DOs and DON’Ts
Statesman Journal Living Well December 2015
When Trying to Conceive
When a couple decides they are ready to begin actively trying to start a family, many believe it will be simple. They stop using whatever form of birth control they had in place, and simply wait for the magic to happen.
In many cases, it is that simple. In fact, 80% of couples get pregnant within 6 months after they begin trying to conceive. For some couples, though, it doesn’t happen right away. Read below for some tips on what to do—and what not to do—when beginning your journey towards having a baby.
- Take Prenatal Vitamins
It’s a good idea to begin taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid even before you conceive. These vitamins help protect against birth defects such as spina bifida, and they do most of that work in the early part of pregnancy.
- Get to Know Your Cycle
Most women’s bodies provide clues to their fertile period. Familiarize yourself with your body’s routine. Typically, when a woman is ovulating (the prime time for conception), she will have vaginal discharge that is clear and stretchy, similar to the consistency of egg whites. This is the perfect medium for sperm to make their ideal journey, and intercourse during this time is more likely to lead to pregnancy.
- Chart Your Basal Body Temperature
Another clue a woman’s body will give around ovulation is a jump in basal body temperature. You can track this by keeping a thermometer by your bed. Just after you wake in the morning, before you get out of bed or even sit up, take your temperature and record the result. This works best if you try and wake up at the same time each morning. Your temperature before ovulation should range from 97.2 to around 97.7 degrees F. After ovulation, however, hormonal changes cause it to spike between 0.4 and 1.0 degrees higher. It should remain elevated until your next period, or, if you become pregnant, throughout your pregnancy.
- Take a Breather
Though the position in which you and your partner have sex does not have much impact on chances of pregnancy, it is beneficial if you wait 10-15 minutes after intercourse to get up and walk around. This allows enough time for the sperm to travel to the cervix before gravity can have an effect on them.
- Make Stress Relief a Priority
Any kind of stress can interfere with ovulation and the conception process. Find de-stressing activities that work for you, and make time for them as often as you can—as long as they are healthy, of course. Read good books, play games, take walks, or relax with a glass of wine (though an abundance of alcohol is not recommended when trying to conceive, a glass once in a while is not harmful).
- Stay in Shape
A healthy body has an easier time conceiving than one that is either underweight or overweight. Try to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, cut back on sugar and artificial sweeteners (especially in beverages, which include little nutritional value and a lot of extra calories), and stick to an appropriate exercise routine. Your physician can help you determine how much and what kind of exercise is right for you.
- Forget to Visit Your Doctor
A preliminary visit to your OB/GYN or family practitioner can help inform you about steps you may need to take prior to trying to conceive, based on your own personal health as well as your family history.
- Use Water-based Lubricants
Avoid using water-based lubricants such as Astroglide, KY Jelly, and Touch. These can reduce sperm’s motility by 60-100%. Also, many lubricants contain spermicide, so check labels carefully.
- Break the Bank with OPKs
Ovulation Predictor Kits can be helpful when trying to conceive. These urine tests, when positive, indicate that you are ovulating. However, you must take them for several days before ovulation to make sure you don’t miss your fertile period. Sometimes, it’s tempting to rely solely on OPKs, and ignore your body’s natural signals. However, this can lead to testing earlier and more often than necessary, which can become expensive. OPKs are best used in tandem with basal body temperature recording and tracking of cervical mucous changes.
- Limit Positions
Certain sexual positions are often thought to be ideal for conception, while others are said to be less ideal. In actuality, changing it up can make intercourse more exciting for both partners, which leads to better conditions for conception. The position itself does not significantly alter your chances of conceiving.
- Overdo It
When trying to conceive for any length of time, many couples feel it’s necessary to have sex every day. Often, sex becomes an obligation rather than an intimate, fun activity shared between two people who love each other. The stress caused by feeling obligated to have sex can interfere with conception, just as other stresses can. Most doctors advise having sex every other day during your fertile window.
Since staying in shape is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your success when trying to conceive, many women are tempted to exercise more than the recommended amount. This can over-stress your body, and change the pattern of your cycle, delaying or even eliminating ovulation.
- Put Too Much Pressure on Yourself or Your Partner
Despite the best efforts, it can sometimes take many months to conceive. As time stretches on, it’s easy to become discouraged and lay the blame on yourself or on your partner. While this feeling is natural and hard to avoid, it’s important to remember that you and your partner are taking this journey together. Look to each other for support and reassurance, and always keep the lines of communication open.