Maximizing fertility: What to avoid

To improve your odds of conceiving:

  • Don't smoke. Tobacco has multiple negative effects on fertility, not to mention your general health and the health of a fetus. If you smoke, ask your health care provider to help you quit before conception.
  • Don't drink alcohol. Heavy alcohol use might lead to decreased fertility. Generally, it's best to avoid alcohol if you're hoping to conceive.
  • Curb caffeine. Research suggests that fertility isn't affected by caffeine consumption of less than 200 milligrams a day. That's about one to two cups of 6 to 8 ounces of coffee per day.
  • Don't overdo strenuous exercise. Strenuous, intense exercise of more than five hours a week has been associated with decreased ovulation.

Also, talk to your health care provider about any medications you are taking. Certain medications — even those available without a prescription — can make it difficult to conceive.

When to talk to a doctor

With frequent unprotected sex, most healthy couples conceive within one year.

If you're younger than 35 and you and your partner are in good health, try it on your own for one year before consulting a doctor. Consider seeking help sooner if you're age 35 or older, or you or your partner has known or suspected fertility issues.

Infertility affects both men and women — and treatment is available. Depending on the source of the problem, your gynecologist, your partner's urologist or your family doctor might be able to help. In some cases, a fertility specialist offers the best hope.

Nov. 02, 2016 See more In-depth