Optimizing fertility: The basics of getting pregnant
Understanding the basics of getting pregnant can help you start a family. While most women will conceive within three months, infertility will curtail the plans of 1 in 8 couples. Dr. Dan Gehlbach can intervene when nature fails to take its course, and best efforts do not lead to conception.
For conception to occur, the female and male reproductive systems must operate at peak performance. Hormonal signals from the brain initiate the reproductive process. A woman’s ovaries will release an egg. One of millions of ejaculated sperm will travel to and fertilize that egg in the open fallopian tube. Then, implantation will take place in the endometrial lining of uterus.
How to predict ovulation to time intercourse
Body Basal Temperature Hormonal surges cause a slight drop in the body’s temperature prior to ovulation, followed by a spike. You are most fertile 2-3 days before the spike. Ask your pharmacist for a basal body thermometer, ultra sensitive to minute shifts, and download an ovulation chart. It takes several months of charting before a pattern emerges, and since ovulation is not always regular, this is not a preferred method of fertility specialists.
Calendar Calculations A woman with a regular 28-day cycle will typically ovulate at the midway point, or 14 days after the start of her period. The number of days in a menstrual cycle varies, and some women are irregular, so Dr. Gehlbach suggests using this fact-gathering exercise in conjunction with more precise methods for predicting ovulation.
Cervical Mucus Observing changes in the body’s cervical mucus, or discharge, can also help a woman time intercourse to coincide with ovulation. Dr. Gehlbach describes cervical mucus that occurs at ovulation as having the consistency of egg whites. After ovulation, cervical mucus changes to ‘cloudy’ and ‘sticky.’
Ovulation Predictor Kits Over-the-counter kits such as Clearblue Easy and FirstResponse detect luteinizing hormone (LH) surges 24-36 hours before they occur, so you have time to act during your fertility window. Digital ovulation predictors and ovulation wristwatches are available as well, but cost quite a bit more.
Timed Intercourse Once you have established your ovulation dates, Dr. Gehlbach recommends that you have sexual intercourse the day before and the day that you ovulate.
You know how to get pregnant and when you ovulate, but may be unaware of the risk factors for infertility.
Ovulatory dysfunction is the most common cause of female infertility, so if you find you do not ovulate regularly, it is time to see a fertility specialist.
Proactive Steps to Conception
Now that you have pinpointed when you ovulate, plan to have sexual intercourse regularly to coincide with the date. Lifestyle factors can impact your fertility and pregnancy, so our fertility center provides these suggestions:
• Maintain a healthy weight. Underweight or overweight men and women can experience problems getting pregnant.
• Limit your caffeine intake.
• Avoid excessive alcohol intake, and smoking and/or drug use.
• Exercise in moderation.
• Get your daily-recommended allowance of folic acid. A morning bowl of fortified cereal, or prenatal vitamin can supply this nutrient that prevents spina bifida and other neural tube defects.
Age and Infertility
Dr. Gehlbach offers this overarching caveat that supersedes all of the advice you hear about getting pregnant: If you are over 35 and have tried to get pregnant on your own for six months, it’s time to see a fertility specialist. Maternal age is one of the most significant risk factors for infertility, and you should take action sooner rather than later.
If you are under 35 and getting frustrated waiting for a positive pregnancy test, take a breath. You have a 30 percent chance each month, so it could take several months to conceive. Dr. Gehlbach, dual certified as an obgyn and reproductive endocrinologist, offers both conservative and leading-edge solutions to increase your chances for getting pregnant.