This is the best time of year for making babiesDecember 12, 2018
For couples struggling to start a family, Christmas can be particularly difficult to endure.
As Dr Catherine Hood, an expert in psychosexual medicine and women’s health, explains: “It’s such a family-focused time and that can make it very lonely for them.”
But the truth is, it’s actually the best time of year for making babies.
More women fall pregnant around Christmas than at any other time of the year – and it’s down to more than snuggling up on cold nights or post-party friskiness. Research has shown that sperm quality increases in winter, as does ovum receptivity.
So how can you capitalise on this and improved those odds?
Try a few of these tried and tested strategies.
Women should keep active, but avoid overly strenuous workouts as they can inhibit ovulation. Exercising to exhaustion increases the risk of fertility problems by 230%. And watch your weight – having a BMI of 30 or more can double the time it takes to conceive.
For men, 30 minutes exercise three times a week boosts sperm counts, but training too hard can reduce them by lowering testosterone. Would-be dads should also steer clear of the sauna as heat hits sperm quality.
Work on it
Say no to night shifts if you can – they raise the risk of infertility as hormone production can be disrupted.
And avoid exposure to workplace toxins if you’re a hair stylist, nail technician, dental assistant, in a dry-cleaners or in agriculture. Wannabe dads should keep laptops off their laps and not carry mobiles in their trouser pockets.
Keep it clean
Don’t smoke, vape or patch as nicotine makes it harder for women to conceive and reduces sperm quality and quantity.
Ditch coffee for tea. It has half the caffeine and is rich in antioxidants. A Dutch study of 9,000 women found four or more cups of coffee a day cuts the chances of conceiving by a quarter.
And it’s not just mums-to-be who should cut out booze – regularly drinking as few as five units a week reduces sperm quality and counts. Watch the pills you pop as well. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or aspirin can make it difficult to conceive. Talk to your GP about alternatives.
Perfect your timing
Monitor your menstrual cycle, or use a free app to identify when you are most fertile. The Clue Period Tracker & Calendar, developed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, is one of the best.
Those with irregular cycles might want more accuracy. The myLotus Monitor (from £250, mylotus.com) allows you to measure fertility hormone levels at home so you can accurately predict the most fertile days.
Food for fertility
Broody men should skip soya milk and tofu as all soya products contain isoflavones which mimic the effect of female hormone oestrogen. Instead, tuck into oily fish. It’s rich in omega-3 which supports production of healthy sperm. And take a multivitamin to top up on zinc, selenium and vitamins C, B12 and E, all of which support sperm production.
Would-be mums should minimise sugary foods and simple carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta and rice. They cause spikes in insulin levels, and this appears to inhibit ovulation.
A recent survey showed two out of three couples have been told, “relax and stop worrying and you’ll get pregnant” which can be extremely frustrating advice for those on the receiving end.
Dr Hood says: “While that’s easier said than done, there is actually good evidence stress can undermine your chances of success because it affects both ovulation and sperm production.”
One study found high stress levels reduce fertility by 29%.
Make sure you take some time for yourself to do something you enjoy . Or consider signing up for yoga – if you find it hard to fit in a class, download an app like Movement for Modern Life, the “Netflix of yoga” (movementformodernlife.com) to use at home.
Sperm problems are a factor for up to half of couples seeking help with infertility, but a WHO-approved trial found The Stork Home Conception Kit more than tripled post-coital sperm levels.
At £100, the single use DIY device isn’t cheap – but it allows couples to carry out cervical cap insemination at home, a treatment which has a recorded success rate of around 20%.
This gadget bridges the gap between intercourse and in-clinic, assisted treatments, combining a condom-like sheath with a cervical cap to collect sperm. An applicator is used to place the sperm-filled cap over the cervix, where it can be left for up to six hours to optimise the chance of conceiving.
It sounds fiddly, but a study which was part of the US Food and Drug Administration approval process found it scored 100% for successful insertion.
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