As a fertility specialist, every day I'm asked, “What can I do to increase my chances of getting pregnant?”
And every day, I tell people how they can do it.
But before I tell you anything, there is one point I need to make. I’ll say it loud and clear, because it’s the bane of my existence… and of every other health care professional's too!
Are you ready for it?
Are you paying attention? Because it’s big…
Here it is…
Do not use Doctor Google!
Most of the information out there is provided by lay people, or ghost writers, who have no medical experience whatsoever.
The general public cannot access the peer reviewed medical journals that contain the proper information and research.
So if you want to actually get somewhere, please, please, stop using Google for every little piece of fertility advice.
Always see a properly trained fertility specialist, and save yourself from the heartache of bad information from the dreadful Doctor Google.
How To Increase Your Chances of Getting Pregnant
Below are some proven, effective tips to help improve your chances of getting pregnant.
Tip #1: Get A Referral To A Fertility Specialist
When you’re trying to conceive, see a fertility specialist for any issues you might have.
Don't just ‘wait and see' or stay with your usual family doctor or general practitioner (GP).
GPs haven’t had the necessary training to look after your fertility needs. This is not a put-down of GPs. It is simply a statement of fact.
GPs are trained to look after a broad spectrum of health issues. They only have basic training in fertility and reproduction.
The same goes for obstetricians. Obstetricians are specialists in obstetrics, not fertility (unless they have additional fertility qualifications).
You need to make sure you see the right professionals for your problems. A fertility specialist is the professional with the right training.
First you must obtain a referral from a GP, then you can book in to see a more specialised professional.
Tip #2: Don’t Sabotage Your Chances Of Pregnancy
Unfortunately, many people sabotage their chances of falling pregnant by not listening to professional advice – sometimes unknowingly. I don't mean to sound harsh, but it's true.
Many people get caught up in the blame game rather than find a way to fix the problem.
If something isn’t working, it means that something needs to change.
It could be as simple as eating properly (especially cutting sugar and grains from your diet), reducing your stress, or getting a second opinion at a preferred IVF clinic.
It's not just about taking a pill or a vitamin. I wish it were that easy!
Some couples do everything right; they’re not at fault. It’s the whole process and the lack of science, especially when it comes to IVF. Sometimes it's just a matter of waiting for the right egg, the right sperm and the right embryo. Unfortunately not every cycle produces that.
That’s why, where IVF is concerned, it’s all about statistics. The more you do it, the better your chances of that perfect cycle coming along.
That is, however, provided you and your partner’s fertility situation has been thoroughly investigated. Some IVF clinics rush cycles without doing thorough investigations first. That leaves couples wondering why they’ve not been successful.
What it all boils down to is this: we need to look at expectation versus reality. Sometimes, for some people, that’s pretty hard to face.
Tip #3: Take Responsibility For Your Diet And Health
The couples who have the most success are those who do everything I tell them to do – and do it properly.
It’s really hard sometimes. It's human nature to want to blame someone, or something, when things aren't working. But people have to accept responsibility for their own health.
If you choose not to reduce your stress load, or eat properly, that is a choice you have to live with.
You’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat”. With tongue in cheek, I could say many of us are just a walking barrel of chocolate flavoured, sugar filled, caffeine laced, highly processed foodstuffs, washed down with a few ales or wines!
So many people just don’t eat properly at all, and continue in their bad habits. Many people don’t even understand what a healthy diet looks like. To make it worse, there is so much conflicting information.
But we know, based on science, that a good diet alone can exponentially increase your fertility, and can even increase the quality of your embryos.
I put everyone that does our program on a particular diet. Recent research published in the Fertility and Sterility journal shows that you can increase pregnancy rates and embryo quality by following this diet.
Blastocyst development was higher in the high-protein group than in the low-protein group (64% vs 33.8%; P < .002), as were clinical pregnancy rates (66.6% vs 31.9%; P < .0005) and live birth rates (58.3% vs 11.3%; P < .0005).
Tip #4: Get Proper Investigations
Before you start the process of trying to have a baby, you need to make sure you have been investigated properly.
I see many couples who have trouble getting pregnant – either naturally or through assisted reproduction. Nearly all of them have not had complete and proper testing done.
In most cases, I can honestly say that I always find at least five crucial investigations that have been left out. Couples often tell me they’ve had everything done, but they really haven't. Quite the opposite.
Most couples don’t realise, for example, that blood tests and scans do not pick up everything.
Nine times out of ten, bloods come back showing nothing. Scans can only pick up minimal pathology. It doesn't mean you shouldn't do them. If they come back clear, don't focus on them. But at the same time, don't assume that they have covered everything either.
Conditions such as endometriosis cannot be picked up on ultrasound.
Many women who have endometriosis don't know they have it. A significant percentage of women with endometriosis are asymptomatic.
The only way to assess this is via a laparoscopy. This is the only way to assess a woman’s reproductive organs properly.
Usually it is done in conjunction with a hysteroscopy, and dye studies to assess the fallopian tubes. Just as car needs to have a mechanic look under the bonnet to assess and fix it properly, so too do women need to have their reproductive organs looked at and evaluated properly, by a specialist.
Scans and bloods can only tell you so much about what's going on. Yet so many people focus on them as though they are the be all and end all, when in fact they aren’t.
If you have known, or suspected, gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis, PCOS, fibroids, scar tissue etc, or if you have period pain, then you should have a laparoscopy before you go any further on your journey.
If you’re about to start IVF, you need to have a laparoscopy. Even if you are trying to conceive naturally and haven’t been having any luck, you need to have one done.
Unless you have X-ray vision and can see inside your organs, don’t presume there is nothing wrong with your tubes, or your uterus!
Tip #5: Never Presume Anything
Just because you've already had a baby, or your partner has had a baby in a previous relationship, it doesn't mean nothing is wrong.
It’s quite common for things to be missed the first time around.
Or some people are lucky enough to conceive the first time, and they presume because they have conceived before, nothing is wrong.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
Often I send people to get proper investigations, only to find out their tubes are blocked, or their sperm is not 100%, or they have hereditary genetic issues – and all the while they had thought everything was okay.
Tip #6: Get a Second Opinion (Or A Tenth If Necessary) And See The Right Professionals
One of the things I ask couples is, “Would you let your mechanic keep servicing your car, and charging you for it each time, without ever having looked under the bonnet?”
Or, “Would you keep taking your car to the same mechanic each time, just because he is a nice guy, even though he never actually fixes it?”
So many couples I see aren’t properly referred by their GP. Or they get stuck with a specialist just because they can’t be bothered changing providers, or don’t want to retell their story.
This is simply crazy (and possibly dangerous), especially if you aren't getting anywhere with your current health care provider.
If we were renovating a house, most of us would get at least three quotes. But when it comes to our health and, more importantly, our fertility, many of us are content to get just one quote. When we do that, we are valuing material possessions more highly than our health.
There are four important things to check above everything else when it comes to fertility. I call them The Four Rules. At the end of the day, nothing else matters until all four are checked:
Tip #7: Period Pain Is Not Normal – If You Have Pain, Get It Investigated
The next thing to point out is that period pain is not normal.
Slight dull pressure can be normal, but period pain that requires pain medications, heat packs, or days off work is not normal.
Clotting, pain, dark blood, sharp pains, dull pain and debilitating pain are not normal.
If you experience any of this, then you need to be checked out by a specialist like me.
Period pain is a whole new subject of its own.
Tip #8: Understand The Realities Of Natural Conception And IVF
Not every cycle will end up as a pregnancy.
In each cycle, there are so many possible reasons why you aren’t conceiving. Not enough sex, not having sex at the right time, faulty sperm, faulty eggs, and a whole range of things that haven’t even been thought of.
For those doing IVF, not every embryo will become a baby.
Yes, the scientists can say they look okay, and yes, they can grade them. But nobody (and I mean nobody), can tell you which embryo is going to be the one that becomes a baby. We just don't have that technology yet.
The body will naturally select the perfect egg and the right sperm; but with IVF, that just isn’t possible.
The whole process is hugely dependent on luck. That’s why the more often people do IVF, the greater are their chances of it working. It’s all about the odds.
The reality is that IVF has only about a 25%-30% success rate, and that’s largely based on age and other factors.
The national statistics on IVF in Australia show us that the average number of cycles needed before a pregnancy is achieved is 6-9 cycles.
People need to know this, and to understand that one single cycle of IVF is not likely to produce a pregnancy.
Tip #9: It Takes A Sperm And An Egg To Make A Baby. Not Just An Egg!
Biology 101 tells us it takes a sperm and an egg to make a child.
Yet so many guys try to convince themselves they are not part of the process.
Many men fool themselves into believing there is nothing wrong with them. So they try to shift the blame onto the woman. The fertility industry also focuses on females and, by their very nature, women often tend to blame themselves.
We also see a woman protecting a man, for fear he just won’t do anything to help her have a baby. In these cases you really have to ask the hard questions.
If a man isn’t on board now, is he really going to be on board when you actually have a baby?
What situation could you be setting yourself and your child up for?
As part of the process, males need to be checked just as much as females. His semen needs to be evaluated properly. You also need to know that semen that is ‘okay' for IVF and assisted reproduction purposes is not necessarily okay for natural conception.
Quantitatively normal semen does not mean the semen is of good quality. It might have genetic defects that are not seen in a normal semen analysis, and will require special testing.
Within the World Health Organization parameters, a man might have 4% normal forms and 50% motility. This could be deemed quantitatively normal semen.
What it actually means is he has 96% abnormal sperm and that 50% of his sperm is immotile.
A man with 96% abnormalities would need to have ICSI (sperm injected into an egg) if he presented to an IVF clinic.
So, in basic terms, the sperm are in wheelchairs and will need help to get in! This is not normal at all.
I often hear men telling me their sperm is great, only to find it's far from being great. Then there are the guys who tell me their sperm is fantastic, but they are doing ICSI.
If your sperm need to be injected into an egg because it can’t fertilise an egg on its own – even at close distance, in a dish, as with IVF – then it’s not fantastic.
Even those trying on their own, or those in same-sex couples, still need optimum sperm and egg quality. For these purposes, I am talking more about heterosexual couples. But even same-sex couples might need to change donors if nothing is working.
Sperm needs to be checked, no matter what the situation.
Some donor sperm from Europe or other areas can be suboptimal due to poor testing, so these things need to be considered too.
Do not ‘store up' sperm.
I often find people who are given the erroneous advice to store sperm. Storing sperm, or having long intervals without ejaculation does not make sperm better. It actually makes it worse. A man needs to ejaculate regularly to have good quality sperm. That is a fact. No ifs, no buts. Fact!
#10: You Can Ovulate At Any Time – Not Just Between Days 10 and 16
Women do not ovulate at the same time in the cycle; ovulation does not occur only between day 10 and day 16.
We now know there is only a 10% probability of conceiving in the supposed fertility window (days 10-16), which is when most people believe they ovulate.
We know that 70% of women are in the fertility period before day 10 and after day 17 of their cycle.
There is also a 1-6% probability of being fertile during your menstrual flow.
This is a medical fact published in the Fertility and Sterility journal, and in the British Medical Journal, as far back as 2010.
Finally, if an egg hasn’t been fertilised, it dies after 24 hours. This is why it’s so important to have regular, daily sex – from the end of your menstrual flow, until you are due again.
You Have Choices – Make Them Good Ones
The point I am trying to make is that the choices you have made have led you to where you are now. You need to make changes in order to move forward. We just want you to succeed and have a baby.
The best analogy I have is this question: “If I said, ‘Here you are’ and gave you your baby right now, what would you have to do, or change, in your life to look after that baby?”
Think about that question and write down all the things you would have to do, or change.
Basically, that is what you must do to get your baby. Not easy I know, but in some way, shape or form, that’s exactly how it is. Bit scary and confronting, isn’t it?