As soon as you get married, you are perhaps bombarded with questions about when you plan on starting a family. However, the fact that you are reading this right now probably means that you have finally decided to bring a new member in the family. So, congratulations on taking the first step; we will help guide you through the rest!
Deciding when you want to become three from two is a big step in any couple's life. Well, not to forget the peer pressure and familial pressure surrounding you. However, once you have made your mind up about this big step and responsibility you are about to undertake, it simply makes sense to do it in a fashion where you are able to achieve your objective efficiently and quickly. So, here's all that you need to know in order to conceive faster!
The first step towards preparing your body to conceive is to go off contraception completely. If you have been taking oral contraceptives like birth control pills, using an IUD or condoms, or using any other method of barrier contraception, it's time to stop. Birth control, in particular, has an overall effect on your chances of conceiving and that's why it's important to get off the pill when you are in the process of considering pregnancy. There are several myths about birth control pills affecting your overall fertility but the good news is that leaving aside a few exceptions, your fertility will actually go back to normal right after you are off these pills. As per doctors, your fertility will go back to normal as soon as you quit taking these pills. You should also remember that your fertility isn't only dependent on going off these pills but also on factors like age and lifestyle. For instance, if you started taking these pills when you were 26 and are now 36, your chances of conceiving in the first year of trying to do so will have gone down.
Effects of Birth Control Pills
Oral contraception is an extremely common method of birth control that many women use. It mainly comprises two predominant female hormones known as Oestrogen and Progestrone that regulate the overall menstrual cycle.
The main purpose of oral contraceptive pills is to stop the process of ovulation which ensures that no egg is released for the purpose of fertilisation. If taken regularly (without missing a single dose) the chances of getting pregnant are almost negligible. However, oral contraceptives do have a failure risk of 5%.
Once you are off these pills, your fertility restores almost immediately and there are no medical reasons that can actually stop you from trying for a baby. You are most likely to experience the kind of menstrual cycle you used to (regular or irregular) before you started with these pills. Pills like Provera are usually prescribed for regulating menstrual cycle. Do note that you may face a little 'withdrawal bleeding' once you stop taking the pills. However, this isn't your first period but just the hormones leaving your system.
Doctors advise that you wait up to 2 menstrual cycles before actively trying to conceive as this will give you an idea about your own cycle. You will be able to determine your ovulation and your most fertile days that will increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Once you have gotten rid of the pills and are ready to take the plunge, it's time to visit your gynaecologist. A thorough pre conception check-up is a must to understand where you currently stand, check for any infections (STDs), monitor any other health problem you may be facing and ensure your reproductive health is optimum. The doctor will also check that other parameters (like thyroid and PCOS) are kept in check.
Your doctor is likely to prescribe prenatal vitamins containing folic acid as it not only helps reduce chances of birth defects in the baby but is also a very important nutrient for you. Read what Mommy Anjali has to say about the benefits of folic acid in a prenatal diet.
Apart from this, your doctor will also review any current medications you might be taking.
Here is a summary of exactly what you should be expecting during this visit:
Medical History: An entire medical background check will be done to ensure what can potentially cause complications in your pregnancy. If you suffer from conditions like asthma, diabetes, high BP or any other disorder, your gynaec needs to know.
Vaccination History: It is not uncommon to catch infections during pregnancy which can cause harm to both the baby and the mother. It is therefore important to evaluate the vaccinations you've already taken and infections you are unprotected against. The doctor will share with you an immunization chart that contains safety guidelines for you. Some of the important vaccinations are hepatitis B, chicken pox and HPV. Your doctor will be able to tell you more about this.
Lifestyle Related Questions: A series of questions related to your food habits, level of physical activity, work-life balance and related questions will be asked by your doctor to understand your daily routine better. Accordingly, s/he may suggest changes that you need to incorporate in your day to day life to increase your chances of getting pregnant fast.
Overall Medical Tests & Reports: Some routine pre conception tests like pap smear, urine, blood sugar level, blood composition, etc. will be prescribed by your doctor to understand your current medical status. This will also help them prescribe you medicines and supplements better.
Obstetric Investigation: One of the most crucial branches of investigation at preconception check-ups is to gauge an understanding of your obstetric health and history. Whether you've miscarried before, had faced complications in your previous pregnancy, etc. are all of paramount importance for your current pregnancy.
Watch: Experts tell you what to expect at a preconception check up
Once you are don’t with the check-up and ready to conceive, the next step is to track your own fertility. Having sex every day does not guarantee success. Instead, planning smart and targeting your most fertile days is the key to increase your chances of conceiving. To understand this you must first know what is the 'fertile window' in your menstrual cycle and why it plays a crucial role in determining your degree of fertility!
How is Ovulation Related to Getting Pregnant?
When a mature egg is released by the ovary and moves up to the fallopian tube in order to get fertilised (union of egg and the sperm, the first successful step to conception), the process is known as ovulation. A female egg has a viability of upto 24 hours.
Technically speaking, pregnancy is only possible during the five days before ovulation all the way up to the day of ovulation. These six days are also known as the 'fertile window' in a woman's menstrual cycle and also depict the lifespan of a sperm (typically 5 days) and the lifespan of an ovum or the egg (24 hours).
Having sex during this fertile window guarantees at least a 10% possibility of conceiving. This possibility increases constantly until two days before the day of ovulation. Post the fertile window, the possibility declines rapidly. Post 12-24 hours of ovulation, a woman will no longer be able to conceive in that particular cycle. It is therefore very important to know and track your ovulation.
Gynaecologists these days recommend using ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) to get an accurate estimate of your ovulation. These work by detecting a surge in hormonal levels (to be precise, the luteinizing hormone level) in the urine, which takes place around 36-48 hours before ovulation.
There are other methods too for tracking ovulation, such as basal body temperature and cervical mucus tracking (discussed below). Here are some basic pointers to help you track ovulation based on the length of your cycle:
If you have a 28 days menstrual cycle
Ovulation occurs approximately two weeks before your next period cycle begins. Therefore, the approximate day of ovulation will be day 14th of your cycle. Your most fertile days therefore will be your 12th, 13th and 14th day.
If you have a longer menstrual cycle (35 days cycle)
If your menstrual cycle lasts longer and is of an average duration of 35 days, your ovulation day will be roughly around the 21st day of the cycle. In this case, your most fertile days would be 19th, 20th and 21st day of the cycle.
As a thumb rule, if you experience a consistent and regular cycle, you can always estimate your day of ovulation by subtracting 14 from the length of your cycle! Yes, it's that simple! You can also check for these symptoms that occur before you ovulate. You may experience some or perhaps all of them.
Increased sexual drive/ libido
Fairly light spotting
Increased tenderness and sensitivity in the breasts
Heightened sense of taste, smell and sight
Changes in cervical mucus
Change in cervical position and firmness - it typically becomes higher, more open and softer
Constant change in basal body temperature record
Note: Your menstrual cycle can also vary and may not be regular and consistent. In such a case, estimating ovulation day can be slightly tricky and therefore it is advised you go for a more concrete method of tracking. You can observe your fertility signs throughout your cycle and make a note of the same. Also, recording basal body temperature and observing cervical mucus changes are a good practice to determine your fertile days as well.
Monitoring Your Basal Body Temperature
You might have heard your gynaec say something about recording and charting your basal body temperature? Well, basal body temperature is your body temperature when you are fully at rest. It is estimated that a woman's non-ovulating body temperature is somewhere around 35-37 degree Celsius. This temperature changes throughout the menstrual cycle and spikes by a degree or a half during ovulation.
Recording and charting this temperature over a course of a few months can assist in determining when you'll ovulate and when your chances of conceiving are higher.
How to do this?
Every morning before getting out of bed, take your temperature using a special BBT thermometer that's designed to measure temperature in tenths of degrees. Record these numbers on a chart for a few months till you see a pattern emerging. You can determine you've ovulated when you have a slightly higher BBT for three or more days.
The only fall back with this method is that you might not have enough time to try to conceive by the time your basal body temperature has risen. When you observe a monthly pattern, you could predict and plan to try a few days before your body temperature spikes.
BBT is also a great indicator of pregnancy. If your temperature rises for over 18 days post ovulation, it could be indicative of pregnancy. In case you are unable to observe a pattern or change in your BBT, you could try doing so vaginally or rectally for more precise results.
Checking Your Cervical Mucus Before Ovulation
Another common way to check for ovulation is the cervical mucus method. Cervical mucus changes in quantity as well as quality throughout the menstrual cycle - lowest right after your period and the most right before you ovulate. This happens due to the rise of oestrogen level right before you are about to ovulate which in turn stimulates the production of cervical mucus. This is also known as a more 'fertile' cervical mucus.
A quick way to determine if you have reached your 'fertile' zone is by checking this mucus and if it appears clear and feels stretchy (like egg whites), you are heading towards the fertile land! And the more of this texture of mucus, the better are your chances of getting pregnant!
Note: Ensure that you track your cervical secretion for a few cycles- from the starting day to the day your period ends. This is important to understand that you are not mistaking cervical mucus for other lubrication or secretions. Also, do not use a lube while having sex as they may contain chemicals that can kill the sperm, or better still refrain from the same altogether in your first cycle.
How to do this? There are primarily two ways of doing this, better known as the 'collection' methods. You can use a toilet paper right before and after you urinate. You can also use your fingers to determine the texture of cervical mucus.
A pre-requisite for a healthy pregnancy is a healthy body. It is imperative that you take care of your diet and lifestyle and incorporate healthier choices and habits when you are trying to conceive. Your body needs to be prepared to host another life and to cater to that, you need to be at your best.
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
It has been observed that overweight or underweight women are susceptible to an increased risk of ovulation disorders because your weight affects your hormones directly! There however is no 'ideal weight' for conceiving. It all depends on an individual's BMI and every woman must aim to attain a healthy one. It is usually recommended that a woman who is trying to get pregnant should have a BMI within the range 19-25 to increase their chances of conceiving.
If you are overweight or underweight, ensure you get a proper diet plan from your doctor to help you come closer to your healthy body weight. Also, incorporate lifestyle changes like a brisk walk or 30 minutes of physical activity daily, based on your doctor's discretion. Your doctor will be able to give you more fitness tips to conceive basis your health condition.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
What you eat becomes even more crucial when you are trying to get ready to host another life inside you. Your diet plays a huge part in ensuring your body has what it takes to supply nutrition to two people. Yes, the responsibility increases two-fold!
There are no guaranteed diet plans that will increase your fertility or help accelerate the process. However, a general guideline of eating a well-balanced healthy, diet is always beneficial in the long run. There are a few guidelines you must bear in mind vis-à-vis your pre-conception diet:
Foods to avoid when trying to conceive
Seafood: This can contain high level of mercury which isn't advisable for women who are looking at planning a family or are in the process of doing so in the near future. Elevated mercury level in the blood has been associated with infertility. Therefore, fish like sword fish, shellfish, catfish, tuna, shrimp and salmon should not be consumed.
High Glycaemic Index Foods: It is advisable to avoid consuming food items that make your blood sugar level spike as it may lead to inflammation and also impede ovulation.
Certain Canned and Bottled Drinks: Doctors recommend you cut down on the intake of such drinks and have them only if you are sure that they are BPA free. Bisphenol-A or BPA is a compound found in plastic bottles and containers, intake of which could reduce fertility in both women and men.
Soda Drinks:Studies in the past have linked soda (regular or diet) to lower fertility. It causes metabolic changes along with inflammation and blood sugar spiking. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid the same.
Another very important fact to bear in mind is to kick unhealthy habits and welcome a more disciplined and active lifestyle. Your efforts to conceive will all go to waste if you do not keep a check on the following things:
Kick the Butt: Smoking (active or passive) can affect your fertility in a negative manner. Smoking leads to a higher rate of infertility and a longer time to conceive. Not just that, it also harms the ovaries and accelerates the loss of eggs. Moreover, even if you do conceive, it can impact your baby's health severely leading anywhere from a pre mature birth to miscarriage or a low birth weight.
Quit Alcohol Consumption: Although there are no clear links of alcohol with a woman's fertility, there have been instances of a higher risk of infertility in women who consume two or more alcoholic drinks per day. It is therefore advised to avoid having two or more drinks a day when you are trying to get pregnant.
Exercise, but in Moderation: Maintaining an active lifestyle is important especially if you are slightly overweight and are aiming for weight loss. However, doing vigorous and strenuous exercise is not advisable as it may interfere with your menstrual cycle and could lead to infertility.
Cut on Caffeine: High level of caffeine consumption (more than 5 cups of coffee or 500mg of caffeine) has been linked to decreased fertility. This does not mean that you do not indulge in your morning kappa, just ensure you do so in moderation.
VI] Pregnancy Sex Tips – When and What to Do to Conceive Faster
Now coming to the practical part of your efforts - the babymaking sex! A lot of sex definitely is the added bonus of planning a family. However, contrary to general perception, how frequently you have sex is not the only thing that matters. The timing is key. On an average, having sex 3-5 times a week is a good way to start the process.
When Should You Have Sex?
To determine when you should be having sex, you should understand the science behind it. When a sperm is released in your body, it can stay motile (alive) for up to 2- 3 days; however when an egg is released by your uterus, it is viable for about 12-24 hours only. Therefore, having sex before ovulation boosts the chances for your egg and the sperm to meet!
As soon as your period ends, start having sex perhaps a few times in a week. This is especially helpful if your cycle is not regular and you are uncertain about your cycle length. This will ensure you don't miss out on your most fertile time.
Day 10th onwards, ensure you have sex daily.
If you are using an OPK, keep track of when you get a positive result and have sex that very day and two days following that. These are your most fertile days where chances of conceiving are maximum.
Another aspect to consider is 'how' and 'what' you should be doing and what you should completely avoid in a sex session when the aim is to make a baby!
DO's While Having Babymaking Sex
While having sex is fun in its own way, you should keep a few things in mind about what really works! Right from the correct sex positions to conceive faster to the hygiene part of it, we have you covered!
Have sex before bedtime: Many believe that a man's sperm count is highest in the morning. However, the fact is, doing it right before bedtime will ensure you stay on your back for longer (because you need to sleep after!) and will not affect your posture much. This will allow the sperm to enter your body in sufficient time.
Lie on your back post sex: Because, gravity, ladies! The vagina naturally slopes downward and that’s why resting on your back after sex allows the sperm to pool in one place and provides an easy passage for swimming towards the egg. You could additionally also lift your legs while lying down.
Old school is the best: Keep it simple is the key for efficiency when it comes to deciding on a sex position. The old school vanilla does the trick! Ideally, it should be any position where you are lying on your back while your partner is on top.
Dont's While Having Babymaking Sexx
While it's fun, there are certain things you should possibly refrain from doing as a practice while having sex.
Using lubrication: If you use lube in general to spice things up, it's time to stop because the objective here is to make a baby! Lubrication does not help the sperm move quicker but can potentially alter pH balance in the vagina and subsequently decrease sperm mobility.
Worry about not having an orgasm: Undoubtedly, orgasms are a great incentive of sex. However, it isn't related to conceiving in any manner whatsoever. Some people believe that having an orgasm boosts conception by drawing more sperm in the vagina and uterus, but there is no scientific evidence for it.
Boxer v/s briefs dilemma: It is commonly believed that wearing briefs can affect a man's sperm count, but there is no good proof to validate this theory. His attire has no role to play in hastening the process of conception.
Hot tub / sauna time: It is often observed that hot tub baths and sauna can have an effect on the overall male fertility because of the heat exposure. The sperms usually thrive better in cooler conditions and therefore such activities are advised to be avoided.
VII] Sperm Boosters: How to Increase Sperm's Motility
Making a baby is not a solo act and requires partner work. Hence it is important to ensure that your husband's reproductive health too is taken care of. There are many couples struggling with the problem of infertility due to low sperm count and poor sperm motility. Here are a few steps that you can take to enhance sperm motility. The key to increasing sperm motility is to make changes in lifestyle and diet.
Quit smoking and alcohol consumption: Smoking and alcohol affect sperm motility as well as count negatively. It is a good idea to ask your husband to quit these habits for various health related reasons, one of them primarily being that you are trying for a baby!
Tackle nutritional deficiencies: Studies have shown that nutritional deficiencies in men can also cause low sperm motility. For instance, diet low in 'carnitine' (helps improve sperm motility)is known to cause the issue. While there are supplements available in the market, it is advised to consult your doctor before opting for the same. These supplements are known to provide energy to the sperm, thereby allowing them to move faster.
Pay attention to the diet: Include red meat in your husband’s diet as it is known to be rich in amino acids - something that sperms require for faster movement. Also, include food like fish which are rich in omega 3 and folic acid in your diet.
Note: Sometimes, low sperm motility can also be linked to lower levels of testosterone in a man's body. In such a case, get a thorough blood work done and visit your doctor who will prescribe the correct medication and the way forward. In some cases this could also be genetic and therefore requires medical intervention.
VIII] Prenatal Vitamins to Improve Chances of Getting Pregnant
Health care is of utmost importance when you are preparing your body to host another life in you. Your daily diet may not be able to fulfill the amount of nutrition you particularly require at this time, and that's when supplements come into picture. You may wonder - why prenatal vitamins before conceiving? Well, it's a good idea to start on them now as they will be able to protect you and your baby against any abnormalities.
Lack of certain vitamins can also lead to infertility. When you deprive your body of adequate vitamins and nutrition, your menstrual cycle can suffer, leading to irregular cycles and ovulation problems. Prenatal vitamins are like a safeguard that ensure you are getting all that's required to maintain a healthy reproductive system.
Following are a few pre-natal vitamins that you should incorporate in your daily life. Remember - do not start taking any supplements before consulting your doctor first:
Folic acid: If you are trying to conceive, it is recommended that you consume at least 600 micrograms of folic acid. It helps lower chances of neural tube defects in the baby. Eat plenty of folate rich foods like spinach, citrus fruits like oranges and other green leafy veggies.
Zinc: The food you eat is mostly stripped off of this mineral due to excessive processing and therefore you may not be consuming the required amount of zinc. Zinc promotes healthy cell division which is crucial in the early stages of conception and foetal development. You can include green peas, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, lamb, oysters and shrimp in your diet as these are excellent sources of zinc.
Vitamin D and Calcium: Both are imperative for healthy bone development for you and your baby. Consider taking tuna, salmon, eggs and venturing out in the sun to take care of your vitamin D consumption. You should also include dairy products like milk, tofu, cheese, yogurt along with dates, almonds and broccoli in your diet as they are rich in calcium content.
Apart from the ones listed above, vitamin C, vitamin B12 and iron are a few other important vitamins that constitute your prenatal care.
On an average, healthy couples who have been trying to conceive with concentrated efforts and unprotected sex are able to do so within a year. This however is not a fixed time frame. Some couples may find conceiving challenging and therefore it is always advisable to seek help. In case you are unable to conceive and have been trying for quite a while, it is a good idea to seek medical intervention. There is nothing to be ashamed of in such cases.
Another factor to consider is age. Women and their partners in their mid 20s and early 30s are quite active, healthy and at the prime of their health. However, fertility for women does go down with age and some may therefore have difficulty in conceiving post their 30s. If you are nearing 35, it is advisable to seek medical consultation after a 6 months of trial. The sooner you seek fertility treatment, the better.
Also, it is very important to remember that it is a journey you and your husband have both decided to embark on together and that's why you need to be supportive of each other at every step. Never 'blame' yourself or your partner. Infertility is a real problem that many couples battle together and overcome. There are plenty of options to consider and treat the same.
So, now that you are well equipped with all the know-how's of conception, we wish you all the luck and success. Hope the news of a little bub's arrival will soon be on its way!