New figures from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority show that more women than ever are seeking fertility treatment. Between 2006 and 2007, the number went up by 5% from 34,855 to 36,648, but there are some surprising ways to boost your chances of conceiving.
1. Take fewer painkillers
The group of painkillers known as NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen) can inhibit certain enzymes - this can in turn prevent the follicles in the ovaries from bursting and releasing eggs, either stopping or delaying ovulation. "It's fine to take them for the few days before and during a period, but avoid them at any other point in the month if you're trying to conceive," says consultant gynaecologist Valentine Akande.
2. Watch your weight
Much publicity is given to weight affecting women's fertility, but men's weight is a factor too. "The more fat you have, the more oestrogen you have in your body, and this applies to men too," says Gabrielle Downey, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist. "The wrong balance of oestrogen lowers sperm count."
3. Get more sunshine
Lack of or irregular menstruation as a result of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common cause of infertility. Yale School of Medicine has found that giving women with PCOS and abnormal ovulation vitamin D supplements dropped the risk of PCOS by 99% and abnormal ovulation by 93%. Fertility consultant Zita West, meanwhile, found that 50% of women who visited her clinic were deficient in vitamin D. "Sunshine boosts vitamin D levels, as do supplements and eating plenty of dairy products," says West.
4. Watch your meat intake
"To boost growth rates, animals are sometimes given artificial oestrogens," says Downey. "Research is showing that this is lowering fertility in women and men, so try to limit your intake." Or stick to organic meat.
5. Cut out oral sex
"Women should avoid receiving oral sex when trying to conceive," she says. "Saliva contains digestive enzymes that can damage sperm."