One in six couples in the US deals with infertility, meaning that for many couples it takes over one year to get pregnant. This can be a really frustrating time and I’ve spent much of the last thirteen years in that space. Fortunately, there are quite a few things you can do if you’re currently asking what to do if you can’t get pregnant naturally.
Just because you can’t get pregnant doesn’t mean you have to jump into fertility treatments – there are a lot of natural therapies out there proven to be just as effective. And even if you do end up seeking out medical help, the following things all support the body in such a magnificent way that you’ll be even more prepared for that step.
1. Take a look at what you’re eating
Our bodies are really smart! It knows exactly what it needs in order to get pregnant and many times, a simple dietary shift is all that’s needed in order to give it the message that all is safe to conceive. Unfortunately, many times our beliefs about food, and what makes a “good diet” aren’t the same thing as a healthy fertility diet.
Are you eating enough?
Most women I speak with aren’t eating near enough food. We’re so ingrained with different dietary dogmas and we restrict our food intake in order to keep our weight low. This, unfortunately, has disastrous effects on our fertility. Our bodies don’t know that we live int he land of plenty, they simply know how much food we give it each day. If you restrict calories or skip meals you’ve given your body the signal that there may be a famine and in order to protect itself the focus becomes giving nutrients to bodily functions that are required to survive and reproduction is not allowed. So take a good look at the amount of food you’re actually eating (most women need around 2000 calories per day – allow I don’t prefer to count calories, this is just a basic guideline) and don’t ever skip meals if you can avoid it.
Are you eating the right kind of foods?
Many times we’re simply not eating the nutrients our bodies need to produce the right hormones or develop quality eggs. I know I wasn’t! A fertility diet needs to include healthy fats and most of us are still under the impression that “fat is bad”. We also tend to eat way too much sugar which disrupts hormone production. A diet high in processed foods is also a concern- the more whole foods a person eats the better their body functions. There are even a few superfoods for fertility that you can add to your diet to increase the number of nutrients your body gets! (most of them are so simple, like eggs!)
Are the foods you’re eating causing problems?
Gluten and dairy are two foods that many people react to and don’t know about! Gluten, in particular, may be causing celiac disease, which often goes undiagnosed for years before getting so bad that it becomes obvious. Many people also find that it irritates the gut lining, causing the body to not absorb all of the nutrients it needs. Dairy can cause similar problems and may cause congestion issues in the body as well. If you have any digestive issues, it may be time to research eliminating certain foods from your diet.
Recommendation – Be honest about what you’re really eating! Focus on whole foods (veggies, meat, fruit, unprocessed whole grains) and cut out caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and processed foods. Learn more about fertility diets and get a sample fertility menu, READ MORE HERE.
2. Start paying attention to your cycle
If the only thing you know about your cycle is when you get your period, get ready to learn a whole lot more! Sometimes couples have been able to conceive faster simply by learning more about charting for fertility. If you’re basing when you have sex on the assumption that you should ovulate in the middle of your cycle, you may simply be missing your fertile window.
Quick fertility charting info:
- The first day of your period is the first day of your cycle
- The length of your cycle can vary, but as your body works to mature an egg, estrogen begins to rise and you’ll see an increase on cervical fluid. Right before you ovulate it tends to get thinner, stretchy, and increase in volume.
- Once you ovulate your body temperature begins to go up due to rising progesterone – this can be tracked by taking your temperature every morning before you get out of bed.
- If you aren’t pregnant your period will begin about 14 days after ovulation.
No period – this means that you aren’t ovulating and could be due to undereating/overexercising/ too much stress (which commonly causes hypothalamic amenorrhea), begin overweight (a common cause of high testosterone and estrogen imbalance), as well as other factors (hormone imbalance).
Short cycles – If your periods come less than 24-26 days apart, there may be a problem with what’s known as a short luteal phase. What happens here is the body doesn’t produce enough progesterone to sustain a pregnancy and the cycle ends early. It could also be due to lack of ovulation or poor egg quality. Charting your cycle will give you more insight into what’s going on as you’ll be able to see how long each part of your cycle is.
Spotting – if you have multiple days of spotting before your period it may be due to low progesterone.
Long cycles – if your periods are regular but come later than every 35 days, it could be that you’re timing for intercourse is off. Learning more about your cycle and learning the signs of ovulation will help pinpoint when your fertile time is.
Irregular cycles – it’s not impossible to get pregnant with irregular cycles, but it doesn’t make it harder! Learning your body’s ovulation signals is important. It could also be that there are underlying hormone imbalances making conception difficult.
Recommendation – Read through the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility (available on Amazon) to get an in-depth look at charting for fertility. It’s a must read for all women and will help you figure out what might be going on with your cycle. If you know your cycle isn’t as healthy as it should be, also read The Period Repair Manual (available on Amazon) for ideas on figuring out what’s going wrong and recommendations in how to fic them naturally.
While you wait for those books you can also read my guide to fertility charting by clicking here.
3. Move your body
You don’t have to go out tomorrow and buy P90X or join a gym, but take a look at how often you’re moving your body. A sedentary lifestyle cause more problems than just a growing waistline! Moderate movement/exercise is known to help circulation (you need fresh blood to bring nutrients to the reproductive organs) as well as reducing problems with insulin resistance.
On the other hand, it could be that you’re exercising too much. Remember, our bodies are really smart, but they react based on the input we give them, not by the thoughts in our brain. Even though YOU know that you aren’t being chased by a saber tooth tiger, your body may not know that if you’re working out heavily every day of the week. I’ve watched many women finally conceive once they reduce their workouts, some have even had to limit themselves to only walking and yoga!
Recommendations – walk every day if you live a fairly inactive lifestyle. If you’re very active, you may want to reduce your intensity and amount of training for a few months. READ MORE HERE…
4. Be honest about your weight
Many women are unable to get pregnant if they are either under or overweight, so it’s going to be important to take an honest look at our current stats. Of course, weight isn’t everything and I’m definitely not saying we all need to reach a picture perfect ideal. BUT. Over the years I’ve realized that my body functions best when my weight is within a 20-pound variance of my ideal weight. If I go more than 10 pounds below that weight I stop ovulating…if I go more than 10 pounds higher than that weight, I stop ovulating.
Hormone imbalance also affects our weight, so the number on the scale by itself isn’t our main priority. It’s working with our bodies to give it what it needs so that our weight remains stable and life-giving and the hormones function properly. For each of this will look different based on our physiological needs.
Recommendation – be honest about why your weight is the way it is. I mean, I could complain all day long that my cycle stopped and my hormones are making me gain weight. But when I lead a fairly inactive life and live on coffee and sweets – there’s a problem. If you find that the life you live and the foods you eat aren’t helping your body function at it’s fullest, it’s time to make a change. And if you are doing so many good things to try and change, but it’s just not happening, look for a great holistic practitioner that can help you figure out why. READ MORE HERE…
5. Other things to look at
How well are you sleeping? Are you constantly staying up past 10 pm? Fueling your day with coffee and sweets? Broken sleep, or getting less than 7-8 hours each night can cause a lot of stress on the body. READ MORE HERE…
Are you still breastfeeding? I have a lot of moms contact me that are experiencing secondary infertility and are still breastfeeding. Yes, I do know that many women can get pregnant while nursing, but it doesn’t work that way for a lot of us, me included. Sometimes even nursing once per day signals the body that it’s not yet time to reproduce. READ MORE HERE…
Are you taking medications that affect fertility? Sometimes we take medications that severely prevent fertility (like taking testosterone does for men, antidepressants for some women, and even ibuprofen has been known to delay ovulation). If you’re on medication, check in with your doctor to rule this one out.
How is your marriage? Nothing gives your body the signal to not reproduce like being with someone you can’t stand. I’m not saying that any bit of marital strife is a problem, we’ve all been annoyed at our spouse at one time or another! But over the last ten years, I’ve seen enough women that were previously diagnosed with either unexplained infertility or another female related fertility issue get pregnant easily when they left toxic relationships. It’s simply happened too often for me to ignore that sometimes our relationships may be the issue. This is another area where you’re going to need to be very honest, maybe even work with a therapist together.
How soon can you increase your fertility?
No couple will follow the same timeline and it all depends on the issue at hand. Based on personal experience I always tell people that dietary and lifestyle changes usually take 3-6 months to both implement and to see positive changes. I know this seems like a long time when you want to get pregnant last month, but remember that both the egg and sperm have a 90-day maturation cycle. This means that what you do today will affect your egg (or sperm) three months from now!
It’s also important that we look at progress, not perfection.
I never got pregnant following a fertility diet perfectly (even though there were months when I did eat “perfectly”). And depending on your current nutritional habits, it’s important to make changes so that they are sustainable. Drastic changes often cause people to give up once they can’t reach perfection, or they become so unhappy following a new set of rules. It’s ok to simply eat better every week! Now that you know what foods support your fertility, focus more on those and begin to cut our foods that aren’t doing anything good for you.
- Focus on fertility friendly diet
- Learn about charting for fertility
- Walk every day
- Get to bed by 10 pm and get 7-8 hours of sleep
- Be patient as your body reacts to these changes and expect to see positive results within a few months.
If you’re looking for inspiration and support as you make positive changes to boost your fertility, join the 28-day Hormone Reset – a program run by myself and Asher Thayer, a naturopath friend of mine. We’ll lead you through 28 days of making small changes that support your reproductive system and follow it up with online support and community.
If you aren’t seeing or feeling positive changes in your cycle within a few months it may be time to seek out some professional help. Finding someone that will help you get to the root of the issue is ideal too. I’d recommend finding a holistic practitioner that is capable of figuring out what might be going on. There are many qualified naturopathic doctors, chiropractors, and naturopaths that can do this for you as well as Integrative Medicine Doctors. NaPro and FEMM doctors are also fantastic as they use fertility charting to help diagnose and treat symptoms. You can also read more about fertility testing for women and further fertility testing for men in order to get an idea of the tests you can ask your doctor for.