The road to motherhood can be one of the most magical and stress-inducing times all at once. If you are thinking of becoming pregnant or have already started trying but haven’t been successful, there may be some hidden reasons why. As a family physician, I see thousands of women each year and many of my patients come to see me seeking fertility advice. Here are some of the most common, but frequently overlooked reasons you may have trouble with fertility:
- Your BMI is too low: Being underweight or having a low BMI (body mass index) can cause disruption in our hormones and puts women at risk of ovulatory dysfunction. When the body senses a low weight or lack of weight it causes hormones like estrogen to halt production and can interfere with normal ovulation, the process where an egg is released to be fertilized. If you’ve recently lost weight or are a long-time yo-yo dieter, you may be at risk of having a BMI that is too low. Consider using a food diary or app to track your food intake.
- You’re using the wrong lubricant: Believe it or not, the sperm and egg need to have exactly the right conditions for fertilization. This means the pH and movement or “motility” of sperm needs to be optimal for pregnancy to occur. Using a lubricant during intercourse can sometimes interfere with this. To improve your chances of becoming pregnant avoid lubricants that are scented or extremely thick. The lubricant should have the same pH as semen (7.2-8.0), providing a healthy environment for sperm to survive. Any lubricants with a burning or tingling sensation are likely interfering with the natural pH levels.
- You’re eating a lot of trans fats: Not all fat is created equal (don’t we know it!). While there is a large push to consume nutritionally healthy “Fats” in the diet, like avocado and walnuts, some fats can contribute to health problems and obesity. Trans fats are often found in processed foods like baked goods, chips, and fried foods. High consumption of these can contribute up to 73% increase in ovulatory dysfunction. If you find yourself craving a lot of these processed foods, consider adding more protein to your diet and hitting your sugar craving with 85% cacao chocolate or fruits and yogurt. This can hit the right sweet note without a lot of processed additives.
- You are Over Exercising: I love exercising and recommend it to my patients. But you can have too much of a good thing, especially when it comes to trying to get pregnant. Long, laborious exercise can increase stress on the body and affect the normal menstrual cycle. Many long distance runners, and individuals training for marathons and extreme sports note alterations in their menstrual cycle. If you are noticing changes in your period in terms of timing, length of spotting and bleeding, or skipped periods, you may be over exercising. Aim to get 20-30 minutes almost every day.
- You can’t calculate your fertile window correctly: Despite how “simple” it seems, pregnancy requires a few different factors to align. When trying to get pregnant, it is important to have sex at the right time, but if you aren’t sure about your cycles and fertile window, this can be tough. Remember, having sex BEFORE ovulation increases your chances of pregnancy. If you use the Flo Period Tracker app (iOS and Android) it can help accurately predict your fertile window, and gives you clues as to when to have sex and other parameters to measure such as body temperature. The app is also almost 54% more accurate compared to traditional models.