These days there are plenty of impediments to having a baby: finishing educational programs, being financially secure enough to cover childcare and expenses, and finding a comfortable living situation are just a few. Preparing yourself can take several years.


So once a couple makes the decision to get pregnant, most are ready for it to happen as soon as possible. On average it takes six months for a pregnancy to happen, and for those over 35, it is normal for it to take a year. So patience is the first thing to keep in mind.


There are a number of natural ways to boost fertility that may cut down on the time it takes to get pregnant, so consider checking these health tips before trying to conceive:


1. Stop smoking: This one’s obvious, but bears repeating. Even if you are just a casual smoker or only bum at parties, quit it (this goes for men and women). Not only does it impede your chances of conception (cigarette and marijuana smoking lowers sperm counts), but smoking increases a woman’s probability of miscarrying.


2. Avoid toxic chemicals: There are plenty of chemicals in all of our lives, some of which are endocrine disrupters that can specifically affect the reproductive system by changing hormone levels. In men this can mean reduced sperm counts and in women this can alter hormone levels enough to affect the ability to conceive. Individually, some of these chemicals are relatively harmless, but part of the problem lies in the "cocktail effect" wherein several of these chemicals combine to have particularly strong effects. Avoid pesticide treated lawns and gardens, non-organic food, and plastics that contain BPA (bisphenol A). Switching to natural cleaning products for your home, and chemical-free personal care products, especially those you use on a regular basis like soap, shampoo and deodorant, can all help lower your toxic burden.


3. Know your cycle: The more educated you are about when you are fertile (and therefore the best times to have sex), the better chance you have to conceive. “Fertility awareness and cycle charting, including basal body temperature and cervical mucus, can enhance fertility by helping women identify the parameters of their fertile window of opportunity for conception,” says Dr. Eden Gabrielle Fromberg, OB/GYN a New York City-based osteopathic physician who specializes in natural healing and women’s fertility.


4. Eat good food: Nutrition can have an impact on both the ability to conceive and the healthy maintenance of a pregnancy. Eating from all the major food groups and eating enough calories is the crucial foundation. Zinc can increase semen production in men and ovulation in women, and adequate protein, iron, vitamin C and folate are all important for the reproductive system. Choosing organic foods is always a smart way to go to help lower your toxic burden since organic food doesn’t contain pesticide and herbicide residue and comes from healthier, more nutrient-rich soil.


5. Attain a healthy weight: A 2004 study in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that a woman being underweight (a BMI of 19 or lower) reduced chances of conception (it took four times longer), whereas for women who were overweight or obese (a BMI of 25-39) it took about twice as long to get pregnant.


6. Chill out: Stress is anecdotally tied to difficulty conceiving, and while the jury is still out on how much impact it can have (and that may vary from person to person), it certainly can’t hurt to have a relaxed body and mind. Consider practices like yoga and meditation, taking walks and having restful mornings and evenings, even if your days are hectic. 


7. Go alternative: Sometimes taking action or going outside the box can empower and potentially assist in conception. “Acupuncture, Chinese herbs, botanicals, anthroposophic medicine, mind-body practices, fertility yoga … and other complementary therapies are effective in enhancing fertility,” says Fromberg.


8. Get tested: If you’ve tried everything and are still waiting to conceive, there are some basic tests to try (these are especially recommended for women who have non-regular periods or a history of problematic periods). “Testing hormones at several crucial times in the cycle is important. Testing for underlying medical issues, including immunological, hematological and nutritional, is important and often overlooked. Ensuring fallopian tubes are open through an X-ray test called a hysterosalpingogram is helpful. Since 50 percent of fertility problems are found in men, semen analysis is important as well,” advises Fromberg.


9. Find a doctor you can work with: You should always seek out a doc you feel genuinely comfortable with. If your doctor isn’t listening to you, move on. “A doctor who personally has practiced fertility awareness and has a deep understanding of how the symphony of hormones and factors listed above influence the cycle and can test, teach, and treat patients based on the many individual variations that may be present in women is important, ” says Fromberg.


Got other tips for natural ways to boost fertility? Leave us a note in the comments below.

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Natural ways to boost fertility
Here are nine tips that may help cut down on the time it takes to get pregnant.