10 Tips For Conceiving

Most couples spend so many months and years trying not to get pregnant that they assume getting pregnant is what happens the moment they relax. It can be disheartening to realize there's more to babymaking than discontinuing contraception. Here are 10 simple things you can do to stack the pregnancy odds in your favor.

couple hugging

1Eat, drink and make baby

Zinc shortages in men have been linked to lower testosterone levels and sperm counts, so men should consume foods rich in zinc, such as lean meats, eggs, seafood and whole grains. Calcium and vitamin D may improve men's fertility, so drink your milk, Men.

And sip that tea, Ladies. According to a 1998 study by Bette Caan at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program of Northern California, women who drank more than half a cup of tea per day were seven times as likely to conceive during the three months that the study lasted.

Fertility-boosting foods: Eating to conceive >>

2Live clean and well

Abstain from alcohol, cigarettes (even secondhand smoke) and medications (prescription, over-the-counter and herbal), and steer clear of toxic chemicals, including household cleaners. Limit your consumption of chocolate and caffeinated sodas, teas and coffees. Excessive exercise and a very low body fat percentage can lead to fertility problems in women -- so stay active, but don't overdo it.

Will exercise adversely affect my chances of getting pregnant? >>

3Stay cool and hang loose

Sperm production is inhibited by overheated testicles, so men are advised to wear breathable boxers and loose-fitting pants, avoid soaking in hot baths or hot tubs and sitting in saunas, and even cut back on bicycling and rough sports.

6 Male fertility boosters >>

4Identify your window of opportunity

You've undoubtedly heard about various remedies to enhance fertility. While it's tempting to swallow those claims, you shouldn't take anything without first consulting your healthcare provider. Frankly, nothing makes a baby more effectively than simply timing intercourse with ovulation.

According to John R Sussman, MD, an ob/gyn in New Milford, Connecticut, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Having a Baby, babymaking is mainly a numbers game: 

  • You ovulate about 14 days before you get your period. "If your cycle length varies from 24 days to 30 days," says Dr Sussman, "then you can count on ovulating somewhere between Day 10 and Day 16."
  • An egg only lives for 12 to 24 hours; intercourse after ovulation is usually too late.
  • Sperm can live up to 72 hours; intercourse as much as three days before ovulation could still result in pregnancy.

Dr Sussman sums it up: "Your window of opportunity opens about three days before the earliest possible ovulation and closes about a day after the latest possible ovulation."

 The right time: When sperm and egg meet >>

5Use an ovulation predictor kit

Ovulation Predictor Kits [OPKs] are a great way to maximize your chances of conception, says Dr Sussman. These will help to quickly and accurately detects the increase in luteinizing hormone in your urine (LH Surge), which normally occurs 24 to 36 hours before ovulation. You are most likely to become pregnant if you have intercourse within 36 hours after you detect your LH surge.

Charting and tracking your basal body temperature (BBT) charting is another option recommended by some doctors.

How to chart your fertility >>

6See your caregiver

Schedule an appointment for a preconception checkup. Your caregiver will review your family history, make sure you're in good health, and will discuss your current contraceptive method. Many fertility experts recommend that a woman stop taking the birth control pill at least three months before she tries to become pregnant. This way, your cycles can return to normal, allowing you your best chance at achieving pregnancy and helping to more precisely determine gestational age if you do conceive.

I hate my doctor. Can I change? >>

If you have not already, you should talk to your caregiver about prenatal vitamins -- and if she or he recommends them for you, begin taking them even before you try to conceive.

Four key steps to a healthy pregnancy >>

7Time the baby dance

Dr Sussman generally recommends intercourse every one to two days within your window of opportunity. "Some people ask whether the sperm count suffers with intercourse every day. While that may be the case for certain men, it's not for all," he says. 

A man's testosterone levels and sperm count are highest in the morning, so sex may be most productive then.

Timing of pregnancy may predict baby's gender >>

8Choreograph the dancing

Not only does it matter when you have sex; it also matters how. According to some fertility experts, the missionary position (man on top) allows for deepest penetration and can deposit the sperm closest to the cervix.

Similarly, if the woman has an orgasm, her contractions may further carry the sperm into the cervix. Avoid artificial lubricants or oils; petroleum jelly, glycerin and even saliva, which can all kill sperm.

How to increase your odds of conceiving quickly >>

9Stop babymaking and start lovemaking

When you're "trying," it's easy to let the mechanics of babymaking overshadow the romance of lovemaking. Unfortunately, stress can interrupt normal ovulation cycles in women, kill your sex drive, and can even cause men's testosterone levels and sperm count to drop.

If you want your baby's conception to be a loving and unforgettable experience, be sure you relax enough to enjoy it!

Keeping baby-making sex fun >>

10Seek help

Though it certainly can, conception doesn't typically happen overnight. So how long should you "try" before seeking intervention?

Many experts suggest waiting about a year after first trying to conceive, depending on your history, age and temperament. Says Dr Sussman, "Couples who have not conceived after three to six months of excellent timing should be offered at least a preliminary evaluation. Then there are couples who clearly haven't mastered timing or aren't in any hurry. They can comfortably wait for a year or more."

5 Fertility basics to help you get pregnant naturally >>

Sometimes the mere threat of intervention is enough to make sperm meet egg. "I knew I would get pregnant as soon as I had that reproductive endocrinologist referral in hand," recalls Kelly Moronko, mother of one with one on the way in Riverside, California. "One week before my appointment, I tested positive. I'd bet money that if I check my records, the referral was approved the same day I ovulated!"

More reading:

Americans prefer to leave child's sex to chance
Careful healthcare consideration can heighten conceptual hopes
Is it safe to lose a lot of weight before conceiving?

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