Why You're Not Getting Pregnant: 6 Lifestyle Reasons To Consider

Not getting pregnant? These lifestyle factors may help explain why.

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Many causes of infertility can't fully be controlled, like genetics, being older, and medical conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis.

But when you're having trouble getting pregnant, there may be major or minor lifestyle changes you can make—such as watching how you eat, not smoking, or monitoring how hard you exercise—to boost your chances of conceiving or at least prevent fertility issues from getting worse.

Possible Reasons Why You're Not Getting Pregnant

You Might Be Having Too Little Sex

You have to have sex—specifically around the time of ovulation, which is when a person releases an egg—to conceive. However, it's important to do it more throughout your cycle, not just when you're most likely to get pregnant.

Having sex signals your body that it should be ready for conception. Research has suggested that the immune system shifts from one focused on battling illness to one primed for reproduction.

Experiencing Stress Without Coping Skills Might Be a Reason

If you're stressed about trying to get pregnant, know that it's totally normal, said Diana Bitner, MD, an OB-GYN at Spectrum Health Medical Group in Grand Rapids, Mich.

So embrace that this is a stressful time and try to do the best you can. "Stress is a given. It's all about how you cope with it," added Dr. Bitner—and that goes for any stress you can and can't control across different areas of your life.

Several ways to manage stress include activities such as:

  • Engaging in positive self-talk
  • Reading a book
  • Working out
  • Going for a walk
  • Breaking problems down into smaller parts

There are a variety of stress-reducing options out there to use, so feel free to explore which ones might work for you.

Having a Weight That's Too High or Too Low

Your body weight can play a role in fertility as well. For example, people considered overweight or who have obesity may have a harder time trying to conceive. One review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that the risk of infertility increases by 27% for women with overweight and 78% for women with obesity.

Researchers used body mass index (BMI) as part of a study about opposite-sex couples, their body composition, and their paths to pregnancy. They found that it took up to 59% longer to get pregnant for couples where both partners were considered obese compared to those whose weights fell within healthy weight ranges.

About BMI

BMI is a calculation that uses your weight and your height. However, it is a metric that makes assumptions about body fat and, by extension, your health. This metric does not factor in your body composition, ethnicity, sex, race, and age. Despite its flaws, the medical community still uses BMI because it’s an inexpensive and quick way to understand health data.

Just as having a higher weight can cause issues with fertility, so can having a weight that is too low.

Having a very low weight can stop the body from making estrogen, causing irregular menstrual cycles for individuals assigned female at birth. This shift in menstrual cycles can result in a person not getting a period, which means they're not ovulating—an important part of being able to get pregnant.

One reason for male infertility may be due to low sperm count and volume. In terms of BMI, research has suggested that a low BMI is associated with low sperm count and volume.

Intense Exercise Routines Might Be Preventing Pregnancy

Exercise is good for you if you're trying to conceive or not. Still, you might want to watch the intensity of your workouts.

Rigorous exercises are intense ones where your heart rate is high, and you find it hard to breathe or talk. Types of high-intensity exercises include aerobic dancing, singles tennis, or swimming laps.

But authors of a 2018 review said that engaging in high-intensity exercise frequently and for long periods can negatively affect female fertility. Additionally, researchers of a 2021 study indicated that rigorous exercise could affect female fertility by impacting ovulation or implantation.

The 2021 study authors also mentioned that research regarding exercise's effects on male fertility was mixed. However, they also recommended that individuals diagnosed with infertility opt for moderate exercise. Some moderately intense activities to try could be:

  • Walking briskly
  • Biking at a casual pace
  • Raking or bagging leaves

Not Eating Well Might Lead to Not Getting Pregnant

Changing your diet choices may be able to help with infertility issues. Fertility and diet have been shown to be correlated. For example, the authors of a Frontiers in Public Health study said that saturated fats and sugar are worse for fertility.

The Frontiers in Public Health study authors further added that diets including the following foods may have a positive effect on fertility:

Additionally, those foods are associated with overall better fertility for women and improved semen quality for men.

Smoking Can Be a Culprit

If you're a smoker, that has an effect on fertility too. Smoking can affect fertility by:

  • Increasing the risk of infertility
  • Negatively impacting hormone production
  • Causing harm to the reproductive system as well as sperm DNA

So, deciding to quit smoking may help fertility if you're trying to conceive. You can start by making a plan to quit, which might include things like picking a quit day and letting others know that you're quitting.

Other Factors To Consider If You're Not Getting Pregnant

Working outside the normal 9-to-5 schedule has been shown to impact fertility as well. Researchers think that it has to do with circadian rhythm disruption.

If you're working a shift job or one that requires heavy labor, you'll want to prioritize sleep, good nutrition, and exercise, said Dr. Bitner.

"I work with many nurses who work night shifts and long hours, as well as female physicians," added Dr. Bitner. "It is possible to be rested and stay healthy, but it must be a priority."

A Quick Review

At times, being unable to conceive is out of a person's control. However, factors such as smoking, stress, and weight can be potential reasons for individuals not getting pregnant. With those factors, people can make changes to help reduce or prevent issues with trying to conceive.

But if you still have worries about infertility, talk to a healthcare provider. They'll be able to help you figure out the status of your fertility and let you know if there are things you can change to prepare for a future pregnancy.

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17 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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