Dos and don'ts of increasing your chances of getting pregnant.
By Denise Mann
You are ready to get pregnant. Now. Of course, you want to attack this task with the same fervor as you did your career and everything else that has ever been on your to-do list. Now that you are ready to start a family, waiting is not an option.
"The overarching message is don't get into the 'it has to happen right now' thing," stresses Paula Hillard, MD, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif. "This is the first time that many women are up against the concept that they can't control everything."
That said, there are some things you can do -- or not do -- to help increase your chances of getting pregnant ASAP. Read on for seven expert-approved tips for getting pregnant.
1. Do get a preconception checkup.
Before you officially start trying, get a preconception checkup. Ask your doctor about prenatal vitamins that contain folic acid, which will decrease your risk of having a baby with neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. "Do this the cycle before you start trying," Hillard tells WebMD. "If you have any underlying medical problems, they need to be under control before you can safely become pregnant."
2. Do get to know your cycle.
Sex education is key, says Hillard. "Women need to really understand their cycle and when they are most likely to become pregnant," she says. Ovulation is the best time to get pregnant.
"Being aware of the symptoms of ovulation [which include] changes in cervical mucus such as a thin watery, mucus-like discharge is also helpful," she says. Other signs of ovulation can include a one-sided twinge of pain. "This is the time to focus on having sex."
Ovulation prediction kits can also help predict the best time to get pregnant, says James Goldfarb, MD, director of the infertility service at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland. "They assure a patient that they are ovulating, and if you are having infrequent intercourse, this tells you when to have it to increase your chances of getting pregnant "
The first day of your menstrual period is day one. "Start testing on day nine and keep going until you get a positive," advises Joanne Piscitelli, MD, an associate professor of gynecology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. Women with a 28-day cycle tend to ovulate on day 14, but many women have longer or shorter cycles, so casting a wide net can help you be sure.
Use of birth control may muddy the playing field. Many women spend half their life trying not to get pregnant by using birth control pills or other contraception methods, but is it OK to start trying to get pregnant the minute you scrap your birth control method?
"Years ago, the conventional wisdom was to wait a certain amount of time after stopping birth control to try to get pregnant but that is no longer true. You can start trying to conceive right after you stop birth control," Goldfarb says. The only downside is that you may not ever get your period, so tracking ovulation may be difficult, and it will be hard to date the pregnancy initially. For this reason, "some people may feel better waiting until they get one period on their own," he says.
3. Don't worry about the best positions for getting pregnant.
Myths abound about the best positions for getting pregnant, but they are just that---myths. There is really no scientific evidence saying that the missionary position is better than the woman being on top when it comes to maximizing your chances of making a baby.
"Very rarely, a women's cervix is in an unusual position where certain positions can make a difference," Goldfarb tells WebMD.
Certain gravity-defying positions, such as sitting or standing during intercourse, however, may discourage sperm from traveling upstream. "It's a matter of gravity [and] you don't want all the semen to run out -- and semen are quick little critters," Hillard says. "Having sex with the man on top [missionary position] may best allow sperm to pool in the vagina," she suggests.
4. Do lay low right after intercourse.
You have probably heard this one before -- lie in bed with your feet in the air after having sex to increase your chances of getting pregnant. The verdict? Not (totally) true. "It's good advice to lay in bed for 10 to 15 minutes after intercourse, but you don't need your feet in the air," Goldfarb says. "Your pelvis does not move when you put your legs in the air." Don't go the bathroom during this time either, he says. "If you wait 10 to 15 minutes, the sperm that is going to get into the cervix will be in the cervix."
5. Don't overdo it.
Having sex like rabbits even during ovulation will not necessarily increase your chances of getting pregnant. It may seem like a good idea, but some men's sperm count will deplete if they ejaculate too often, Goldfarb says. "In general, every other night around the time of ovulation helps increase your chance of getting pregnant," he says. Sperm can live up to 72 hours after intercourse. That said, if you and your mate enjoy having sex more frequently, he can get a semen analysis after he has ejaculated several times in a row. This test can tell if his sperm quality or quantity is depleted by frequent ejaculation. If it is not, then feel free to have sex as often as you like.
Speaking of sperm, "wearing tight-fitting clothing can negatively affect sperm count," Piscitelli says. So too can spending time in hot tub or Jacuzzi. Your man's cell phone habits may also affect your chances of becoming pregnant. A recent study in the journal Fertility and Sterility showed that men who used a hands-free device with a cell phone and kept their phone close to their testicles had impaired sperm quality. And while you are telling your partner where to keep his cell phone, you may want to tell him to pass on the edamame and other soy foods. Men who eat a lot of soy foods may have a lower sperm concentration than men who don't eat soy foods, according to a study published online in Human Reproduction.
6. Do de-stress any way you can.
Trying to get pregnant can be stressful, and stress can certainly derail ovulation, Hillard says. It can also cause sexual dysfunction and performance anxiety for men. "There is some evidence that acupuncture can help reduce stress and increase your chances of becoming pregnant," Goldfarb says. While excessive alcohol use is not wise when trying to get pregnant, "a mid-cycle glass of wine to relax and have intercourse can be helpful," he says. Bottom line: Anything that helps you de-stress and takes the pressure off trying to get pregnant will help you increase your chances of getting pregnant.
7. Do lead a healthy lifestyle.
Exercising is a good thing, but when you are trying to conceive, you can get too much of a good thing, Goldfarb says. "Too much exercise can cause you not to ovulate," he says, explaining that excessive exercise can stop the pituitary gland from telling the ovaries to ovulate. While this threshold is largely individual, he says "exercising seven days a week for 45 to 50 minutes a day will cause a problem in the majority of women."
That doesn't mean you should stop exercising the minute you start trying to get pregnant. If you are a hard-core exerciser and are still getting your period regularly, your exercise regimen is most likely not a problem, he says. But, Goldfarb adds, your menstrual period is not the first thing to go if you are exercising too heavily. "The first thing that happens is that you have a shorter second half of your cycle. You should have a period 14 days after you ovulate, but too much exercise can shorten this phase." This would be the first hint that you need to curtail your fitness regimen. He suggests tracking how long it takes you to get a period after you ovulate as the best way to know for sure.
Goldfarb says the best way to increase your chances of getting pregnant while getting the health benefits of regular exercise is to engage in moderate exercise, such as a half an hour of aerobic activity like walking three times a week. Watch what you eat, too; dieting is a double-edged sword for women trying to get pregnant. "If you are obese and you lose weight, your period may come back, but if you are too thin and not getting your period, you need to gain weight to get pregnant," Goldfarb says.
Stop smoking to increase your chances of getting pregnant," Hillard says. Aside from all the other negative health effects of smoking, this nasty habit also decreases fertility. "It affects estrogen levels and ovulation."
Eighty-five percent of women will become pregnant within one year of trying," Hillard adds." If it is taking longer than a year, consult a doctor for an infertility workup. For women older than 35, some doctors recommend consulting a specialist after six months of trying.