Whether you’re planning for your first child or hoping to add to your growing family, there are a number of things you can do to improve your chances of conceiving easily and naturally.

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Proven Fertility Strategy #3: Maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Your menstrual cycle health is a reflection of your overall health. If you are getting regular, moderate exercise; eating a balanced, whole foods diet; and taking time in your life to do things you enjoy, you will improve your chances of a healthy pregnancy. All of these strategies can also help improve sperm count.

A healthy whole foods diet for conception involves eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and includes protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. It’s beneficial to reduce or eliminate caffeine, refined sugars, refined flours, alcohol, trans fats, and any artificial chemicals. Adding fermented foods and bone broths to your diet can benefit your digestion and improve hormone function.

Other important lifestyle changes include eliminating allergic foods from your diet, replacing household cleaners and chemicals with non-toxic alternatives, and spending time being active outdoors in the sunlight and fresh air.

Proven Fertility Strategy #2: Assess your hormone balance.

Health conditions such as a thyroid imbalance, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or perimenopause can contribute to infertility. Many women don’t find out that they have these issues until after they’ve already spent years trying to conceive. It is essential to have your hormones assessed by your family doctor or by a holistic practitioner who specializes in conception and fertility, particularly if you are trying to conceive later in life.

What’s more, hormonal contraceptives can often mask cycle irregularities, and women who have been using them for a long time may no longer have a sense of their true cycle health. If you are discontinuing hormonal contraceptives, it is strongly recommended that you wait to conceive until you are certain that healthy menstrual cycles have resumed.

Proven Fertility Strategy #1. Learn to identify your ovulation

It’s a myth that all women ovulate on day 14: this is outdated rhythm method thinking. Modern Fertility Awareness charting can help you accurately identify the day of your ovulation, whether it’s day 9 or day 37. The egg only lives for 12 to 24 hours, and if sperm are not present on that day, achieving pregnancy is impossible.

Online charting apps can help up to a point, but many are rhythm method-based and won’t have enough instruction to support women with atypical cycles, which become increasingly common in the late 30s and 40s.

You’ll get extremely quick results by working with a practitioner who can teach you to chart and interpret your unique cycles and sort out any anomalies. With experienced support, you can accurately time intercourse or insemination for your ovulation date and greatly speed up the number of cycles it takes to conceive. I’ve seen numerous women who are charting their cycles get pregnant on the first or second try.

Supplements to improve your fertility:
– Folic Acid is essential for preventing birth defects in eggs and sperm.
– Probiotics can improve digestion, gastrointestinal health and nutrient absorption.
– Beta-Carotene supports ovarian function and improves menstrual cycle health.
– Vitamin A is essential to support progesterone and maintain pregnancy.
– Vitamin D supports immunity and improves fertility.
– B-Complex vitamins support nervous system health and promote balanced moods.
– Omega-3 Fatty Acids are necessary for healthy hormone production.
– Multivitamin/Multimineral: Provides a variety of trace nutrients such as zinc, magnesium and selenium that the body needs.

Resource books to support getting pregnant:
– Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler: This book teaches women how to identify ovulation and understand many common cycle variations.
– Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon: A cookbook with recipes for restorative traditional foods such as sauerkraut, bone broths, and sourdough bread.
– Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition by Marilyn Shannon: A guide to restoring menstrual cycle health through diet and nutritional therapy.
– Coming Off The Pill by Megan Lalonde and Geraldine Matus: Strategies for restoring endocrine balance after discontinuing hormonal contraceptives.

This article was previously published in Wellness Alberta Magazine.