PRECONCPETION

How to Get Pregnant Faster

by: Alejandra Carrasco, M.D. and Christine Maren, D.O.

by: Alejandra Carrasco, M.D. and Christine Maren, D.O.

Physician founders of Hey mami!

Not getting pregnant as quickly as you would like? Worried about the possibility of infertility? Or that you may have missed the age-window?

If so, you’re not alone…not by a long shot!

We know this from working with women in our practices, and from our own experience as mothers of 3.

Sometimes you’re lucky enough and hit a home-run right out of the gate, and other times you may be left wondering if you’ll ever get pregnant. 

However, for most couples under the age of 44, the odds of achieving pregnancy naturally are very much on your side.

That’s right, despite all the buzz about infertility, your chances of being diagnosed “infertile” are actually quite low

So what the heck is the hold up then? 

Before we look at what could be causing this delay (and what you can do to speed things up), let’s consider the facts:

  • Infertility affects about 12% of women1—so like we said, while fertility concerns do affect a growing number of women, the odds of achieving natural conception are still on your side. 

  • It can take up to 6 months for a healthy couple to get pregnant…sometimes more—notice we said couple, which means your man’s (or doner’s) health, also has a huge stake in this…more on this to come. 
  • The younger you are, the quicker you’re likely to get pregnant—this is simple biology, the younger your eggs the healthier they’re likely to be. However, if you’re over 30 or even 40 know there are exceptions to this rule. For example, both of us got pregnant with our third child in our late 30s (almost instantly in one case, and by surprise in the other case!). So, there’s so much more to consider than just age.

Based on these facts, the odds of getting pregnant naturally are in your favor. 

That said, not everyone wants to wait around for 6 months (or more) to get pregnant…especially if you’re getting started later in life.

Thus, here are some simple and natural things you can do to speed things up.

How to optimize your fertility and get pregnant faster

#1 Eat these fertility-friendly foods…in quantity

Eat…in quantity…before getting pregnant? Um, yes please.

Of course, the key is to eat nutrient-rich foods that will accomplish three main objectives:

  1. Provide your body with key fertility-enhancing nutrients, such as B vitamins, folate, choline, antioxidants, zinc, iron, omega 3s.
  2. Keep your detoxification pathways running smoothly.
  3. Support hormonal balance.

What are these nutrient-dense foods we want you and your partner to chow down on? 

Foods rich in Vitamin B12

B12 deficiency is actually quite common due to chronic digestive issues as well as methylation problems stemming from genetic mutations, like MTHFR. This matters because B12 deficiency has been linked to infertility and ovulation problems, development of your eggs, and implantation issues. 2,3

The best sources of B12 include: animal proteins, including meats (organic and/or grass-fed are best), low-mercury, wild-caught fish, eggs (preferably from pasture-raised hens), and liver.

Foods rich in folate

Folate deficiencies are common for the same reason as B12: methylation problems. And while we typically hear about folate deficiency in relation to birth defects, it also has an impact on fertility.4 All the more reason to increase consumption of this essential nutrient.

Folate-friendly foods include: dark leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, lentils, pinto, garbanzo, navy, black and kidney beans.

Foods rich in choline

This under-recognized nutrient works in concert with folate to support methylation.5 It’s critical for reproductive health and super important for general mental health, cognitive function, sleep, and liver health. Unfortunately, most Americans are deficient and don’t even know it.6

The best sources of choline include: pastured egg yolks and organ meats.

Foods rich in antioxidant vitamins C and E

These vitamins have long been recognized as essential for reproductive health due to their antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help improve fertility by reducing oxidative stress which can negatively impact fertilization, implantation, and even retard embryonic growth.7

Your best sources of antioxidant vitamin C include: mangoes, strawberries, oranges, broccoli, leafy greens, tomatoes, potatoes, winter squash, and bell peppers.

The best sources of vitamin E include: avocado (whole and avocado oil), mangoes, bell peppers, pumpkin, spinach, chard, beet greens, sunflower seeds, and almonds.

Foods rich in zinc

Most of us don’t think much about zinc, but it is one of THE most important minerals when it comes to reproductive health and boosting immunity in men and women.8 And, when your immunity is strong it sends a message to your reproductive system that it’s safe to get pregnant.

Foods high in zinc include: pumpkin seeds, oysters, red meat, shellfish, legumes, and dark meat chicken.  *Note: if you have trouble getting enough zinc in your diet, we recommend supplementing with zinc picolinate or glycinate for maximum absorption. Check with your practitioner on the right amount for you.

Foods rich in Iron

Since iron participates in a slew of bodily functions—from oxygen transport to making DNA,9 even a mild deficiency can cause a cascade of health issues. With respect to fertility, one study found that women who consumed iron supplements had a lower risk of ovulatory infertility compared to women who did not use iron supplements.10

Iron-rich foods include: animal sources like beef, turkey, chicken, and oysters; and some plant sources like beans, lentils, cashews, and dark leafy greens.11

Foods rich in Omega 3s

Omega 3 fatty acids include EPA and DHA, found in seafood. A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that couples in which both partners consumed two or more seafood servings per week, had sex more often and got pregnant quicker that those who did not.12

The best sources of seafood high in omega-3 fats include: wild salmon, sardines, and other cold water, low-mercury fish.

So what does all this look like in a day?

Focus your eating efforts on healthy proteins at meals—like meats, legumes, beans, eggs, and seafood—indulge in loads of vegetables and enjoy fresh fruits (think along the lines of 7-9 servings of veggies and 2-3 servings a day of fruit), snack on nuts and seeds, use avocado and olive oil liberally, and resist the temptation to fill up on nutrient-devoid foods like processed foods.

We’ve made it simple for you—download our free nutrition tips!

#2: Take a high quality prenatal vitamin

Pre-pregnancy supplementation has been shown to support fertility, including a shorter time to pregnancy.13

Chances are, if you’re trying to get pregnant, you’re also taking a prenatal vitamin. But is it the right one?

Be sure that your prenatal is high-quality pharmaceutical grade supplement. Generally it’s not something you can find at your grocery or drug store, and often you’ll need a practitioner to order. The FDA does not regulate the supplement industry, so it’s up to you to make sure your product is safe and effective.

Some important things to look for:

  1. Bioactive, methylated folate (sometimes called methylfolate, or 5-MTHF), NOT folic acid.
  2. Activated B vitamins like pyridoxal 5’-phosphate (B6) and methylcobalamin (B12) NOT cyanocobalamin.
  3. Choline, which is left out of many prenatals. (In fact, choline is so important that the American Medical Association recently voted to increase choline in all prenatal vitamins.14
  4. Bioavailable, yet gentle iron and other minerals, like ferrochel iron.the omega-3 fatty acid DHA.

This is one of our favorite prenatal vitamins that we pair with a good quality high DHA fish oil.

#3: Have loads of sex often…not just during ovulation

It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. And, science says for best pregnancy results: do it a lot, mami!

Yep. New research has shown that having sex anytime NOT just during ovulation, causes changes in a women’s immune system that increase your chances of getting pregnant.15,16

This is awesome for a few reasons:

  •  You have an excuse to have more sex…so there’s THAT (wink!).
  • Sex reduces stress, which also helps boost fertility. 17
  • Knowing this should take some pressure off you and your partner to try and get the timing just-right each month. 

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#4: Supplement with Vitamin D

Study after study has shown the direct link between vitamin D levels and fertility in men and women.18

Thus, we recommend getting your Vitamin D levels checked so your doctor can recommend the ideal dose for you.

In our clinical practices we find that most people can safely start with 5000 IUs of Vitamin D3.

We also recommend getting a good dose of natural sunlight every day. This is a natural way to boost your vitamin D levels while helping reduce stress and ensure a good night’s sleep (because you’ll need it after all that extra sex you’ll be having, right?).

#5: Take a CoQ10 supplement

Another little-known fertility super-nutrient is CoQ10, which has been shown to improve egg and embryo quality in women with low ovarian reserves 19 support healthy ovulation, and decrease the risk of fetal chromosomal abnormalities in women over 35.20

In our clinical practices, we often recommend 600 mg daily. But ask your clinician first.  

#6: Drop everything and de-stress

New research (plus a ridiculous amount of anecdotal evidence), has shown that stress can really slow down your conception efforts. 21,22

And it makes perfect sense, because why would your body prepare for pregnancy if your nervous system is in fight-or-flight mode?

Think about it: how many times have you heard from friends or colleagues that after months, or even years of trying they went on vacation and got pregnant?

This is also a time when we recommend adrenal support with adaptogenic herbs like Ashwagandha.

#7: Get your thyroid checked

The all important thyroid gland is critical for fertility (and a whole lot of other things) in both men and women.23

Yet, many of us are walking around with sub-optimal thyroid function and don’t even know it!

Since so many cases go undiagnosed (and we like data!), checking a full thyroid panel is highly recommended.

Fertility specialists typically have tighter guidelines for optimal TSH which is <2.5 (the lab range typically goes up to 4.5).24

We also like to measure free T4, free T3, reverse T3, as well as the markers for Hashimoto’s called Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO) and Thyroglobulin (TG) antibodies.

Here are some rough ranges that we aim for in our clinical practices (keep in mind, if you’re on thyroid medications, the timing of your lab draw is important!)

  • TSH 1-2 mIU/L
  • free T4 1.1-1.4 ng/dL
  • free T3 3.2-3.8 pg/mL
  • reverse T3 <12 ng/dL
  • Negative TG and TPO antibodies 

To recap: here’s what to do if you’re not getting pregnant as quickly as you’d like:

References:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/infertility.htm
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11304860
  3. https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1471-0528.1982.tb04726.x
  4. https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1471-0528.1982.tb04726.x
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2628952/
  6. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2015.1080127?journalCode=uacn20
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5836012/#B71-antioxidants-07-00022
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17099205
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3999603/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17077236
  11. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/
  12. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/103/7/2680/5001729
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31040736
  14. https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/ama-backs-global-health-experts-calling-infertility-disease
  15. https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(15)01885-3/fulltext
  16. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031938415301153?via%3Dihub
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5052677/
  18. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/99/11/E2372/2836266
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29587861
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24987272
  21. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-indicates-stress-may-delay-women-getting-pregnant
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20688324
  23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136077/
  24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136077/

Our Bio

We are doctors Alejandra Carrasco M.D. and Christine Maren D.O. We’re board-certified through the American Board of Family Medicine, and certified in functional medicine through the Institute for Functional Medicine. We’re on a mission to support women as they navigate mamihood—from preconception through pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond. As mamis of 3 (each!), we got you.

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Hey Mami was founded by physicians with a vision for a better mamihood
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