When trying to conceive, there are some important changes you can make to your lifestyle to increase your chances of having a healthy baby.

For women

Smoking: Don’t smoke, or stop well before treatment. Cigarette smoking halves the chance of conception in IVF treatment, and probably does the same for other treatments.

  • Smoking acts by reducing the number and the quality of the eggs that develop in the ovaries, and may reduce blood flow to the uterus.
  • Miscarriages are more likely in women who smoke.
  • Nicotine patches are not recommended because they may mimic some of the biological effects of smoking.

Caffeine: The impact of caffeine is still controversial, but some studies show that even quite small amounts of caffeine can reduce the chance pregnancy - it is best to reduce the amount of tea, coffee, cola and especially energy drinks you consume.

Alcohol: Small amounts of alcohol are probably not detrimental, but we recommend not drinking alcohol after embryo transfer, since the negative impact of alcohol on fetal development is well known.

Drugs: Narcotics can reduce the chance of successful fertility treatment, and many are also highly damaging to unborn babies.

Weight: Being overweight can mean you need more medication to stimulate the ovaries, and may also reduce your response to high doses. Fortunately, even a relatively small loss in weight (often just 5-6 kg) with some exercise can be very beneficial. To check if you’re in a healthy weight range check out our BMI Calculator here.

Medications: Some medications may interfere with fertility and/or fertility treatment, so please tell us if you’re using any medications. Particularly important are tranquillisers such as Stelazine or Haloperidol, as well as medications for migraines, inflammatory bowel disease and high blood pressure.

Folic acid and vitamins: Folic acid can prevent up to 92% of cases of neural tube defects such as spina bifida in babies, so we encourage all women wanting to become pregnant to take folic acid.

Tablets of 0.4 mg folic acid per day are sufficient, and should be taken from the time you are trying to conceive. Once pregnant, increase your intake 0.8 mg. Folic acid is available at our clinics or from pharmacies without a prescription.

Women on anticonvulsant medications need a higher dose of Folic acid, and should take advice from their doctor. A general multivitamin may be beneficial, but large doses of some vitamins, particularly Vitamin A, can lead to birth defects.

Aspirin: There’s considerable interest in whether low-dose aspirin may improve blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, and therefore improve the chance of pregnancy during IVF treatment. Overall the results don’t show a benefit, but it may be useful in some people.

Heparin: Our doctors may prescribe low-dose heparin because of clotting abnormalities.


For men

Smoking: There is some evidence to suggest that tobacco may affect sperm production and quality, and increasing evidence that second-hand smoke from others is also bad.

Weight: There is some evidence that men being overweight can lead to reduced sperm quality and a lower chance of pregnancy using IVF or ICSI.To check if you’re in a healthy weight range, use this link to the BMI Calculator.

Drugs: Narcotics, tobacco, marijuana and heavy alcohol use can all impair sperm production in men. Sperm production can drop for up to three months after the flu or a high fever, so please tell us if any of these apply to you.

Antioxidants: There is increasing evidence that antioxidants may reduce sperm damage in some men. Antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E and lycopene are present in many foods and in supplements.

Keep testes cool: Wear boxer shorts not briefs, keep your laptop off your lap, and don’t have hot baths, saunas, or spas too frequently. Heat raises sperm temperature and reduces sperm count.

Skip lubricant during sex: Non-fertility-friendly lubricant makes it harder for sperm to swim and may even kill them.  If you find intercourse uncomfortable, there are specially formulated lubricants such as Pre-Seed that are available at pharmacies or at our clinics.

Watch a sexy movie: It boosts testosterone and improves quality and number of sperm.

Have sex once a day: Especially during ovulation – abstinence over one day decreases sperm mobility.

Reduce alcohol intake: Excessive alcohol intake has been proven to decrease sperm motility, shape and quality.

MindBody Fertility

The most important thing you can do for yourself when trying to conceive is take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Trying for a baby can be stressful and emotional, and can feel overwhelming at times.

The MindBody Fertility programme consists of 4 individual sessions whzere you will be counselled and/or coached in learning the techniques of stress relief and promoting relaxation to enhance fertility and conception.

This program is specially designed for fertility which transforms fear, stress and frustration into a calm, peaceful, positive attitude towards a viable pregnancy during your IVF cycle. This MindBody connection helps you generate positive biochemical changes that may affect how you feel and handle the stressors of a cycle.

These changes will also help you to balance your hormones and to reduce the negative effects that strain your body. Extended post IVF support can be arranged, should the need arises. 

More here on our MindBody Fertility Programme

Yoga for fertility