If you’re concerned or curious about getting pregnant, here are 13 simple things you need to know about ovulation, fertile days, eggs, sperm, and home pregnancy tests.
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There is a lot of information in this article about getting pregnant, so I encourage you to either print it or bookmark it. Read a couple of tips a day, so you have a chance to absorb all the facts about getting pregnant. Share this information with your partner, too. Talking about it will help you remember it, and will bring you and your partner closer together.
13 Facts About Getting Pregnant
The first and most obvious thing you need to know about getting pregnant is that sex is (often, but not always) required. You may not always feel like having sex even though you want to get pregnant. That’s why the personal lubricant is important. And so are these tips…
Your periods are key
Knowing your menstrual cycle improves your chances of getting pregnant. The first phase starts with the first day of your period (and even a single drop blood counts as the start of your period!). Your body releases hormones that make the eggs inside your ovaries grow. Between day 2 and 14, those hormones also help thicken the lining of your uterus to get ready for a fertilized egg. This is called the follicular stage. What you need to know about getting pregnant is that regular periods are extremely helpful.
Ovulation is also key to getting pregnant
The average menstrual cycle is 28-32 days. Ovulation usually happens between day 11 and 21 of your cycle. A hormone called luteinizing hormone (LH) surges, triggering the release of the egg that’s most ripe. At the same time, your cervical mucus becomes more slippery to help sperm make their way to the egg. If you’re concerned about getting pregnant, track your ovulation with either a digital test or the calendar. Read Clearblue Digital Ovulation Test vs. the Calendar Method.
Egg and sperm need to merge
Women are born with about 1-2 million eggs, but only release 300 to 400 through ovulation. Usually you release just one egg each month. The egg travels down a fallopian tube, one of the two tubes that connect your ovaries to your uterus. If the timing is right, sperm may fertilize it on its way to the uterus. If fertilization doesn’t happen within 24 hours of the egg leaving the ovary, the egg dissolves. Sperm can live for about 3 to 5 days, so knowing when you are ovulating can help you and your partner plan sex for when you’re most likely to conceive. If you’re merely curious about getting pregnant, you don’t need to track your fertile days.
Your temperature tells you when you’re ovulating
After your body releases an egg, the hormone progesterone kicks in to help build and maintain the lining of the uterus. Progesterone causes your body temperature to go up slightly. Taking your temperature with a basal thermometer every morning before getting out of bed can help you figure out if you ovulated. These thermometers – such as the Basal Digital Thermometer pictured – are available from Amazon or your local store. They aren’t expensive, but they aren’t as accurate as other methods for tracking ovulation.
Your fertile days aren’t a mystery
Generally, the highest chance of pregnancy is when sex happens 1-2 days before ovulation. If you have a regular 28-day cycle, count back 14 days from when you expect your next period to start. Plan on having sex every other day around that time — say, days 12 and 14. Keep in mind that having sex every day may lower a man’s sperm count. Your cycle may be longer or shorter, so an online ovulation calculator may help you identify the likely day. If you’re concerned about getting pregnant, talk to a fertility doctor about how often to have sex.
Hormones are the best way to predict ovulation
A surge in LH triggers your ovaries to release the egg. The surge usually happens 36 hours before the egg is released. Ovulation kits – such as the Clearblue Advanced Digital Ovulation Test 20 Count picutred – check LH levels in your urine to help you pinpoint the day of ovulation. These kits, which are available at drugstores, are convenient and highly accurate. You may want to test 1-2 days before you expect the surge so you can note the rise in LH.
You can boost your ovulation
There is growing evidence that links environment to fertility. If you want to increase your chances of getting pregnant, you may want to:
- Eat foods rich in folic acids.
- Buy more organic foods and green products.
- Avoid certain plastics (including plastic wrap).
- Maintain a healthy body weight through diet and exercise.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
If you’re just learning about getting pregnant, read Preparing to Get Pregnant – A Preconception Checklist.
Don’t let your weight drag your fertility down
A study found that women whose body mass index (BMI) was above normal took twice as long to get pregnant as those with a normal BMI. If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight can boost your fertility and chances of getting pregnant. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a drop in weight of 5%-10% can dramatically improve ovulation and pregnancy rates. Obesity can also cause infertility and low testosterone in men. Being significantly underweight can also lead to infertility – so about getting pregnant, you need to know that a healthy weight is crucial.
Fertility decreases as women get older
Fertility goes down with age, especially after the mid-30s. It also lowers the chances that fertility treatments will be successful. Experts say you should talk to your doctor about getting pregnant if you’re under 35 and have been trying to conceive for more than 12 months, or over 35 and have been trying for more than 6 months.
Fertility decreases as men age
Studies show that sperm count and sperm movement decrease as men age, as does sexual function. But there isn’t a cut-off age that makes a man too old to father a child. One study found that it took men age 45 or older longer to get a woman pregnant once the couple started trying. If your partner is older, you may want to talk to your doctor about ways to boost your chances of getting pregnant. If you’re concerned about getting pregnant because your partner’s sperm count isn’t high, read How Sperm Fragmentation Affects Getting Pregnant.
Encourage your partner to take care of his fertility
Men are at least half responsible for getting women pregnant. Here are a few tips to increase male fertility:
- Manage stress.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco.
- Maintain a proper weight.
- Eat a diet high in zinc (found in meat, whole grains, seafood, and eggs), selenium (meat, seafood, mushroom, cereals, and Brazil nuts), and vitamin E.
- Keep the testicles cool — no long, hot baths, hot tubs, or saunas, which can reduce the number of sperm.
Learn how home pregnancy tests work
If you’re trying to conceive, home pregnancy tests are both the most thrilling and the most disappointing parts of getting pregnant. About half the time, we wonder if they work at all! Home pregnancy tests check your urine for the “pregnancy hormone,” called hCG, that your body makes once a fertilized egg implants in your uterus. Some of these tests – such as the First Response Early Result Pregnancy Test pictured – may be able to tell if you’re pregnant as early as 5 days before your first missed period.
Don’t think about infertility treatments unless you’re concerned about getting pregnant
Have you been trying to get pregnant for more than a year? Then you might think about getting pregnant with help from a fertility specialist or assisted reproductive technologist. A number of things can cause infertility. The first step is for your doctor to check out you and your partner. Infertility treatments can include fertility drugs to stimulate ovulation and in vitro fertilization, which involves removing eggs from the ovaries, fertilizing them, and then implanting them into the uterus.
That’s a lot of stuff about getting pregnant, isn’t it? I wish you all the best in this exciting stage of your life. I can’t offer you advice – talk to your doctor if you’re worried about getting pregnant.
Be patient, trust God, and take it one pregnancy test at a time.