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 struggling to get pregnant, there may be lifestyle changes—some major, some minor—you can make to boost your chances of conceiving or at least prevent your fertility issues from getting worse.

Having Too Little Sex

You have to have sex—specifically around the time of ovulation, which is when a person releases an egg—in order 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 sends a signal to your body that it should be ready for conception. The immune system then shifts from one focused on battling illness to one primed for reproduction, a December 2015 study published in Fertility and Sterility suggested.

Experiencing Stress Without Coping Skills in Place

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," Dr. Bitner added—and that goes for any stress you can and can't control across different areas of your life.

The American Heart Association offers several ways to manage stress, including activities such as engaging in positive self-talk, reading a book, or going for a walk. There are a variety of stress-reducing options out there to use, so feel free to explore which ones can work for you.

Having a BMI That's Too High (or Too Low)

The link between being overweight and problems getting pregnant has been long known, but research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) showed that a male's weight matters as much as a female's. The February 2017 study published in Human Reproduction found it may take up to 59% longer to get pregnant for couples where both partners have obesity compared to those within healthy weight ranges.

Additionally, just as excess body fat can impact fertility, so can not having enough of it. Having a BMI of 18.5 or less can lead to a halt in estrogen production, causing unpredictable menstrual cycles, according to the Office on Women's Health (OWH). This shift in menstrual cycles can also lead to you not getting a period, which means you're not ovulating—an important part of being able to get pregnant.

Exercising Strenuously

Exercise is no doubt good for you if you're trying to conceive or not. However, you might want to watch the intensity of the workouts you do.

The authors of a November 2018 Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology study wrote: "high intensity physical activity has a negative effect on human female fertility." Researchers have also indicated that rigorous exercising may have an impact on ovulation or implantation, as noted in a January 2021 article published in Reproduction and Fertility.

Thus, if you're having trouble getting pregnant, it may make sense to take exercises like HIIT down a notch and opt for low to moderate exercise routines.

Not Eating Well

Fertility and diet have been shown to be correlated. A July 2018 article published in Frontiers in Public Health stated: "While current evidence on the role of dairy, alcohol, and caffeine is inconsistent, saturated fats, and sugar have been associated with poorer fertility outcomes in women and men."

Therefore, you might want to opt for better diet choices. The researchers further noted that diets favoring unsaturated fats and foods like whole grains, produce, and fish can have a positive effect on fertility. Additionally, those foods are associated with overall better fertility for women and improved semen quality for men, according to an August 2017 American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology study.

Smoking

If you're a smoker, that has an effect on fertility too. As of November 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that, in terms of fertility, smoking can increase the risk of infertility, impact hormone production negatively, and cause harm to your reproductive system as well as sperm DNA. So, if you're trying to conceive, deciding to quit smoking can help.

Other Considerations

Working outside the normal 9-to-5 schedule has been shown to impact fertility as well: Researchers speculate that it has to do with circadian rhythm disruption. If you're working a shift job or one that requires heavy labor, now's the time to prioritize sleep, good nutrition, and exercise, Dr. Bitner said. "I work with many nurses who work night shifts and long hours, as well as female physicians," Dr. Bitner added. "It is possible to be rested and stay healthy, but it must be a priority."

If you still have worries about infertility, talk to your 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 or can't change to prepare for a future pregnancy.

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