If you’ve been trying to conceive for a while without success, don’t panic – according to the HSE, 1 in 6 Irish couples will experience difficulty getting pregnant. However, 85% of couples get pregnant within 12 months of trying, and a further 95% will get pregnant within 24 months of trying.
In this blog post, we’re going to explore some of the things you can do to help ensure baby-making success.
Get to know your cycle
Until you decided to try for a baby, you may have given little thought to how the menstrual cycle works and what days you are most likely to get pregnant.
In order to get to know your cycle, you need to start tracking your period (the first day of your period is the first day of a new cycle), either on a calendar or a period-tracker app on your phone. This will tell you how long your cycle tends to be, which will then allow you to work out your fertile days.
In a 28 day cycle, the egg is released halfway through, on day 14. Keep in mind that sperm can stay alive in your body for up to 5 days, and your egg can stay alive for up to 24 hours after being released. This means you’re most fertile in the 5 days leading up to ovulation and 1 day after ovulation.
Know when you ovulate
Like most things in nature, your menstrual cycle doesn’t stick to a perfect schedule, so it can be difficult to predict when ovulation will definitely occur – especially if the length of your cycle varies by more than a few days.
To remove some of the guesswork, there are some methods you can use:
Ovulation predictor kits – these are similar to home pregnancy tests, except they look for a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH), which surges when you’re about to ovulate. This is a reliable indicator that you’ll ovulate within the next 48 hours.
Basal body temperature monitoring – by monitoring your body temperature, you may detect the slight increase which occurs during ovulation. You simply take your temperature when you wake up each morning and take note of it. When you record an increase in basal body temperature for 3 days in a row, this may be an indication that you have ovulated.
Cervical mucus changes – as the egg prepares to leave the ovary, your vaginal discharge should become clear and stretchy, similar to the texture of egg whites. This is to protect the sperm as it makes its way to the egg.
Make healthy lifestyle choices
Maintaining a healthy weight, drinking plenty of water, eating a varied diet, getting regular low-intensity exercise are all great ways to boost your body’s general health and prepare it for the task of carrying a baby.
Things which negatively impact your health, like cigarettes, recreational drugs or alcohol are best to cut out straight away once you decide to start trying.
Take your vitamins
There are many vitamins which your body needs for optimal hormonal function. Ask your doctor about any possible vitamin deficiencies you may have and look for multivitamins designed for couples trying to conceive. For the prospective mammy, make sure your chosen multivitamin contains at least 400 micrograms of Folic Acid, this plays a vital role in the development of your baby’s brain and spinal cord.
Don’t forget about Dad
When discussing conception, we often focus on the woman’s fertility and how to increase her chance of becoming pregnant. However, it takes two to tango. So the future-Dad is not exempt from the measures we have discussed. In order to make a baby, he needs healthy sperm and good hormonal function. The most important ways a prospective Dad can ensure he has healthy sperm include:
Keeping your testicles cool – sitting down for long periods, wearing tight underwear or being in hot environments will raise the temperature in your testicles and lower sperm quality. If you work long hours at a desk, make sure to move around regularly, not just for healthy blood flow, but to regulate temperature. Opt for loose-fitting underwear and avoid hot environments like hot tubs and saunas.
Cut out smoking and alcohol – unhealthy habits have a negative impact on your hormone levels. To ensure healthy sperm, treat your body like a temple!
Keep stress to a minimum – high levels of stress can affect sperm quality and lower your libido. Find some stress-relieving activities which work for you.
When to see your GP about fertility
If you’re under 36 years old, you should visit your GP if you have been trying to get pregnant for over 12 months without success. If you’re over 36, make the appointment after 6 months of trying. Remember, a doctor’s definition of “trying” is having sex every 2-3 days throughout the entire month. So, make sure it’s not an issue of infrequency before you get too concerned!