What to do and not to do to help you conceive a child

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Infertility is a big business. One in 8 couples struggles with conception so it is no wonder the fertility business is a booming one. If you have had issues conceiving, it can be a very personal, and emotional journey.

This article will address some common barriers to conception, some tips for trying to conceive, and advice for doing all you can to increase your chances of becoming pregnant.

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How does conception occur?

The first step in conception is understanding exactly how pregnancy occurs. The American pregnancy Association describes how pregnancy occurs and what the process is for conception in this manner:

To get pregnant ovulation must take place. This occurs when a mature egg is released from the ovary, pushed through the fallopian tube, and is available to the sperm for fertilization. The lining of the uterus has thickened to prepare for a fertilized egg. If conception does not occur, the uterine lining will be shed. This shedding of an unfertilized egg and the uterine wall is called menstruation.American Pregnancy Association

In order to get pregnant all of these things have to occur in a healthy manner so that the egg can be fertilized and attach to the uterine wall to develop into a viable embryo. There are a great many things that can go wrong during this process and prevent you from being able to conceive a child. 

Why do some people have trouble conceiving?

There are several things that could be preventing conception and some of those things are avoidable. Of course there are also factors that you have no control over which may be genetic, due to disease, or due to your partner’s sperm viability and count.

Here are some common barriers to conception:

  • Being overweight
  • Your partner’s low sperm count
  • Your age (and subsequent decreasing egg counts)
  • Eating disorders
  • Excessive exercise
  • Drinking and smoking
  • Marijuana use
  • Hot tubs reducing sperm count
  • Some believe stress is a factor
  • Scarring or abnormalities to the fallopian tubes, uterus, or cervix
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Abnormal menstruation cycles

Have a pre-conceiving check up

The first thing that you need to do when you decide to become pregnant is to see your doctor. You want to rule out or at least identify some barriers that you may be at risk for that may make it difficult for you to become pregnant. Your doctor may want to put you on a prenatal vitamin to get ready for pregnancy. Your doctor may prescribe a healthy diet for you or suggest that you lose a certain amount of weight. Or if you have struggled with infertility for a period of time your doctor may want to do a semen analysis on your partner and a thorough checkup on you as well.

Record Menstrual Cycle

You’ll want to get a good understanding of how your menstrual cycle works. Begin recording the first day of your menstrual cycle and the last day of your menstrual cycle to determine if each of your cycles have the same duration and spacing. Irregular menstrual cycles can make it more difficult to predict ovulation.A woman’s egg is only fertile for 12 to 24 hours after being released so that window of ovulation is important. A man’s sperm can actually live in the female body for up to five days but without ovulation concurrently,  pregnancy cannot occur.

Tracking your menstrual cycle and working with your doctor can help you to determine when exactly your ovulation is occurring and can help you to plan sexual activity during that time to increase your chances of becoming pregnant. Your cycle length is measured from the first day of bleeding of one period to the first day of bleeding of the next period and can vary from 23 to 35 days with 28 days being the most common.

If you are trying to conceive, chance can be your only factor but you will have a greater opportunity for becoming pregnant with a little planning and deliberate action on your part to increase the chances for success.

Monitor Ovulation

Once you have your menstrual cycle charted so that you understand how your cycle is running, you will want to predict ovulation and begin to monitor your ovulation. Your doctor can help you to understand how to do this and there are also several helpful apps and resources to help you narrow in that ovulation window and understand when it is happening.

Symptoms of ovulation

The first day of bleeding is considered day one of the menstrual cycle and ovulation generally occurs around day 14.This is the day you are most likely to conceive. For women with regular periods it is so much easier to predict when day 14 occurs. It is recommended to have sex on date 1214 and 16, avoiding daily intercourse which could decrease your partner’s sperm count.

  • Changes in basal body temperature. Basal body temperature monitoring can help you to understand your ovulation window. At the beginning of your cycle your basal body temperature remains fairly consistent at 97.2 and 97.6 degrees F. As you get closer to ovulation there is a slight dip in basal body temperature followed by sharp increase. Monitoring your basal body temperature can help you to determine more narrowly the best ovulation window.
  • Cervical mucus changes
  • Heightened sense of smell
  • Mild abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Breast soreness or tenderness
  • Changes in libido
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Cervix becomes higher, softer, more open
  • luteinizing hormone increases 12-48 hours prior to ovulation–there are tests available to help you monitor this called ovulation tests

Ovulation tracking apps

Ovulation resources

The 8 Best Period and Ovulation Tracker Apps for Getting Pregnant
Ovulation calculator
Trying to conceive
Ovulation calendar

Ovulation Calculator | Calculate Your Fertile Window
How to Use Ovulation Kits and Fertility Monitors

Having a clear understanding of your ovulation cycle puts you in the driver’s seat of the process is much as possible. You can plan when to have sex in order to greater increase your chances of becoming pregnant. If you have irregular periods, it is generally advised to calculate your ovulation date from the shortest point of your periods / cycle length.

Have sex during the ovulation window

There’s no question that sex is a part of the process. You have to balance keeping your partner sperm count up and viable with enough sexual activity to ensure that healthy sperm can reach your healthy egg during that crucial ovulation window.

It is recommended to have sex on days 12, 14, and 16 to increase your chances of becoming pregnant.

Ovulation generally occurs 1 to 2 days after the surge of the luteinizing hormone, therefore this is the best window of opportunity for you and sex should occur during this time. Do not worry if it doesn’t work the first few months because for a normal healthy couple it can sometimes take up to a year to conceive. If you are still trying and have not been able to conceive after a year, it is possible you have some other factor preventing you from becoming pregnant and you can discuss that with your doctor to alter your course of action and increase your chances of conceiving.

Author note: There are no special tricks to sex that increase your chance of getting pregnant. Lots of old “wive’s tales” surround fertility. From acrobatic sex moves to standing on your head, to propping up your feet after sex, it’s all a bunch of speculation. Vaginal sex in whatever positions are comfortable for you and your partner will suffice.

Take note of this as well: “There are some water-based vaginal lubricants that can decrease the movement of sperm, so Pavone recommended using Pre-Seed rather than Astroglide or K-Y Brand Jelly when lubrication is needed.”–Trying to Conceive: 10 Tips for Women

Keeping your partner’s sperm count healthy / up

The Western Fertility Institute makes some recommendations for your partner as well to keep sperm count up and viable. Here is what they recommend:

  • Stress can make sex a little more difficult. If your partner is feeling the pressure to perform, and encourage them to relax and simply enjoy the process. Prolonged periods of stress can also decrease testosterone which may lower their sperm counts. Take some time to just enjoy the time with your partner and try not to let the stress of the situation get to either of you.
  • Smoking can decrease sperm count. Have your partner discuss with her doctor ways that they can quit smoking. While you’re at it if you are also a smoker you should take this as a wonderful opportunity to quit together.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Eat healthy.
  • If you suspectYour partner has a low sperm count or if you have not been able to conceive for a year, consider having your partner see a doctor about having a semen analysis
  • Antioxidants from fruits and vegetables may help to increase sperm count. Suggested foods include plant-based oils, beef and chicken, nuts, citrus fruit, seeds, fruit juice, and green vegetables.
  • Avoid soy, which contains phytoestrogens which can reduce sperm count.
  • Reduce alcohol intake.
  • Reduce exposure to environmental toxins which may affect sperm counts including: radiation, exposure to industrial chemicals, overheating the testicles, and exposure to heavy metals.
  • Get enough vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc in the diet or take supplements.
  • Some herbal supplements have also been known to be successful such as fenugreek, puncturevine, and Maca root.

Keep your body healthy

It is also important to keep your own body healthy when you’re trying to conceive. You will want to eat a well-balanced diet and likely began taking prenatal vitamins.

  • Maintain a healthy weight

Your doctor can work with you regarding a weight issue or an issue with an eating disorder. It’s extremely important to keep a healthy weight for your body to conceive and nurture a pregnancy.

  • Take a vitamin supplement with folic acid.

Folic acid is important to help prevent developmental issues in a fetus including brain development and spine development. So it’s important for your body to have the folic acid  it needs if and when you conceive to maintain a viable pregnancy.

  • Don’t take recreational drugs, drink alcohol, or smoke when you are trying to conceive.

It goes without saying that recreational drugs are harmful to your body and can be addictive. Your body needs its energy to be focused on conceiving and maintaining pregnancy and not on fighting off the harmful effects of drugs, alcohol, or smoking which can all be detrimental to a pregnancy and can harm your baby.

Treating Infertility

Sometimes you do everything right and you simply aren’t  getting pregnant. It can be a very emotionally taxing experience for women and their partners. So how do you know when to go for help?  The answer is really whenever you feel like you need help. Perhaps you need the support of a counselor. Or if you suspect there are physical reasons that you are not conceiving, you should see your doctor. If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for several months to a year and you still have not been able to conceive then there may be a simple solution or there may be a bigger problem that you’re not aware of. Or the problem could simply be with your partner which could be treatable.

There are also other alternatives to traditional conceiving. Your doctor will be able to help you create a plan to increase your chances of conceiving, or send you to a fertility specialist that can help you to identify areas that may be preventing conception and develop a treatment plan for that. Or they may suggest to you alternatives to traditional conceiving.

Fertility treatments:

Fertility treatments can be an expensive alternative but for some couples that have exhausted all avenues of getting pregnant by traditional methods, fertility treatments may be an option to pursue. There are 5 main methods of fertility treatments to help you conceive a child:

  • intrauterine insemination (IUI– Healthy sperm is collected and inserted directly into your uterus during ovulation
  • in vitro fertilization (IVF)–Eggs are taken from your ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab, where they develop into embryos, which are later implanted into your uterus
  • High-tech assisted reproductive technology (ART)
  • Fertility drugs such as Clomiphene citrate (Clomid, Serophene)
  • Surgery to correct uterine or other issues

Fertility doctors may follow incremental and increasingly aggressive steps to assist you in getting pregnant from using fertility drugs with intercourse, to the use of Natural Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), Fertility drugs combined with IUI, surgery, and lastly IVF.

The takeaway

There are things you can do to increase your fertility chances, both on your end and for your partner’s vitality as well. Eating healthy, getting plenty of rest, planning ahead with vitamins and menstrual cycle charting, as well as ovulation-based intercourse planning, can all increase your chances. You can remove barriers such as smoking, drinking, and certain dietary things that could complicate or decrease your fertility–but in the end there are two things you cannot control:

Chance and genetics.

If you are struggling with fertility, try not to take it personally, like you are less of a person or that there’s something “wrong” with you. Medical conditions are often genetically or environmentally induced and all you can do is talk with your doctor, develop a treatment plan, and try to keep it all in perspective.

Infertility issues can lead to depression, anxiety, and a negative impact on self-esteem. If you have been trying to get pregnant and are dealing with month after month of “not-pregnant,” then you may want to seek some counseling services to help you process the grief, the disappointment, and the negative emotions or mental health issues you could be facing.

Give yourself some time to handle your grief. Give yourself some time to hope. The bottom line–give it some time, do the best you can, see your doctor, and make peace with whatever results you are facing.

Find a support system and find purpose in your life outside of this. This is one aspect of who you are! Here at Babienet, we are here for you in all aspects of your journey. Visit our blog regularly for more articles like this one.

This article is brought to you by the blogging contributors at Babienet Parenting Community, a community of caring parents just like you! We welcome you to share your journey with us. 

Resources

Trying to Conceive: 10 Tips for Women

Women’s Health.org

6 ways to increase your chances of getting pregnant

Trying to conceive

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What to Expect_ What Happens During Childbirth

The First Trimester–When to Call Your Doctor–WebMD


Christina M. Ward,

Babienet blog contributor

Mother and grandmother

Tips for Trying to Conceive addresses barriers to conceiving, tips for trying to conceive, and fertility issues for couples who are trying to conceive.