When trying to for a baby you may feel overwhelmed with the amount of information a simple google search on the subject will produce. It can be difficult to distinguish between the facts and the myths so we’ve gathered some key facts for you here.
GET TO KNOW YOUR BODY
A woman who wishes to become pregnant should get to know her body, specifically her menstrual cycle. Tracking her period cycle means that a woman can better predict when she might be ovulating, which is the time when her ovaries release an egg every month. A woman’s egg is fertile for only 12-24 hours after its release whereas a man’s sperm can survive in a woman’s body for up to five days after ejaculation.
Tracking your cycle can help with fertility. To give you the best chance of getting pregnant, our ovulation calculator tells you when you’re most likely to be fertile. Women with regular cycles ovulate about two weeks before their period. Ovulation is more difficult to predict in women with irregular cycles but it is generally 12 to 16 days before the start of her next period.
There are a number of ways that women can track their most fertile days:
- Tracking cervical mucous: a woman can track the amount and appearance of mucous in her vagina. When a woman is most fertile, just before ovulation, the vaginal mucous becomes thinner, clearer, more slippery and its volume increases. These changes in vaginal mucous help the sperm on its journey to the egg.
- Home ovulation kits, available from your local pharmacy, can help to take the pain out of predicting your most fertile days. These kits test urine for luteinising hormone, which increases each month during ovulation. Make sure that you understand how to use these kits correctly otherwise a lot of money can be wasted.
- Having sex every 1-2 days around the ‘fertile window’ is important but sex at least every 5 days throughout a woman’s cycle can increase her chances of becoming pregnant as abstinence can affect sperm count.
ENJOY A HEALTHIER LIFESTYLE
Stop or reduce your alcohol intake.
Stop smoking. It is a well-known fact that smoking can have a significant effect on the fertility of both men and women. Chemicals in cigarette smoke such as nicotine, cyanide and carbon monoxide speed up the loss rate of eggs. Smoking damages the genetic material in both eggs and sperm. Male smokers can suffer decreased sperm quality, counts and motility. Smoking can also increase the amount of abnormally-shaped sperm. Non-smoking males have much healthier sperm than smoking males. Healthy sperm means a greater chance of fertilising an egg and making a healthy baby.
Eat well. A well-balanced diet full of fresh fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, pulses, lean meats and fish will give your body the nutrition it needs.
Exercise. Exercising is so important for overall health but work within the limits of your own body – don’t take up marathon training if you have never run before however some form of exercise is important. Exercise will help cardiovascular health, reduce stress levels and help you to maintain a healthy weight. Do something that you enjoy so that it doesn’t feel burdensome.
MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
A woman’s menstrual cycle is dependent on finely tuned hormonal balances. Overweight and obese women have higher levels of the hormone leptin, which is produced in the fatty tissue. Leptin can disrupt a woman’s hormone balance. Being underweight can also disrupt hormone levels. It is therefore important to maintain a healthy weight for your build and height.
TAKE A FOLIC ACID SUPPLEMENT
400mcg daily is adequate unless your doctor has specifically told you that you should take 5mg daily. Ideally start taking your folic acid supplement 3 months before trying to conceive. Folic acid supplementation can help to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects, such as Spina Bifida, in the developing fetus. The neural tube is developed in the very early stages of pregnancy, between the 17th and 30th day post conception, often before a woman even knows that she is pregnant. This is why it is so important to supplement before even trying for a baby.
VISIT YOUR DOCTOR
Visit your GP before trying to conceive to discuss any health matters that may be worrying you. This is particularly important if you are on prescription medications. Your doctor may need to switch you from one medication to another and it is best to do this in advance of becoming pregnant. It is also important that you do not just decide yourself to come off any prescribed medicines without discussing this with your care giver. You can also check you smear test and rubella status with your doctor at this appointment.
If you do not become pregnant immediately, please try not to become too stressed. Be kind to yourself. Have some ‘couple-time’ that doesn’t involve trying for a baby. Have some ‘me-time’ too! Most women will conceive within a year of trying. The general rule is that if you are under the age of 35 with regular cycles, give yourself a year of trying before seeking help. If, however you are over the age of 35 or under the age of 35 with irregular cycles the advice is to see your doctor if you have not become pregnant after six months of trying. Good luck!