Trying to conceive and getting pregnant

Trying to conceive can be an exciting yet nerve-wracking experience. Whether it's your first time or not, there are many factors that can affect your chances of getting pregnant. From lifestyle changes to stressors and age, this blog post will provide you with valuable insights and tips to increase your chances of conceiving and help you navigate through the ups and downs of trying to get pregnant. Here, we will explore everything from ovulation tracking to how to conceive more quickly.

When is the best time to try and conceive?

There is no single answer to this question since every couple is different and each has their own unique circumstances and menstrual cycle. However, there are general guidelines that can help couples determine when the best time to try and conceive may be. 

Firstly, it is important to have regular sex, every 2-3 days throughout the cycle, especially during the fertile window. Ovulation usually occurs between 10-16 days before the start of a woman's next period – but, as mentioned, everyone is different. Therefore, couples who are trying to conceive should aim to have intercourse during the days leading up to ovulation. The fertile window lasts for approximately 7 days – 5 days before ovulation (as sperm can live in the vagina for 5 days), the day of ovulation and for the next 24 hours post ovulation. Having regular sex will increase the chances of sperm meeting egg and fertilisation occurring.

Ideally, couples should start trying to conceive when they are both healthy and have no major health concerns. If either partner has any chronic health conditions or is taking medication that could potentially impact fertility, it is important to speak with a doctor before trying to conceive. Likewise, if you have any concerns about your ability to conceive, talk to your GP.  

If you are taking hormonal contraception, if you can, stop your contraceptive method a few months before actively trying to conceive so that all the hormones are out of your body, but don’t worry if this is not possible. It is also advised to start taking folic acid supplements before you start trying.

How to spot your ovulation window

If you're trying to conceive, knowing when you ovulate is key. Ovulation is the release of an egg from your ovary. This is required before fertilisation can occur.

There are a few ways to tell when you might be ovulating:

  • Keep track of your basal body temperature. Your temperature will rise slightly when you ovulate.
  • Track your cervical mucus. You may notice that your mucus becomes thinner and clearer around the time of ovulation. Like egg white!
  • Consider using an ovulation predictor kit (more about this below). These kits test your urine for the presence of a hormone released prior to ovulation. 
  • This is a great time to increase sex as sperm can live for 5 days, increasing the amount of sperm available to fertilise an egg. 

If you're trying to get pregnant, timing intercourse around your ovulation window is key. Having sex during this time gives you the best chance of conceiving.

You can head to the HiPP Ovulation calculator to support you in detecting ovulation. 

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Using ovulation kits for conception

Using ovulation kits may help you pinpoint when you’re most fertile. These kits test your urine for the presence of luteinizing hormone (LH), which surges about 12-36 hours before ovulation.

While ovulation kits can be effective in helping you time intercourse around your ovulation, it’s important to keep in mind that they aren’t foolproof. Your LH levels may fluctuate throughout the month, making it hard to get an accurate reading. In addition, some women don’t experience a surge in LH before ovulation, so these kits may not work for them. It is also important to be aware that ovulation kits may not work for women with PCOS, for example.

If you decide to use an ovulation kit, be sure to follow the instructions carefully and contact your doctor if you have any questions.

Tips to conceive

Overall, there is not one thing in isolation that helps encourage conception. It's generally multifactorial and very personal. The NHS advises that most couples will become pregnant within a year of trying to conceive. 

If you're trying to conceive, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of getting pregnant and provide the best possible environment for a baby to develop. 

  • Take folic acid: Make sure you're getting enough folate. Folic acid is the synthetic form. This nutrient is important for the development of the neural tube and can help prevent certain birth defects. You should start taking a folate supplement (ideally) at least one month before you start trying to conceive. We know that around 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, so don't worry if you have not been taking it. Just be sure to start if you do become pregnant. You can also eat foods that are rich in folic acid, such as dark leafy greens, legumes, and oranges. And, of course, ensure you eat a nutrient-rich diet as much as possible. 
  • Track your ovulation: As mentioned, you can use an ovulation predictor kit too if you prefer. Aim to have sex regularly during the fertile window. That way, there will always be sperm waiting around when the egg is released.
  • Reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake: Both of these substances can impact fertility. Caffeine has been shown to reduce the likelihood of conceiving, so try to limit yourself to one cup of coffee per day (or less). Alcohol can also reduce fertility so it's best to reduce or, ideally, abstain from alcohol, where possible. If you're a smoker, now is the time to really seek support to help you to quit. It can be really tough, but you can quit with the right support. 
  • Manage your stress levels: Stress can negatively impact fertility by affecting hormone levels amongst many other things. If you're feeling stressed out, try some relaxing techniques like yoga, meditation, exercise, or anything that you know helps to calm your nervous system. 
  • Get regular exercise: Exercise can help improve your overall health, which can in turn improve your fertility.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Eating a diet that's rich in nutrients like folic acid can help decrease your risk of birth defects.

Conclusion

Trying to conceive and getting pregnant can be a stressful process, but remember, less than 30% of couples will fall pregnant within the first month of trying. The average time it takes to get pregnant is at least three months. However, it can take more or less time depending on a variety of factors, such as age, reproductive health, and frequency of intercourse, among others.

Taking the time to understand your body's menstrual cycle, giving yourself enough rest and relaxation, and making lifestyle changes that support fertility will all help your chances. Remember to seek help from a doctor when necessary.

If you are trying to conceive and have been unsuccessful after several months of unprotected sex, you may want to consult with a fertility specialist or your GP. Please don't be disheartened; there are many options available and lots of support for you both on this journey.

Reviewed by:

Kate Davies is an independent fertility and women's health nurse consultant and director of Your Fertility Journey Ltd. For more information, see here