So you’ve decided you’re ready to start growing your family? How exciting!
We all wish the process was as simple as making a decision, flipping a switch and suddenly you’re pregnant (or holding your baby), but we know it doesn’t always work that way. Taking time to prepare your mind and your body can be one of the most supportive tactics you can do during this process .
The health of the mama before conceiving plays an important role in improving the success of conception, having a healthy pregnancy and setting a foundation for the baby’s health throughout their life.
Here are 5 tips on how to boost your fertility by focusing on your health:
1. Start taking a multivitamin that contains 0.4mg(400 mcg) of folic acid.
Folic acid is a powerhouse for supporting your health and your baby's health throughout your pregnancy. You can even start taking it a year before pregnancy, but it is recommended at least 3 months before!
Folic acid can reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. It is also associated with a lower risk for other birth defects such as cleft palate, cardiovascular and renal anomalies and some pediatric cancers.
If you’re thinking about trying to conceive it’s never too early to start looking into helpful supplements like folic acid.
2. Engage in moderate to vigorous exercise at least 150 minutes per week.
Physical activity is not just great for you but also great for the health of your baby and can help with conceiving.
It decreases the risk of chronic disease and has a positive effect on mental health and well-being by lowering your stress levels and keeping you at a healthy weight. Stress wreaks havoc on your body at any time and if you’re having trouble conceiving that can lead to higher-than-normal levels of stress in your body.
Do your best to support yourself with regular exercise!
3. Healthy eating is a key component of overall health.
The preconception period is a great time for women to improve their diet. Nutritional needs change during pregnancy so a pre-existing healthy diet can get you off to a strong start and help optimize maternal and fetal health.
4. Book a medical checkup with your primary care practitioner to discuss any issues that might affect fertility or pregnancy.
Knowing what you’re up against ahead of time can equip you with the mental tools you might need during this time. Your doctor can walk you through your medical history and provide support and tips to help during this process.
It’s also a good idea to review all existing medications for their possible effects on the developing fetus in case you need to decrease a dose or come off a medication altogether.
5. Ensure your immunizations are up to date, including tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (TdaP), measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), hepatitis B, influenza and varicella.
Contracting one of these diseases before or during pregnancy could greatly affect your success in conceiving and the health of the developing fetus.
Your immunity against all of these illnesses will be tested in the first trimester. If you are not immune, immunization will be recommended after delivery. But equipping yourself ahead of time will be one less headache later on.
Now that you have ensured your body is ready, let's discuss how to give yourself the best chance of getting pregnant.
1. When is the best chance during my cycle to get pregnant?
A woman is fertile for approximately 6 days in each cycle – the 5 days leading up to and including ovulation and the one day after.
The best time to conceive is during your fertile window. Chances of fertilization are highest within 24 hours of ovulation, and one day beforehand. Having sex before you ovulate boosts the chances that sperm will be around when the egg is released from the ovary. Sperm can survive up to 5 days in the reproductive tract, whereas an egg only lasts 12-24 hours.
The textbook rule is that ovulation occurs 14 days after the first day of your period – but this varies and ovulation doesn’t always occur at the same time each month therefore it’s likely to be more helpful to track your body’s physical changes.
2. How do you know when you are ovulating?
There are a few ways to do this. The first is with an ovulation predictor kit. This test looks similar to a pregnancy test except instead of detecting the pregnancy hormone hCG it’s detecting a rise in a hormone called luteinizing hormone in your urine which your body releases 36-48 hours before you ovulate.
Another method is by tracking your basal body temperature (BBT). First thing in the morning your body’s temperature rises about half a degree when ovulation occurs. Because the change is minimal you’ll need a special BBT thermometer that can detect smaller changes.
Thirdly, you can watch for changes in your vaginal discharge. A discharge that is clear, elastic, and egg-white-like (when stretched between two fingers) is a sign that you will soon be ovulating.
3. Does having more sex equal a higher chance of pregnancy?
The time of the month when you have sex is more important than the number of times itself. That’s not to say you can’t maximize the chances of getting pregnant by having sex more than once during your fertile window.
Try having sex multiple times in the several days before, during and after ovulation. For those with a less regular cycle, start having sex a few times a week as soon as your period ends.
Another myth is that cutting down on sex can “save sperm” or create sperm of “better quality.” While it can increase sperm count, it can also decrease motility. Taking a break can be a good thing for a couple of days to ensure it's not seen as a chore, but it’s not necessary to schedule these “off days.”
4. Is there a certain time of day or position that is more likely to result in pregnancy?
Though there is no strict guidance in this area, some studies recommend that chances are higher in the morning after a good night’s rest for both partners. The sleeping body regenerates sperm that is lost during the day.
There is no proven “best position,” it’s more recommended to indulge in sex that both of you enjoy and is more likely to please both partners, rather than focusing on a certain position.
Laying on your back afterwards is thought to allow the sperm to pool in the vaginal canal, therefore whether you are choosing early morning, late night or a spontaneous quickie in the middle of the day, try to lay down afterwards for at least a few minutes!
5. How about the partner, is there anything that affects sperm count or motility?
For men, hot tubs, saunas and bike riding can decrease sperm count so try to do these activities at least 48 hours before sex. Avoid lubricants that could alter the pH of the vagina and decrease sperm mobility.
6. How long until I can take a pregnancy test?
Fertilization occurs 6-12 days after sex depending on the time of the cycle. Some early pregnancy tests can pick up on increased HCG levels around this time.
7. When should I stop taking birth control?
Stop taking birth control pills (or any other form of birth control) a few months before you start trying to conceive, unless you are taking the Depot-Provera birth control shot in which case you should stop taking that 9 months before.
8. How long does it take to conceive on average? When should I seek professional help?
How long it takes to get pregnant depends on many different factors, from your age and health history to your menstrual cycle and lifestyle. Even under perfect circumstances, it can take several months/cycles before getting a positive test.
90% of people get pregnant when TTC (Trying To Conceive) within one year. Young people in their late 20s and early 30s have a 25% chance of conception each month. This chance drops to less than 5% each month once you reach your 40s.
You can see a fertility specialist if you don’t conceive within 12 months of trying if you are under 25, or after 6 months if you are over 35.