22 Nov How to conceive – 10 best ways to get pregnant
How to conceive? We all know the basics. But to maximise your chance of getting pregnant, you need to do more than you think. How much sex should you really have? Should you bin the booze and buy some jogging shoes? And are hot baths really bad for sperm? We present the 10 best ways to get pregnant. The facts, not the myths, on how to conceive.
1. Have more sex – a lot more.
The best way to conceive is to have more sex. Absurdly obvious as it may sound, reduced lovemaking is often the root of the problem for many couples unable to get pregnant. A recent study from University College in London found that the 16-44 age group is having less sex than it did ten years ago. As advances in IVF treatment and other fertility options continue, some people are also neglecting their love lives because they think they can. Read what The New York Times has to say about that.
It’s best to have sex three times a week. Don’t set yourself an impossible target of daily sex. It won’t happen, anxiety will creep in, and sperm need a break. 30 per cent of people trying for a baby, who have sex every other day, conceive within a month. That rises to a 75-per-cent conception rate in six months and 90 per cent in a year.
Still in the 10 per cent non-conception bracket? You may need medical assistance. Just keep making love while you wait for the appointment.
2. Ovulation is showtime – know your fertility window.
Trying to conceive around ovulation is sensible. It’s also silly. Why? Because everything gets too scientific (definition: unsexy). There’s an abundance of ovulation kits at your local pharmacy. Try one if you must. Just don’t expect your partner to rise to the occasion when you summon him to the bedroom with a chart in your hand. The truth is, if you’re having regular sex, these kits are a waste of money. Did your parents use ovulation kits? Enough said.
Sperm survives for up to five days. If you really want a sex timetable, have it on days 8, 10, 12 and 14 of your cycle. Keep relaxed and enjoy it. Mornings are best: you’re actually awake and have more energy. Be quietly confident: pregnancy happens. Planning when and how to conceive may sometimes be necessary, but try not to let the process worry you too much. Stress is bad – you’re 12 per cent less likely to conceive each month if you’re anxious.
3. Get checked out – before you start.
Doctors tell you to get in touch after a year of trying to conceive. Not good enough. If you’re serious about getting pregnant, see your doctor or local midwife before you start trying. If they care, they’ll do a little more than check your heart and circulation. They’ll tell you to quit alcohol, stop smoking, eat a balanced diet and start regular moderate exercise. Get tested for STDs – don’t be shy. Check for hereditary diseases too. And find out if anyone in you or your partner’s family had fertility problems in the past. Prepare to be surprised.
After six months (or sooner if you want), a detailed look at your reproductive organs is advisable. If the NHS won’t pay, go private. That medical bill will, we guarantee, be less than the money you pay for fertility-related treatment two years later for a condition you didn’t spot, or treat. Look for PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids and polyps. A trans-vaginal ultrasound, and perhaps an HSG, is money well spent. So is AMH testing and other hormone profiling (like LH and TSH). Male partners must get a semen analysis. It’s easy and quick.
4. Rubella – it’s not nice and it’s not German.
Rubella (German measles) is a virus that can cause major problems for developing babies. You don’t want the virus anywhere near you when you’re trying to conceive. Check your medical records: if you’re in your late twenties or older, there’s a chance you may not be vaccinated. The highly efficient, if controversial, MMR vaccination programme was only rolled out in 1988. Before then, it was separate injections for measles, mumps and rubella. Not sure if mum took you to have all three? Have a blood test to see if you’re immune.
5. Get help for your asthma – it’s bad for baby.
About 235 million worldwide have asthma, according to the World Health Organisation. And it’s seriously under-diagnosed. It’s also a potential problem in pregnancy. Smoke tobacco and you’ll increase the chance of your unborn baby developing the condition. Asthma also affects a woman’s fertility, a new study suggests. It found that women who had asthma were 25 per cent more likely than non-asthma sufferers to take a year or more to get pregnant.
The figures came down when the asthma was kept under control. And it must be – because asthma attacks during pregnancy can lead to premature birth, pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure. So if you’re trying to conceive, make sure you have sufficient stocks of your medication to hand. And check your inhaler is safe for conception and pregnancy.
6. Watch what you eat – and touch.
Eating well is vital if you want to conceive. Okay, we’ve all seen those overweight mums in the supermarket clutching eight kids. These are not your role models. Eat fresh food whenever you can to ensure you get your natural vitamins and minerals. Take a folic-acid supplement, but top up with natural folates like spinach, kiwi fruit, baked beans and fortified cereals.
It’s all about a balanced diet. Boring, but true. Be strict with yourself. Mix starchy food, fresh fruit and vegetables, proteins, dairy food and fish. When you get pregnant, avoid unpasteurised products, undercooked eggs, soft cheese, cured meat, pâté, liver and shellfish. Watch the orange juice as well as the chocolate cake during pregnancy – both are high in sugar, which increases the chance of gestational diabetes. Dump the vitamin-A supplements, caffeine and booze. And don’t touch the cat litter tray. Toxoplasmosis is a threat to the developing fetus and you can pick it up from soil, raw meat and unwashed vegetables too. Wash your hands all the time.
7. Love your sperm.
Advice on how to conceive is often geared towards women. Men are often ignored. But let’s face it: they’re 50 per cent of the equation. Men should take an approved vitamin supplement with sufficient zinc and selenium. Start three months before you begin trying to conceive. Lose the beer, and the belly. And don’t smoke.
Men should also keep their testicles cool. Their bodies do that already, but help things along by opting for a shower, not a bath. Avoid tight-fitting briefs and trousers (some evidence suggests these may harm sperm). And don’t use your laptop on your lap.
8. Get a sex pillow.
Sperm are tough, and awesome swimmers. But a pillow under the hips or buttocks after sex may help the sperm swim towards your uterus and fallopian tubes. This is not an old wife’s tale – it really can make a difference. So lie there for 30 minutes while your partner does the washing up.
9. Relax, relax, relax.
Did we mention stress was a killer? Trying to conceive when anxious is an unhappy affair and your body will hate you for it. A recent survey found that 55 per cent of women who went on a 10-week relaxation course, followed by stress-reduction techniques, got pregnant within a year. But the women in the group who skipped the stress-reduction classes did worse: only 20 per cent got pregnant. So keep stress at bay and stay positive – it’s the cheapest way to maximise your pregnancy chances.
10. Consider IVF – results are getting better.
If you’re haven’t conceived after a year of regular lovemaking (six months if you’re over 35), you may need some help to get pregnant. The main fertility-treatment choices are IVF with your own eggs, IVF with donor eggs and a relative newcomer, embryo adoption. We eventually chose donor eggs and we now have a beautiful baby girl.
So fertility treatment can work in many cases. Just try to get pregnant naturally to begin with – and keep in mind our 10 best ways to conceive.