Boost Your Fertility With 8 Lifestyle Changes

If you are thinking about getting pregnant, you may be wondering what you can do to boost your chances. There are many factors that can affect fertility, including lifestyle habits that you have the ability to modify. Increase your odds of conception by acting on those factors that are within your control.


Prioritize Sleep

Young couple lying asleep in bed, close-up
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Why It Supports Fertility

Sleep impacts all aspects of our lives. It can determine how well we perform at our job and in school, it can affect our judgement and mood, and lack of sleep can even lead to long-term health problems.

In addition, insufficient sleep can affect fertility. Why this happens is not fully understood, but research suggests that hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) activation and circadian dysrhythmia may interfere with reproduction. Also, a small review study found a moderate increase in miscarriage rates among people who worked fixed night shifts.

Poor sleep may also lead to excess weight in all genders. Having significant excess weight can lead to ovulation problems. In addition, excess weight and obesity can also impact sperm health.

What to Do About It

Sometimes lack of adequate sleep is due to habit—some people are just night owls and prefer to relax, enjoy alone time, or engage their creative juices later at night. Other times, insomnia or another sleep disorder is to blame—or circumstances such as shift work.

If you are thinking about trying to conceive, identifying the cause of your lack of sufficient sleep is a good place to start. Once you know what is keeping you from good sleep, it will be easier to create a plan to address it. For better sleep hygiene:

  • Stick to a set sleep and wake schedule.
  • Follow a nightly bedtime routine.
  • Get adequate daylight exposure and physical activity.
  • Keep electronics like TVs, phones, and laptops out of the bedroom.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and large meals before bed.
  • Make your bedroom a serene space for sleeping.

Sleep disorders, including insomnia, may be caused by medications or underlying health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, depression, and anxiety. So it's a good idea to talk to your doctor to address sleep issues.


Limit Caffeine Consumption

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Why It Supports Fertility

While there is no clear indication that caffeine consumption may affect fertility in those trying to conceive, studies have found that the risk for miscarriage increases with caffeine intake. Considering that you will not know if you are pregnant for the first several weeks, you may want to limit caffeine consumption to the daily recommended limit for pregnancy.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends no more than 200 mg per day of caffeine. That's the equivalent of one 12-ounce cup of coffee.

What to Do About It

If you're drinking caffeine because you're feeling sluggish, addressing insufficient sleep first may help you cut back. Even if you're getting enough sleep, feeling tired in the afternoon is common.

Eating a lunch high in protein and veggies can sometimes help prevent afternoon sleepiness. A quick 15- or 20-minute power nap can also boost your energy.

If it's the ritual and warmth you're craving, remember that you don't have to give up coffee altogether. But you can lower your caffeine levels by switching some of your daily cups to herbal, non-caffeinated tea or decaffeinated coffee.



Woman laughing with friends during yoga class
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Why It Supports Fertility

Exercise is good for your heart, lungs, and immune system. Regular exercise can be especially important for people with excess weight and obesity. Research has found that physical activity slightly increased the chance of becoming pregnant in one menstrual cycle regardless of a person's weight.

But it is possible to overdo it. A systematic review found that those who exercised more than 60 minutes a day had an increased risk of anovulation (lack of ovulation). However, vigorous exercise lasting 30 to 60 minutes a day reduced the risk of infertility caused by anovulation. So, it seems, the key to exercise and fertility is balance.

What to Do About It

According to the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should aim for:

  • 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise, OR
  • 75 to 150 minutes per week of vigorous exercise, OR
  • An equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity exercise, AND
  • Muscle strengthening exercises two days a week

It doesn't matter whether you walk, run, play a sport, or go to the gym. The key is to move more throughout the day and week. Consider if there are ways to incorporate more movement into your day and you'll be on your way.

Examples of moderate aerobic exercise:

  • Walking fast
  • Water aerobics
  • Biking on level trails
  • Doubles tennis
  • Mowing the lawn

Examples of vigorous aerobic exercise:

  • Running
  • Swimming laps
  • Spin classes or fast cycling
  • Singles tennis
  • Sports, like basketball

Eat Sweets in Moderation

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Why It Supports Fertility

Most of us indulge in not-so-healthy foods from time to time. But consistently eating a lot of sweets can squeeze out more nutritious choices Over time, this can lead to health problems including:

  • Overweight and obesity
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancer

Research has found that diets that are high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, and unsaturated fats are associated with increased fertility in all genders.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 recommends that 85% of daily calories come from nutrient-dense foods, with 15% of remaining calories available for added sugars and saturated fats.

What to Do About It

Many use food for comfort. If you tend to turn to food when you are stressed, try to look for other ways to cope. Meditation, mindfulness, counseling, and exercise are good stress-busters.

Eating habits can be challenging to change. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a thoughtful approach to improving nutrition. They suggest that you reflect on your current habits and triggers, replace less healthy eating habits with healthier ones, and reinforcing new habits with patience.

Permanent change takes time—it doesn't happen overnight. So be gentle with yourself.

Disordered Eating

Occasional overeating is not the same thing as disordered eating, like binge eating or compulsive overeating. Binge eating involves eating large amounts of food in a short period of time. It is often accompanied by a lack of control and feelings of distress, guilt, and embarrassment.

If you binge eat or have another form of disordered eating, diagnosis and treatment is important. Talk to your doctor if you think you may need help.


Make a Doctor's Appointment

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Why It Supports Fertility

If you are thinking of starting a family, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor. A preconception check-up is important so that your doctor can make sure that you are healthy and look for potential issues that may impact conception or pregnancy. This appointment might include:

  • A physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Genetic counseling referrals, if indicated
  • Discussion about medications you currently take and any vaccines you may be due for
  • Information about prenatal vitamins and folic acid
  • Discussion about any health conditions that may affect a pregnancy
  • Conversation about your potential exposure to toxins

Age and Fertility

According to ACOG, your late teens to late 20s are your peak reproductive years. Fertility declines in your 30s. By your mid-40s, conceiving without assistance is unlikely.

Pre-pregnancy health screenings are especially important for people over the age of 35.

What to Do About It

Call your doctor's office to request a pre-pregnancy health screening. Before your appointment think about any questions or concerns that you have and write them down. Bring a list of all medications you currently take.

It's also helpful to identify when you stopped taking birth control (or when you plan to stop). And the doctor will want to know the date of your last menstrual cycle.


Avoid Alcohol

Couple toasting with wine
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Why It Supports Fertility

There is not an established connection between occasional drinking and infertility. Even so, health experts agree that it's best to abstain from drinking while trying to conceive.

Since most people are unaware if they are pregnant until weeks into a pregnancy, and because there is no safe amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, the CDC recommends avoiding alcohol if you are trying to get pregnant.

In addition to the risks of alcohol to a fetus during pregnancy, studies have also found a link between frequent drinking and reduced fertility. Heavy alcohol use may reduce ovarian reserves and fertility. And in people with alcoholism, semen volume and sperm count can be significantly reduced.

What to Do About It

Even though research has not established occasional drinking as a risk factor for fertility problems, if you are actively trying to conceive, you may want to significantly reduce or abstain from drinking. This is in order to limit the risk in case you become pregnant.

Sparkling water or mocktails may be a good alternative and fill the need for something fancy or bubbly.

If you're drinking more often than you'd like, or if drinking has become a problem, you should seek help. Alcohol dependency is easier to address before you become pregnant. The first step is to talk with your primary care physician or gynecologist.


Quit Smoking

pregnant woman smoking marijuana
Sigrid Olsson/Getty Images 

Why It Supports Fertility

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. Smoking increases your risk of cancer, COPD, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, coronary heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. In addition, smoking affects the fertility of both people with male reproductive organs and those with female reproductive organs. Smoking can increase your risk of:

  • Infertility
  • Poorer sperm function
  • Difficulty with in vitro fertilization (IVF)
  • Ectopic pregnancy

Even secondhand smoke can be harmful to a pregnancy. People exposed to higher levels of environmental tobacco smoke are at an increased risk for miscarriage, stillbirth, and ectopic pregnancy.

What to Do About It

Smoking is an addiction. It's not easy to just quit, and smoking is not a character weakness. But you should and can quit when you have the support you need.

Speak to your doctor, and see how they can help you. Smoking cessation supports like nicotine replacement therapy, prescription medication, and individual and group behavioral support have been shown to help people who want to quit smoking. As with alcohol, it is better to quit before you become pregnant.


Get Tested for Sexually Transmitted Infections and Diseases

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Why It Supports Fertility

Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can lead to infertility. In fact, untreated STDs are the number one preventable cause of tubal factor infertility.

Pregnancy-related risks of STIs include premature birth, low birth weight, premature rupture of the membranes, pelvic inflammatory disease, miscarriage and stillbirth. Getting tested for STDs and STIs can allow you to obtain treatment, which can make conceiving easier and your pregnancy safer.

What to Do About It

If you are trying to conceive, getting tested for STDs and STIs can provide the best opportunity for you to get pregnant without difficulty. STIs respond well to treatment. While some are not able to be cured, they can be managed in a way that reduces the risk to your health and future pregnancy. Since STIs are spread easily, your partner should also be tested.

A Word From Verywell

Lifestyle changes can be difficult. It's easy to feel frustrated and give up before you start. However, each step towards healthier habits makes a difference when you are trying to get pregnant.

Keep trying, get the support you need, and establish goals that work for you. Consider working on one habit today. Break down big goals into tiny, doable action steps. It's worth the effort.

29 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Rachel Gurevich, RN
Rachel Gurevich is a fertility advocate, author, and recipient of The Hope Award for Achievement, from Resolve: The National Infertility Association. She is a professional member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and has been writing about women’s health since 2001. Rachel uses her own experiences with infertility to write compassionate, practical, and supportive articles.