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4 Simple Ways to Boost Your Fertility

There are so many claims out there about how to increase your fertility. Women tend to tout whatever it was they personally did before right before they got pregnant as "the thing" to do. But science has a lot to say on the subject. Whether you're trying to conceive naturally or with the help of artificial reproductive technology, here are some areas that experts like to focus on.

Weight

Most studies agree that obesity has a negative effect on fertility—in women and men. "Obese men [are] at greater risk of suffering from impaired spermatogenesis, reduced circulating testosterone levels, erectile dysfunction and poor libido," a 2014 study found. In IVF, obese women need higher doses of meds. But being underweight is no picnic either. In developing countries, underweight women had more pre-term births. With IVF, underweight women's embryos developed at a slower rate. So what's a person to do? Lose weight if you're overweight—especially if you're obese, which, if you do get pregnant, can influence your baby's health in utero. If you're underweight, it's more ice cream for you!

RELATED: Top Foods For Increasing Fertility

Diet

Speaking of ice cream, what does the perfect fertility diet look like?

Should you go low-carb or gluten-free? Vegetarian or Paleo? When it comes to diet, there are no clear-cut answers in general, and even more so for fertility. Everyone touts superfoods, like eating more greens (duh) and a variety of fruit and vegetables (double duh), while recommending cutting down sugar (see above), refined carbohydrates, alcohol and caffeine. But after that, the jury is out. Some advocate cutting down on soy, as it may decrease fertility (goodbye, edamame).

Not all the news is bad, though. Some believe you should switch from skim to whole milk because removing fat from milk hinders ovulation. There are plenty of other fertility-friendly foods, but another fun one—although not as fun as ice cream—is pineapple. "Pineapple juice's high manganese content means it is a good choice for boosting fertility through sperm quality," according to the 2012 study, "A Survey on Pineapple and Its Medicinal Effects." The sweet and juicy fruit contains bromelain, whose anti-inflammatory effects, in addition to helping with rheumatoid arthritis, may help aid implantation. Which is why women undergoing IVF eat a piece of the core (where the chemical is the most concentrated) for five days following an embryo transfer.

Exercise

Unless you're an obsessive exercise freak (crossfit, anyone?) who spends more time at the gym than at work, working out is generally good for fertility. A new study on mice in the journal Nature shows that exercise alone can prevent congenital heart defects in babies born to older (mice) moms.

Of course, what kind of exercise you should do is up for debate. Before ovulation or IVF, usually anything goes. After, most medical practitioners say it's OK to continue whatever exercise you are already doing. However, during a two-week wait, it may be best to avoid high-impact workouts, such as running and jumping. So it sounds like you don't get a get-out-of-the gym free card during this time, since the most important thing during the hellish wait is to keep yourself sane.

RELATED: Why I Wish I'd Know About Fertility Before Trying to Conceive

Mindset

Speaking of sanity, how important is mindset to the whole fertility endeavor? Women talk about "baby dust"—that magical good-luck vibe spread to all who are trying to get pregnant—which science, of course, has not much to say on the subject.

Infertility causes stress, for sure, but stress couldn't cause infertility because then no one trying to conceive would ever get pregnant. "Attempts by health care providers to increase patients' sense of control, optimism (within realistic limits) and social support should reduce stress," a 2012 study in the Fertility and Sterility journal found.

Reducing stress and increasing optimism never hurt anyone. And while positive thinking may not affect any particular effort during any particular month or cycle, you'll need a lot of good cheer to continue to soldier on until you achieve your goal—a baby!

Image via Twenty20/michelle_evelene

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