There are many things that both men and women can do to boost their fertility ranging from medical procedures to lifestyle changes.
For men and women, there are a variety of different treatments available, including medications, surgery, and assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).
In this article, we will detail some of the best tips to help increase you and your partner’s chances of getting pregnant while also explaining the different treatment options available to you to help boost your fertility.
What does fertility mean for both men and women?
For women, fertility is the ability to get pregnant and carry a baby to term.
For men, fertility is the ability to father a child. Female infertility can be caused by several factors while male infertility is typically caused by poor sperm quality.
If you are having fertility issues you and your partner need to see your doctor for an infertility evaluation after having frequent unprotected sex for a year if you are under the age of 35.
If you are over 35, you and your partner need to see your doctor if you have had frequent unprotected sex for 6 months and have still not conceived and if you are over 40 you may need to talk to your doctor before you even try to conceive.
Certain medical procedures can help treat infertility as can some lifestyle changes that you can implement yourself that we will discuss in detail below.
What causes female infertility?
Female infertility can be caused by a myriad of things including hormonal imbalances, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), uterine fibroids, and more.
It is important to speak with your doctor to determine the underlying cause. The most common causes of female infertility include:
There are a number of different ovarian disorders that can inhibit your ability to conceive and these include:
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a common condition that is linked with acne, obesity, and insulin resistance that causes a change in your hormone levels which affects ovulation and your menstrual cycle.
Your pituitary gland is responsible for producing the appropriate amounts of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) which regulate your ovulation.
If you are severely over or underweight, have had a large swing in your weight, or are under stress then you may not produce these hormones in the appropriate amounts which can affect your ovulation by causing irregular periods or for your period to be absent.
Primary ovarian insufficiency
Primary ovarian insufficiency is caused by an autoimmune response or due to the loss of your eggs from genetic factors or treatments like chemotherapy.
The condition affects women under 40 and is also called premature ovarian failure.
Excess prolactin production
Prolactin is a hormone that helps with milk production for nursing mothers, but if you are not pregnant or breastfeeding and have high levels of prolactin it can cause you to be infertile.
Excess hormone production usually occurs as a side effect of a medication or another health condition.
There are also uterine disorders that can cause fertility issues and these include:
Uterine fibroids and myomas
Uterine fibroids, also called uterine polyps, are benign growths in the uterus that can cause heavy bleeding, pain during sex, and pelvic pain.
They do not typically affect fertility unless they are blocking the fallopian tubes or distorting the uterine cavity. Uterine myomas are similar to fibroids but they are benign tumors.
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Endometriosis is a condition where tissue from the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus which can cause pain, irregular bleeding, and fertility issues.
Your cervix is the area at the end of your vagina that leads to your uterus. Cervical disorders can cause fertility issues and these include:
Cervical stenosis is a condition where the cervix is abnormally small or has abnormal tissue growth that blocks the opening to the uterus which can make it difficult for sperm to travel through to fertilize an egg.
Cervical mucus production
Your cervical mucus is supposed to help to protect sperm although if you do not produce the best mucus it may hinder the sperm from reaching the egg.
If your doctor is uncertain about the cause of your infertility they may say you have “unexplained infertility.” Please consult with your doctor or fertility expert if you are having trouble conceiving.
What causes male infertility?
Male infertility is often caused by low sperm count, poor sperm quality, or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm.
Low sperm count is the most common cause of male infertility while sperm motility (your sperm’s ability to move), and shape (sperm morphology) also play a role.
Azoospermia is a condition where there is no sperm in your ejaculate leading to infertility and it is usually caused by hormonal problems, blockages, or genetic factors.
Other reasons you may have male infertility is your pituitary gland and hypothalamus may not be sending the signals to your testicles to make sperm and produce the hormone testosterone or you may have a testicular disease.
Sperm transport disorders also exist when you have had surgery or a congenital disorder causing blockages. Age can also be a factor because when you are over 50 years old your body tends to decrease sperm production.
What are the best treatment options to increase female fertility?
If you are infertile, there are several ways your doctor may suggest to boost your fertility.
Your treatment options can range from something as simple as taking medication to surgery.
Treatment for fertility issues is often expensive and not always covered by insurance.
Your doctor may prescribe medication to help with ovulation or to thicken your cervical mucus.
The most common medications prescribed for female infertility include:
- Clomiphene citrate (Clomid) is a common oral fertility drug used to induce ovulation by helping your body to produce the luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone
- Gonadotropins are injectable fertility medications that include follicle-stimulating hormone, human menopausal gonadotropin (hMG), and human chorionic gonadotropin to help release multiple eggs and to help your eggs mature although there is a risk of conceiving multiples (twins, triplets, etc.) when you take them
- Metformin is a diabetes medication that can improve insulin resistance and can help you if you have polycystic ovary syndrome to ovulate
- Letrozole (Femara) is an aromatase inhibitor that is used to help women with ovulation in a way similar to clomiphene citrate and is typically used if you are under 40 and have polycystic ovary syndrome
- Bromocriptine (Parlodel) is a dopamine agonist that can be used to lower prolactin levels if they are too high as this hormone can interfere with ovulation
Please note that taking drugs to induce ovulation may lead to the birth of multiples and ovarian tumors with long-term use.
Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) is also possible which usually results in abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and diarrhea although these symptoms are usually mild and it is rare that you will need to seek medical treatment.
If you have blockages in your fallopian tubes or uterus from fibroids, adhesions, or polyps your doctor may suggest surgery to repair them.
Laparoscopy which is a minimally invasive surgery may be used to remove endometriosis or uterine fibroids.
Hysteroscopic surgery can be used to remove fibroids or polyps from inside the uterus. Tubal surgeries may also be utilized to repair or reverse a blocked fallopian tube but they are rare.
Assisted reproductive technology (ART)
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most common ART procedure and it involves retrieving eggs from your ovaries, fertilizing them with sperm in a lab, and then implanting the embryo in your uterus.
The IVF process usually takes place over the course of several weeks and is normally done at a fertility clinic.
If you have had blocked fallopian tubes or endometriosis, your doctor may suggest intrauterine insemination (IUI) which is when sperm is placed directly into your uterus around the time of ovulation which increases the chances of pregnancy.
Fertility treatments are not always successful and they can be very expensive so you may want to speak with a fertility specialist to see what treatment options are best for you.
What are the best treatment options to increase fertility for men?
There are several treatment options available for men who are struggling with fertility issues.
The treatment options can vary and each comes with its own set of risks and benefits.
The most common treatment options for male infertility include:
If you have a varicocele, which are veins blocking your spermatic cord, your doctor may recommend surgical treatment to remove the dilated veins in your scrotum.
Vasectomies can also be reversed if you have had one in the past. Your doctor may also use surgery to retrieve viable sperm samples if you have no sperm in your ejaculate.
Treatment for sexual problems
Premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction (ED) can both be treatable with medication, behavioral therapy, or a combination of the two.
If you have these two conditions you may also have a reduced sex drive which can impede your ability to have children too.
Hormone therapy and medications
Your doctor may prescribe testosterone replacement therapy or different medications if your body is not producing enough of certain hormones which are necessary for sperm production.
Assisted reproductive technology (ART)
To perform ART your doctor will need a sperm sample that can be obtained through ejaculation, surgical removal, or through a sperm donor.
Your doctor will then either inject the healthy sperm into your partner’s uterus during ovulation or use a process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) which is when a single sperm is injected into each egg. The eggs are then placed back into your partner’s uterus. Your sperm can also be used for IVF too.
Are there any other tips to help prevent infertility?
There are several things that you can do to help reduce your risk of infertility and they differ slightly if you are a man or a woman.
We will discuss in depth the best options for men and women below and have a final category of tips that apply to both.
The only specific tip for you if you are a man is to watch your scrotal temperature because when it is too high it can kill sperm cells.
Wearing loose-fitting underwear, avoiding sitting down for long periods, not resting warm objects (such as a laptop) on top of your genitals, and avoiding hot tubs and saunas can all help lower the temperature of your scrotum and testicles and possibly help with fertility although more research is needed.
The most relevant tip to help increase fertility if you are a woman is to be cognizant of your age as it is the greatest predictor of fertility.
You are born with all the eggs you will ever have and as you age, your eggs age too which decreases their quality and quantity.
If you are over the age of 35, you may want to seek fertility help sooner than later as your chance of conceiving naturally starts to decline rapidly after this point.
There are certain lifestyle changes that can help you keep a healthy body which can prove beneficial when you are trying to conceive.
The most helpful tips for both men and women trying to conceive include:
Maintain a healthy weight
A healthy, balanced diet and exercise are also important for maintaining your overall physical health and not just your reproductive health by keeping your body mass index (BMI) in the proper range.
Smoking tobacco not only decreases your chances of conceiving but also increases the risk of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, and can lower sperm counts or quality of sperm.
Limit your alcohol intake
Drinking alcohol in moderation has not been found to have a negative impact on fertility but heavy drinking can lead to infertility in both men and women.
Drinking alcohol while pregnant will also negatively affect your fetus.
Stress can negatively affect fertility so finding ways to manage your stress levels such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, or talking to a therapist can be beneficial and boost your fertility health.
Prevent and treat sexually transmitted diseases
Sexually transmitted diseases, also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), can not only lead to infertility but can be passed on to your partner.
If you or your partner have any STIs, they will need to be treated before you can conceive.
Avoid lubricants during sex
Lubricants can actually impede fertility as they can kill sperm cells. If you need a lubricant during sex, consider using one that is specifically designed for fertility such as Pre-Seed.
Astroglide, K-Y Jelly, olive oil, and saliva can all inhibit your chances of conceiving.
Have sex frequently and time it right
Having sex every two to three days throughout the month will help increase your chances of conceiving as you are more likely to have sperm present when your partner ovulates.
You can use an ovulation predictor kit or track changes in your cervical mucus to help predict when you are ovulating and when is the most fertile window.
Make sure to have sex for several days before the peak fertility window during ovulation as sperm can live for several days after ejaculation inside your reproductive system.
You need to also avoid exposure to toxins such as pesticides, heavy metals, and herbicides as they can all reduce fertility.
Talk to your doctor about your medications
Certain medications can actually reduce fertility so it is important to talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs, herbal supplements, and birth control pills.
If one of them is the source of your infertility you need to consult with your doctor to see if there is a replacement for it.
If you are having trouble getting pregnant, there are many options available to help increase your chances of conception.
Talk to your doctor to come up with a fertility plan that is right for you. Age for women is the greatest predictor of fertility so if you are over the age of 35 and are a woman, do not wait too long to seek help. There are many lifestyle changes you can make that can improve your fertility and help live a healthier life all around.
Making these changes can not only improve you and your partner’s chance of conceiving but can also help you have a healthy pregnancy and baby.
If you have any more questions regarding fertility or your reproductive health, please talk to your doctor, health care provider, or fertility specialist.
References and sources:
- Female infertility – Diagnosis
- Female infertility – Overview
- Getting Pregnant
- Male infertility – Diagnosis
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