
But try not to stress if you don’t get pregnant straight away. It can take months of trying to conceive, and it could take longer if you’re older. Most couples (84%) conceive within a year.
9. Give up the booze
It may be boring, but if you’re serious about trying for a baby it’s time to end your alcohol consumption.
In order to give yourself the best chance at getting pregnant you should get your body in the best shape possible, which means zero alcohol. You’ll have to do it when you get pregnant, so starting now will be good practise!
Reducing your alcohol intake to less than four drinks a week can increase your chance of pregnancy by almost one fifth, according to research by online fertility clinic Apricity.
And there’s good evidence that cutting it out completely will improve your chances further because even a light alcohol intake affects fertility in both women and men. So get him to cut back or go teetotal, too.
Track your drinking with charity Drinkaware’s alcohol calculator and find out more about alcohol’s impact on fertility
10. Begin a supplement programme
Although a healthy diet is the best way to gain nutrients, a basic vitamin supplement programme can help ensure you’re getting what you need.
‘Take preconception supplements,’ advises leading fertility expert Dr Mara Kotrotsou, Apricity’s Chief Medical Officer. ‘The two most important are vitamin D and folic acid.’
NHS advice is to take folic acid if you’re trying for a baby or are pregnant, up until your 12th week of pregnancy. Folic Acid is the man-made version of folate (also called vitamin B9) which is essential for healthy red blood cells and to help your baby grow normally. Ask your GP for advice on how much you should take.
See number 26 for what you need to know about Vitamin D. And check out the all-round conception supplements at your local pharmacy or health-food shop. These can give you extra nutrients you need for conception and a healthy pregnancy.
11. Go to the doctors
It’s a good idea to book an appointment with your doctor to have a genito-urinary check-up when you decide to try for a baby.
This will be able to rule out any major factors affecting fertility, like sexually transmitted diseases which show no symptoms, and flag up any other potential problems to ensure that you get the correct help.
For instance, an estimated 70% of women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) don’t know they have the condition, according to research by Verity, the UK PCOS charity. Left undiagnosed and unmanaged it can impact fertility.
Check your weight before trying to conceive. Women who are underweight have difficulty conceiving as their periods may stop.
However, the same applies to women who are overweight, as this can prevent ovulation. Talk to your GP for advice on healthy ways to lose or gain weight.
‘A healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) of between 18.5 and 24.9 increases the chances of pregnancy,’ says fertility expert Dr Arpita Ray from assisted conception clinic Bourn Hall.
Dr Kotrotsou agrees and says that even small lifestyle changes can have a big impact on fertility. ‘Doctors often struggle to have frank discussions with patients about the impact of weight on the chances of pregnancy. In reality, being outside of a healthy BMI can cause hormonal imbalances that interfere with female cycles, normal development of eggs and implantation of embryos.
Our fertility predictor has found that losing just 6 or 7 kilos to reach a BMI that’s in the healthy range can increase the chance of pregnancy by more than half, which is very significant.’
13. Stock up on Vitamin E
Vitamin E increases sperm mobility and ability to penetrate the egg. It can also reduce age-related ovulation decline.
Both you and your partner can increase your intake by eating more nuts and seeds, dark leafy greens and avocado.
14. Start healthy eating
Diet plays a major part in helping you conceive and healthy eating throughout pregnancy will help you give birth to a healthy baby too.
Our guide to fertility boosting foods will give you plenty of information about the best things to put into your body.
‘Diet absolutely has an impact on fertility,’ says Dr Kotrotsou. ‘It’s important to maintain a healthy diet that includes all food groups (carbohydrates, protein, fats), and contains the right amount of nutrients.
‘Your diet should include more low GI (glycemic index) carbs such as porridge, lentils and beans, rather than high GI carbs, such as sugary and processed foods, because low GI carbs are digested more slowly.’
‘Additionally, you should choose unsaturated fats over saturated fats, and have plenty of sources of Omega 3 fatty acids (found in fish and flaxseed).’
Yes, this means giving up smoking even before you’re pregnant…
One of the biggest impacts on fertility – in both men and women – comes from smoking. Toxins in tobacco smoke can harm both eggs and sperm, including damaging DNA and reducing your chance of pregnancy and actively affects the success rate of fertility treatments such as IVF.
Quitting smoking can multiply your chances of pregnancy by almost half, according to research by online fertility clinic Apricity.
For help quitting find your nearest NHS Stop Smoking Service, or call the Smokefree National Helpline on 0300 123 1044 to speak to a trained adviser.
You should also avoid xenoestrogens which are synthetic hormones found in pesticides and plastics and can affect hormone balance.
16. Boost your B12 intake
Almost 50% of us have unhealthy levels of vitamin B12 according to research by health tracking service Thriva. Despite the fact that we need this vitamin for cellular reproduction and he needs it for a healthy sperm count.
‘Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells,’ says nutritionist Rob Hobson. The recommended intake is 2.5µg (micrograms) per day.
You may need to consider a supplement if you’re vegan or vegetarian because Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in animal foods. ‘Plant foods have no vitamin B12 unless they are fortified,’ says Hobson, Head of Nutrition at Healthspan.
The best sources of B12 include beef liver and clams, but it’s also found in fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and dairy products. ‘Some breakfast cereals, nutritional yeasts and other food products are fortified with vitamin B12,’ explains Hobson.
17. Exercise more
Stress can affect fertility and trying to conceive can be very stressful. Try to reduce any anxiety by exercising, or give meditation or yoga a go.
Exercise helps boost endorphins to make you feel happy, reduces excess weight, increases heart function and lowers cholesterol. Try to get the recommended minimum of 30 minutes exercise a day, for five days a week, which leaves you slightly breathless. The NHS Choices website has lots of exercise and yoga videos.
A new study recently found that four hours vigorous exercise a week could boost your chances of getting pregnant.
18. Use an ovulation predictor or fertility monitor
These test kits will record surges in your hormone levels which will be able to tell you when is best to try for a baby.
You can opt for a well-know brand like Clear Blue, or visit a pharmacy like Boots, who have a similar range.
A test may also highlight potential problems with ovulation. Fertility expert Dr Arpita Ray estimates that about a third of women struggling with infertility have a hormone imbalance. This can impact ovaries and prevent the release of one mature egg each month, reducing the chances of becoming pregnant.
19. Go organic
It’s definitely worth spending a little extra cash to give your body the best food possible.
If you can, you should eat eight portions of organic fruit and veg daily – these contain low levels of pesticides and have higher nutritional content than non-organic.
20. Switch from white to brown
Switch as many white refined foods to brown wholefoods as you possibly can. That means brown rice, wholemeal bread and wholewheat pasta.
Not only are they better at keeping blood-sugar levels stable, they usually contain more fibre and zinc. It’s estimated than 80% of the fertility-boosting mineral zinc is removed from wheat to make white bread last longer. And given that a lack of zinc has been shown to affect sperm quality this is as important for his diet as it is for yours if you want to help raise your chances of conception.
21. Drink up!
You should drink at least 8 glasses of filtered water or herbal/fruit tea per day. This will help flush out excess toxins.
The benefits of drinking water are useful for everyone, but especially those who are trying to conceive.
You should drink at least 8 glasses of filtered water or herbal/fruit tea per day to keep you well hydrated and your body in good physical condition.
‘Keep yourself well-hydrated and cut back on alcohol,’ advises Dr Kotrotsou. ‘Water is best, but whole milk is also good.’
22. Eat honey
Honey has been regarded as a natural fertility booster for generations.
The word ‘honeymoon’ is said to have come from the age-old tradition of newlyweds eating a spoonful of honey each night in order to speed up the baby-making process.
23. Eat good fats
Fats are fine as long as you eat the good ones. These include oily fish (mackerel, salmon, etc) as well as sunflower and pumpkin seeds. See a selection of easy and delicious salmon recipes here.
Fat is actually an essential part of a healthy, well balanced diet. It helps the body absorb certain fat-soluable vitamins, such as A, D and E, which are important for boosting fertility.
Try to cut down on “bad” fats which are found in red meat, dairy foods, biscuits and pastries. Eating too much of these can raise cholesterol levels in your blood, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke.
24. Get some sun
According to new research, increasing your chances of conceiving could be as simple as getting a good dose of sunshine.
Experts say that getting more vitamin D from the sun, can boost your female sex hormone levels and help regulate your menstrual cycle making conception more likely. In men, it can improve his sperm count, since vitamin D helps with nucleus development, and it’ll raise his libido and testosterone levels too.
GP Dr Gill Jenkins says: ‘Between March to October, a half hour a day with direct midday sunlight, no sunscreen, on your face and arms or legs, should be enough to convert vitamin D3 to active vitamin D which is absorbed into the bloodstream.’
‘In the winter none of us get enough direct sunlight and it’s advisable to take a supplement.’
25. Buy B6
This nutrient is good to help balance hormones. Good sources include sunflower seeds, tinned salmon, bananas and lentils. The daily requirement is 50mg.
Also known as pyridoxine, B6 helps your body with essential functions such as carrying oxygen around your bloodstream and storing and using energy from the protein and carbs you eat.
26. Cheat Vitamin D
If you’re not about to go on a sunny holiday, you can boost your vitamin D levels by taking a vitamin supplement, or eating vitamin D foods.
Good sources include oily fish, red meat and eggs, or foods that have been fortified, including certain cereals, milks and spreads.
Vitamin D has not only been shown to boost your chance of natural conception but also to improve the success of IVF.
27. One for the men…
The nutrient selenium is good for males as it’s an antioxidant that has been shown to increase male fertility.
It’s good for females, too – it can prevent chromosome breakage which can cause miscarriage.
You can find selenium in Brazil nuts, lobster and tinned tuna. The daily requirement for selenium is 60μg for you and 75μg for him.
28. Think ahead
In order to boost your fertility, you should start to make changes at least four months before you start trying to conceive, as this is how long it takes the body to register change. Or 18 months between children, in order for a woman’s nutrient stores to be replenished.
Our guide to the best time of year to have a baby could also be helpful…
29. Fill up on fibre
It’s essential for fertility and keeping your bowels regular, so make sure you eat plenty of wholegrains, fruit and vegetables to keep your digestive system functioning properly.
The NHS recommends you eat 30g of fibre a day, but 90% of Brits fall short according to studies. Try to stick to your five-a-day, every day – more if you can.
30. Cut back on caffeine
It was initially believed that caffeine affects fertility, but some recent studies have shown that this may not be true, says fertility doctor Dr Kotrotsou. ‘However, the data on this isn’t particularly robust yet, so the general advice would still be to limit caffeine to less than 200mg per day.’
‘And remember, caffeine isn’t just in coffee so it’s important to be aware of other sources, such as caffeinated tea, certain fizzy drinks, and chocolate.’
31. Stack your pillows
Although there is little concrete proof that fertility pillows actually help sperm get to the right places, many women invest in them all the same….
A fertility pillow is a pillow which helps prop your body in a way that encourages the sperm to swim straight to your egg. You pop it underneath your pelvis and should lie still for about half an hour to let gravity do its work and help the sperm to find their mark.
Or simply prop yourself up on a stack of pillows after sex and see what happens.
32. The right ‘sex days’
It not only matters how often you have sex but making sure you have it during the right days in your cycle.
Research shows that even if you have sex six days prior to ovulation you stand a good chance of conceiving. If you want to have sex only on the day you ovulate, you may miss your chance of pregnancy altogether.
Our ovulation guide will tell you everything you need to know.
33. Start a menstrual diary
Note the date when your period starts, the number of days it lasts, and anything else your doctor might want to know about.
This information can be helpful to pinpoint the best dates for conception as well as being helpful if you experience any problems conceiving.
34. Take a break
Lots of women get pregnant during a getaway so pack up your bags, grab your man and head off somewhere nice.
We’re not sure whether it’s because you’re less stressed or just getting more sex, but holidays really do seem to boost fertility.
This method is quite often used to help couples undergoing IVF but it could also help when trying to conceive naturally.
Acupuncture might have the best effects on your man as it’s been thought to increase the male sperm count but it’s also a good stress reliever, which will help your fertility levels too.
35. Check for thyroid problems
If you’ve been trying to get pregnant with no positive results it may be worth checking to see if you have a thyroid problem.
36. Try hypnotherapy
This is a very beneficial way to increase fertility as it helps you to breathe properly and de-stress.
It teaches you to let go of any emotional blocks or worries you may have that can create infertility issues.
You can take some of the methods and learnings away with you and use them at home if you need to de-stress.
37. Use a lubricant
Even if you haven’t needed it before, you may now. Having lots of sex can make you very dry, but it’s not advisable to use chemical-based lubricants as they can hurt sperm.
Try egg whites instead – they are sperm friendly and fragrance free.
38. Don’t give up
If you’ve been trying for a baby for a while with no success don’t worry – one in seven couples don’t conceive within a year of trying.
This number increases dramatically during the next year with more than half of these successfully conceiving without any medical treatment so don’t loose hope!
Remember, the more stress and pressure you put on it, the less likely it is to happen so keep positive and optimistic as it can be lot harder than you would have initially thought.
39. Have fun in bed
There’s no evidence that some sex positions are better than others for conceiving, but having more sex helps!
To keep you both interested and excited to have as much sex as possible, especially when you’re ovulating, it’s a good idea to switch things up, trying new positions and even places!
If you’re trying for a baby, don’t let sex become a chore – bring back the fun by trying one of our sex positions for conception which help you get deep penetration to encourage your man’s sperm to reach your egg.
40. Watch your medicines
If you’re taking any medication (prescription or not), have a chat with your doctor about how these could affect your fertility.
It is said that steroids, depression medications, hormone-based hair and skin treatments and cancer treatment, amongst others, can all have an impact.
41. Get a good nights sleep
To improve your chances of getting pregnant it’s important to keep yourself as healthy and your body as happy as possible – and lots of sleep is a big part of this! If you become severely fatigued, lack of sleep can even disrupt your periods which you need to be working properly to get pregnant – so make sure you’re getting enough shut-eye.
Recent research suggests that the secret to a good night’s sleep is to turn off all your electronics an hour before you go to bed – so switch off the TV and your mobile phone and step away from the computer!
42. Have lots of sex
This one seems a little obvious – but bear with us!
Clearly, having sex is what you might call essential to getting pregnant, but some couples can worry that having too much sex might weaken the man’s sperm.
However, we can confirm that contrary to popular belief, having sex often does not weaken sperm. In fact, research has shown that the more a couple have sex, the more fertility is improved.
So considering every time you get busy it’s another chance at having a child, we suggest you go for it!
43. Be romantic
Sometimes you can get too bogged down with ovulation and temperature charts to make trying to conceive a fun thing. Every now and again take a break and inject some joy and romance back into your relationship.
Go for a walk, have a nice meal or a seductive massage. Making a family takes time, energy, a sense of humour and love.
44. Keep talking
When couples are trying to conceive, sex can sometimes become a bit mechanical, especially with so much focus on doing it at the right time.
If you find yourself just going through the motions and forcing yourselves to schedule it in you may loose the fun in having that intimate time together – which ultimately may mean you want to have sex less.
Make sure you keep it fun and flirty with lots of talking. Focus on re-living your honeymoon period, not making a baby, to help avoid the subject becoming related to stress instead of pleasure
45. Know that you’re not alone
Trying to get pregnant can feel pretty isolating but plenty of couples are going through a similar experience right now. An estimated one in seven UK couples experience fertility problems, but most go on become pregnant – an estimated 90% succeed within two years even in the older (35-39) age bracket.
Try not to stress. Ok, so that might be easier said than done. But worrying about not getting pregnant may be the thing that’s actually stopping you from getting pregnant. So follow the sound advice above and keep having regular sex – that’s about every two to three days – and you’ll be giving yourselves the best chance of success.