Trying to Conceive
Things aren’t always straightforward and simple when you are trying to conceive. It is important to remember that the process takes time and that every woman and couple’s journey is unique. The best thing you can do is stay patient and learn everything you can to improve your chances of having a baby. You can control certain factors like your diet, exercise habits, and when and how you have sex. There are also other factors at play when you are trying to conceive that you don’t have complete control of and you may not even be aware of until you seek the assistance of a fertility specialist.
This article will go over tips for when you are trying to conceive and what to expect when things aren’t going as planned.
Fast Facts about Trying to Conceive
- A healthy 30-year-old woman has a 20% chance of achieving pregnancy each month .
- By age 40, a healthy woman only has a 5% chance of getting pregnant each month.
- Most couples are able to get pregnant within 6 months to a year.
- There is a lot you can do to increase your fertility while still trying to conceive on your own.
- If you are still not pregnant after 6 months to a year of trying, you could have infertility and it’s often best to seek help from a fertility specialist.
- If you do discover you are suffering from infertility, know you are not alone. Infertility is common and affects about 15% of couples.
Trying to Conceive Tips
Many women wait until they are pregnant to start making healthy lifestyle changes. Women are taught to stop smoking and drinking and eat well and take supplements to ensure their future baby’s health. There is less education around what you can do to make yourself healthier and why you should when you are trying to conceive. In fact, there are many simple things you can do to safely increase your chances of having a baby.
Both women and men can make changes to their daily routines and habits to improve their overall and fertility health. In addition to helping you get pregnant, these changes can help ensure successful delivery, lower the risk of birth defects, and improve your future child’s health.
Check out our tips below if you are trying to conceive, and the process is taking longer than expected or if you just want to give yourself the best chance possible of growing your family.
When to Have Sex – Understand Your Cycle
The most effective way to increase your chances of natural conception is to make sure you are having sex at the right time. To do this, you must first understand your menstrual cycle. During every woman’s cycle, there is a period of time known as the “fertile window.” The fertile window is the time in a woman’s cycle where it is possible to get pregnant. It is important to remember that every woman’s cycle is different. So be sure to pay close attention to your body and seek help from a fertility specialist if you ovulate irregularly or infrequently.
The exact timing of the “fertile window” depends on the length of your menstrual cycle. It is the five days leading up to the day an egg is released from your ovary (ovulation). Having sex during this timeframe gives you the best chance of getting pregnant. You can track your cycle using several different ovulation prediction techniques, including at-home ovulation predictor kits, tracking your basal body temperature, calendar charting, or ultrasound and bloodwork monitoring.
Research has shown that properly timed, and more frequent intercourse is associated with increased chances of natural conception . Now that we have identified the best time to have sex is during your fertile window, the next logical question is, how often should we be having sex?
In a review of multiple studies, researchers found that a period of abstinence prior to ejaculation can have a positive impact on semen volume and total sperm count . Fertility specialists recommend a short abstinence period prior to a woman’s fertile window of about 2 days. Longer periods of abstinence may negatively affect semen parameters, so it is important to take some time off from having sex, but not too long. In a study published by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), researchers found that an ejaculatory abstinence period of 2 days prior to IUI produced the highest pregnancy rates per cycle compared with longer intervals of ejaculatory abstinence .
Fertility specialists recommend having sex every other day during your fertility window, but only if that is reasonable and comfortable for both partners. Most people would assume that you want to have sex as much as possible to better your chances of having a bay, but research would indicate otherwise. You do want to have sex frequently, but that frequency depends on your mood and arousal.
Trying to have a baby may increase arousal in some women, but trying too hard can increase the pressure to perform and get in the way of pleasure. Pleasure during sex may play a more important role than frequency when trying to conceive. Research has shown that women who reach orgasm during sex can boost their conception rates .
The pressure to conceive isn’t only limited to women. Men can also experience stress when trying to have a baby, which affects their sexual performance. Research has shown that when men are in the mood and have higher arousal, it can increase their sperm count .
It seems to be a commonly held belief that missionary sex affords couples with the best chance of conceiving. Unfortunately, the research on this topic is limited and the majority of data comes from IUI studies. In One IUI study, women who laid flat on their backs for 15 minutes following intrauterine insemination had higher conception rates compared to women who got up immediately . This has caused fertility specialists and doctors to extrapolate that higher conception rates can be achieved if the man ejaculates while his female partner is on her back.
In truth, any position that delivers sperm near the cervix can lead to pregnancy. Some positions allow the man to penetrate deeper and closer to the cervix (i.e., rear entry), which may be helpful, but there is;t concrete data to support this theory either.
One easy thing to consider when you are trying to increase your chances of conception is the type of lubricant you are using. Certain types of lube can damage sperm and decrease your chances of getting pregnant. Fertility specialists recommend that you avoid using thick and highly acidic lubricants. Example of lubes you should avoid include:
- K-Y Jelly
- Baby oil
- Petroleum Jellies
Instead of using traditional lubricants, specialists recommend focusing on foreplay to increase arousal. In addition to increasing your chances of getting pregnant, arousal can help to boost your body’s natural lubricants. The cervical mucus women’s bodies produce naturally has the perfect thickness and acidity for sperm to survive and reach the egg.
If you must use a lubricant, we recommend looking for products labeled “fertility-friendly” or non- spermicidal. These lubricants are not toxic to sperm, and they don’t interfere with sperm’s ability to reach the cervix.
Before you try to conceive, it is important to ensure your body is as healthy as possible. When we recommend making changes to your diet, it doesn’t mean you need to limit your calories or lose a bunch of weight. Instead, we recommend that you eat foods to support your fertility and that you avoid others that can hurt it. Dr. Robert Kiltz, a reproductive endocrinologist, and fertility specialist here at CNY remarks that “our diet and other things we choose to consume is the single greatest factor we have control over that can radically increase the odds of conception and pregnancy.”
To support your fertility health, we recommend that you eat a high fat and low carbohydrate diet. This can help to improve your fertility by reducing inflammation and helping produce and balance the levels of essential reproductive hormones. For information on foods to increase fertility, foods to avoid when trying to get pregnant, and more, check out our detailed explanation of the fertility diet. For even more information, check out Dr. Kiltz’s health and wellness guide.
When considering what foods to eat when trying to conceive, it is also important to ensure your body is getting appropriate nutrients. You can get many vitamins and nutrients by eating different foods, but it isn’t easy to ensure you achieve appropriate levels of all the things you need. An easy way to support your diet is by taking fertility supplements.
Vitamins and nutrients found in fertility supplements play essential roles in your fertility. Research has shown that many women who are trying to get pregnant have inadequate levels of many of these nutrients, which adversely impacts their fertility . Fertility supplements can help improve women’s egg, embryo, and uterine quality.
Our team of specialists recommends fertility supplements to both men and men. Supplements can help improve several aspects of sperm, including concentration, motility, count. Supplements can also increase testosterone and other essential reproductive hormone levels in men.
Fertility supplements should be taken 90 days before trying to conceive to offer maximum support for egg and sperm production. At CNY Fertility, we recommend Molecular Fertility products. They were designed by leading experts in fertility and are backed by science in peer-reviewed journals and clinical fertility care experience. Molecular Fertility products are packed with clinically tested and patented nutrients shown to provide better absorption and benefits for natural fertility.
Exercise – A Little, Not a Lot
Light exercises like yoga or walking are great ways to get the body moving and increase your chances of conceiving. When your body is moving, it causes increased blood circulation, which helps nourishing blood flow containing oxygen and other vital nutrients to reach your reproductive organs.
Stretching or yoga can also help to balance your immune system. An overactive immune system can negatively impact your chances of conceiving by causing inflammation. Inflammation can cause reproductive organs to function improperly for both men and women. In addition to the physical health benefits exercise offers, it can also help to reduce stress and improve your mental health.
We recommend that both men and women incorporate light exercise like walking, yoga, or stretching into their daily routines when trying to conceive. We recommend against high-intensity exercise as it has been shown to negatively impact both male and female fertility by increasing inflammation. This inflammation caused by excess exercise can cause blockages and impeded blood flow from reaching the ovaries and testes. Research has shown that women’s bodies may not have enough energy to support both intense exercise and conception . Intense exercise has been shown to have many adverse impacts on male fertility, including altered semen parameters, low testosterone levels, and a decrease in thyroid hormones .
Stress and Stress Eliminators
When you are trying to conceive, things will not always go as planned, and when things don’t go according to plans, this usually results in stress. Stress can strain your relationship, impact your mental health, and affect your chances of conceiving. Numerous studies have shown a link between high-stress levels and lower chances of successful conception .
As mentioned above, yoga and light exercise are great ways to reduce stress levels. During yoga, you are taught to relax and focus on your breathing. The breathing techniques practiced in yoga and in mediation can help to reduce concentrations of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body. Reducing stress is vital when you are trying to conceive.
It is well established that poor sleeping patterns or bad sleep can impact your overall health. You may be wondering, how does sleep specifically affect me when I am trying to conceive? Sleep affects both male and female fertility health. When women don’t achieve adequate sleep levels, it can affect all aspects of the female fertility process. Poor sleep has been shown to impact menstruation, conception and can also lead to pregnancy complications . For men, poor sleep or not getting enough sleep has been shown to cause a decrease in sperm characteristics, including motility, count, and survival rates .
Fertility specialists recommend reducing stress levels before bed as one way to improve sleep quality. Try eliminating watching TV before bed from your daily routine and instead practice yoga or meditation before going to sleep. For more information on how sleep affects our chances of conception, check out our article on the importance of a good sleep schedule.
Limit or Stop Smoking and Drinking
You can add increasing your chances of conceiving to the countless list of other reasons to quit smoking and reduce your alcohol consumption. Smoking affects your chances of conceiving in more ways than one. For women, smoking has been shown to cause ovaries to age prematurely, damage your ovarian follicles, and affect the health of your baby. When you are trying to conceive, smoking will only make the process take longer, which can also increase your stress levels. For men, smoking has been shown to decrease sperm density, count, and motility .
As the saying goes, everything in moderation. This should certainly be applied when considering how much alcohol you drink while trying to conceive. Research has shown that the occasional drink here and there doesn’t appear to have a major impact on female fertility. However, studies have shown that women who have 8 or more drinks a week take significantly longer to conceive than those who do not .
Staying on the theme of moderation, decreased semen quality has been linked to increased alcohol consumption in men . In one study, only 12% of men characterized as alcoholics had normal semen parameters. In that same study, over three times as many men (37%) who were not considered alcoholics had normal semen parameters.
Know your Body, Understand When to Seek Help, Get Tested
As a general rule, fertility specialists recommend seeking assistance if you have been trying to conceive for a full year without success. Now that doesn’t mean you need to seek treatment if you have been thinking about having a baby for a year. It means you should consider fertility treatment if you have been having unprotected sex for a full year without success. There are certain cases when you should seek help sooner. If you are over 35, doctors recommend visiting a fertility doctor if you have been having unprotected sex for 6 months and haven’t had any luck conceiving. If you have or experience any of the following, you may wish to consider fertility treatment sooner:
- History of infertility
- Past miscarriage(s)
- Irregular periods or ovulation
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Possible male factor infertility (as the result of testicular trauma or infertility with a past partner)
Basic Fertility Testing when You’re Unable to Conceive:
When trying to conceive naturally just isn’t working, it’s a good idea to get tested after 6 months to a year of trying (depending on your age). It’s important to keep in mind that several components are needed for a healthy pregnancy, and testing can be done to cover all of them. When couples struggle to conceive, it is common for the female partner to get tested. We highly recommend female fertility testing, but it is just as important to bring your male counterpart with you. Did you know that only 1/3 of infertility cases are solely attributed to female factor infertility? 1/3 of infertility cases are caused by male factor infertility, and the last third is a combination of both male and female factors .
Male Fertility Testing
For men, a semen analysis is the first step in assessing your ability to conceive. A semen analysis is a simple and non-invasive way to assess male fertility and measure the key parameters of semen known to impact fertility. If the results of a semen analysis come back abnormal, men are usually sent for another round. If these results also come back negative, fertility specialists will usually recommend additional testing.
For more information, check out our article on male fertility testing!
Female Fertility Testing
When women visit their OBGYN or REI for fertility treatment, the first thing they undergo is testing. Without fertility testing results, doctors can’t recommend the appropriate treatment. Women usually undergo preconception bloodwork and a transvaginal ultrasound exam as their first steps.
Preconception bloodwork tests check female fertility indicators like progesterone, androgen, and AMH levels. A transvaginal ultrasound exam allows your doctor to check the condition of your uterus and ovaries. After reviewing your testing results, along with your past fertility history, and medical history, your doctor will either recommend additional testing or a specific course of fertility treatment.
For additional information, check out our article on female fertility testing!
Fertility Treatment – When Trying to Conceive Naturally Fails
When seeking fertility treatment, it is important that you remember (1) this is NOT your fault, (2) you did nothing wrong, and (3) you are not alone. 1 in 8 couples who are trying to conceive end up receiving help for infertility. There are numerous fertility treatments available to help you achieve the family of your dreams. Available fertility treatments include:
Fertility treatments can help women and couples overcome numerous infertility factors. Whether it is a male factor fertility issue, female factor fertility issue, or a combination of both, we are here to help!
The Bottom Line About Trying to Conceive
Trying to conceive can be hard, very hard! Struggling when trying to conceive is natural and happens to nearly every couple to some degree. This is a normal part of the process, and it is important that you stay positive. If you have been trying to conceive and you think it’s time to get help, do not fret. As discussed, over 1/8 of couples receive fertility treatment at some point. This is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it is a marvel how far along fertility treatments have come. We should feel lucky that treatments are available to help so many people achieve the family of their dreams.