You are trying to get pregnant! Here are some tips that may help increase your chances of becoming pregnant:
- Record your menstrual cycle frequency. Monitor whether the first days of your period tend to come the same number of days apart every month. This is considered being regular. Conversely, if your periods are irregular it could mean that your cycle varies from month to month. By tracking this information on a calendar, you can better predict when you might be ovulating, the time when your ovaries will release an egg every month.
- Monitor ovulation. If you have regular cycles you generally ovulate two weeks before the arrival of your period. It's harder to predict your ovulation if you have an irregular cycle, but it usually occurs 12 to 16 days before the start of your next period.
There are several methods you can use to help determine your most fertile days each month:
- Home ovulation-prediction kit. This kit tests your urine for luteinizing hormone, a substance that increases each month during ovulation and causes the ovaries to release an egg. The three days right after a positive test result are the best time for you and your partner to have sex to increase your odds of becoming pregnant.
- Basal body temperature method. Take your temperature before you get out of bed every day and chart this on a graph for at least three menstrual cycles. After you ovulate, your basal body temperature typically increases less than half a degree Fahrenheit. You are most fertile during the two to three days before this slight rise in body temperature.
- Tracking cervical mucus. Regularly check both the amount and appearance of mucus in your vagina. Just before ovulation, when you are most fertile, the amount of mucus increases and it also becomes thinner, clearer and more slippery. When cervical mucus becomes more slippery, it can help sperm make its way to the egg.
- Have sex every other day during the fertile window. The "fertile window" spans a six-day interval, the five days prior to ovulation and the day of it. These are the days each month when a woman is most fertile. One study found that intercourse is most likely to result in a pregnancy when it occurs two days before ovulation.
- Strive for a healthy body weight. Being too heavy can reduce your odds of conceiving, but being too thin can make it even harder to have a baby. Research has shown that a woman who is overweight, with a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 35, can take twice as long to become pregnant as a woman whose BMI is considered normal. A woman who is underweight, with a BMI less than 19, might take four times as long to conceive.
- Take a prenatal vitamin. Start taking a prenatal vitamin even before becoming pregnant. Or take a daily multivitamin, as long as it contains at least 400 micrograms (mcg) per day of folic acid. Folic acid is a B vitamin that's important for preventing birth defects in a baby's brain and spine. Getting a head start on folic acid is a good idea because the neural tube develops into the brain and spine three to four weeks after conception occurs, before you may realize you are pregnant.
- Eat healthy foods. Eating a variety of healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, dairy and healthy sources of fat, can help prepare your body for pregnancy. These foods provide you with adequate amounts of critical nutrients such as calcium, protein and iron.
- Cut back on strenuous workouts. Being physically active most days of the week can help your body prepare for the demands of pregnancy and labor. But don’t overdo it. Getting too much exercise or doing frequent strenuous workouts could interfere with ovulation.
- Be aware of age-related fertility declines. As you get older, your fertility decreases because of age-related changes in your ovaries. These changes may cause a decline in the quantity and quality of your eggs and cause you to take longer to become pregnant. This gradual fertility decline begins in your 30s, declines more sharply after age 37, and becomes a steep decline after age 40.
- Kick the smoking habit. Chemicals found in cigarette smoke, such as nicotine and carbon monoxide, may speed up the loss rate of your eggs. It's also a good idea to stay away from secondhand smoke, which can affect your chances of becoming pregnant. Marijuana and other recreational drug use should also be avoided while trying to conceive.
- Give up alcohol. It's safest to avoid alcohol if you are trying to become pregnant. Drinking alcohol at moderate (one to two drinks per day) or heavy levels (more than two drinks per day) can make it difficult to get pregnant.
- Create a fertility-friendly home and work environment. Frequent exposure to lawn and farm pesticides, pollutants, or chemical solvents used at work can harm a your fertility. Take steps to minimize these exposures by protecting your face with a mask or wearing protective gloves, glasses and clothing around potentially toxic materials.
- Know when to get help. You should consider having an infertility evaluation if you are 35 or older and have not become pregnant after six months of having sex regularly without using birth control. If you are under 35 you should consult a fertility specialist if you have failed to become pregnant after one year of having unprotected intercourse on a regular basis.
For information about age related fertility call Reproductive Medicine Associates of Central Pennsylvania at UPMC in central Pa. at 717-516-1620 or learn more about fertility services.
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