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April 11, 2018

The road to pregnancy is not always smooth. Fertility Specialist Dr Mary Birdsall offers her top tips on getting pregnant if it's taking a little longer than expected 

New Zealand couples are having their children later in life, and today one in four couples will experience infertility. There are a variety of reasons for pregnancy not happening:

  • 30 per cent are attributed to female fertility
  • 30 per cent are attributed to male fertility
  • 20 per cent of cases indicate there is a problem with both partners
  • 20 per cent of cases are unexplained infertility

The sooner you start your journey towards having a family, the better your chances of success – and the less likely you are to need medical treatment to help you get there. Being healthy and fit does not always guarantee you will be fertility fit, either. The best place to find out your option is to have a fertility screening. A screening is ideal for couples, and single men and women, who are wondering about their fertility potential. When trying for a baby, there are also some lifestyle changes you can make to increase your chances of having a healthy baby. Here's our top tips:

For women  

  • Maintain a body mass index (BMI) of 20-25; a healthy BMI is associated with better fertility. Being overweight or underweight can reduce fertility, so it's important to keep your body weight within the normal healthy range for women. You can calculate your BMI by dividing your weight by your height. 
  • Pregnancy in overweight women is associated with problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure. 
  • Eat healthily and undertake moderate exercise regularly. 
  • Don't smoke or do drugs - smoking halves the chances of conceiving each month and can double the chances of miscarriage
  • Take folic acid - take folic acid supplements when trying to get pregnant and up to 12 weeks into the pregnancy. Folic acid can help reduce the chances of spina bifida in your baby by up to 92 per cent. Other minerals and supplements may also be useful. 
  • Use iodised salt, as iodine is necessary for foetal brain development.
  • Avoid products containing Vitamin A. 
  • Reduce alcohol and caffeine - caffeine may reduce your chances of conceiving.
  • There's no safe limit of alcohol during pregnancy, so it's best avoided. 
  • Medication - discuss all your medications with your doctor. 
  • Rubella - make sure you have had rubella immunisation. Rubella can damage unborn babies. 
  • Chicken pox - find out if you have had chicken pox. If not, consider immunisation. 
FACT: Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have. By the time of their first period, the number of eggs in their ovaries has already fallen from a few million to around 300,000; by a woman's mid-30s the number is down to 30,000, and by menopause it is less than 1000. 

For men

  • Don't smoke or do drugs - smoking and some recreational drugs can reduce sperm quality.œ 
  • Reduce alcohol - decrease your intake to 20 units or less a week. Alcohol has also been shown to affect fertility. 
  • Have a normal BMI - maintain a body mass index (BMI) below 28. You can calculate your BMI by dividing your weight by your height. 
  • Keep active and try to stay slim. Obese men have sperm counts that are on average 22 per cent lower when compared to their slimmer counterparts. 
  • Keep testes cool - wear boxer shorts, not briefs. This helps the testes to remain cool. 
  • Men in sedentary jobs can have poorer quality sperm because their testes are more prone to heating up when there is a lack of movement. 
  • Keep your laptop off your lap!
  • Don't have a hot bath, sauna or spa too frequently. 

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