I’m a planner. Toward the end of 2004, when my husband and I decided to start “trying” to get pregnant, I went to my ob/gyn for a well woman/pre-conception visit. I showed her my fertility chart and told her we were going to try to get pregnant and she said, “Well, the best thing you can do is just have sex when you’re fertile.”
Riiiiiight. Thanks for that. A $25 co-pay well spent.
But…that’s the best that most ob/gyns can do for us. At least she offered slightly more than the common, “Just have lots of sex!” advice most give out.
Most ob/gyns know very little about the the actual nitty-gritty of fertility and are not familiar with charting. They know the basics of the menstrual cycle and of conception, of course, but they certainly don’t have the time to sit with a pregnancy hopeful to teach her how to fill out and interpret a fertility chart. My doctor looked at mine and nodded but I doubt she really knew what she was looking at. She certainly didn’t study my chart to give me any personal recommendations as to how to increase my chances for conceiving. That was my job.
So. How do you increase your chances for conceiving during any given cycle? Some of these are Fertility Awareness-specific recommendations and some are more “generic.” I’ll add links to specific articles and research as time goes by.
1. Have sex when you’re fertile.
HA! My doctor’s advice was true!! OK, granted, but there’s more to it than that. The most current research says that it’s ideal to have sex 24 hours BEFORE ovulation, so that the sperm is there waiting when the egg is released. So when you have fertile fluid, certainly do have sex. And keep having sex until you dry up or get a definite temperature shift to indicate ovulation has occurred.
Haven’t been charting long enough to know for sure yet when you’re fertile? Having sex 3-4 times/week all month is a sure-fire way to go until you can narrow it down to the 2-3 days prior to ovulation.
2. Consider having sex every-other-day when you’re fertile to conserve sperm. Save the sperm for when you are at your most fertile–meaning you’re experiencing a lot of egg white cervical mucous. Those egg whites are VERY sperm-friendly and make an excellent conduit. The more slippery, the better!
In FAM terms, this is your “peak day.” Once the egg white fluid starts (or whatever your most fertile fluid is), I’d advise to have sex every-other day. BUT, on your peak day, definitely have sex. Your peak day is always the best day to have sex. I’d advise you to have sex the next day, too.
** Note: If you’re using an ovulation prediction kit, if it comes back positive, you’re likely to ovulate within 36 hours so I’d advise having sex at least every 24 hours until your dry up.
3. Experiment with positions. The newest research suggests that practically any sexual position is good for baby-making, as long as the sperm can get to the cervix. So have fun! 🙂 The goal is simply to get the sperm where it needs to go!
4. Elevate your hips following intercourse.
There is some controversy on this point but I say, “Why not??” Unless you’re experiencing super-duper fertile fluid (which is THE best indicator that ovulation is imminent and conception is likely to occur), it can’t hurt to let the sperm “pool” at your cervix for 5-10 minutes following intercourse.
5. Look for a second opportunity to ovulate. If you don’t ovulate when you expect to, don’t panic….you may get another shot. Our body has to reach an “estrogen threshold” to release the egg and sometimes our body tries, doesn’t quite get there and tries again. This is why charting is so important and could be why some of your cycles are extra-long. Say you’re fertile on day 14 but your hormones don’t allow for ovulation. Then your body will gear up to ovulate again around day 21, making your cycle last 35 or so days instead of 28. Treat this second “fertility window” just like the first and aim to have sex on your peak day.
6. Be aware that your first few cycles after a miscarriage are particularly strong. Women often get pregnant on the very next cycle following a miscarriage, or within the 2-5 months following a miscarriage. Your body has purged and cleaned out your uterus, paving the way for a subsequent pregnancy.
** NOTE: The same is true when you are coming off of the Pill. Give your body a couple of cycles to purge and adjust, then start trying!
7. Be fat and lazy.
Ok, not really, but be aware that being under weight and/or exercising too much can affect your fertility. Notice how celebrities often have fertility problems. Also notice how thin they are and how hard they work to stay that way. And there ya go. You may need to gain some weight and tone down the exercise regime to increase your fertility.
8. Keep stress in check. You’ve heard the stories. A couple tries for years to have a baby, then they finally “stop trying” and start the adoption process. Around the time the adoption comes through, they get pregnant. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I think people are so focused on getting pregnant and are so stressed during every cycle that when they finally relax and breathe a sigh of relief and “let go…” BAM! They get pregnant.
A dear friend I was working with recently to help her get pregnant had been charting religiously and hadn’t gotten pregnant yet. On her last cycle, she was so fed up that she stopped charting and taking her temperatures and took a weekend getaway to New York. She had a great time, drank a little too much and had a lot of “fun” with her husband. Wouldn’t you know it–that’s the cycle when she got pregnant! It pays to relax.
As a personal example, I would have annovulatory cycles when I traveled. From a biological standpoint, it makes sense that we wouldn’t want to get pregnant when we’re away from home. I attribute it to stress, even the “good stress” associated with a vacation. My body knew something was amiss.
Stress, especially long periods of excessive stress, absolutely affects fertility. So try to relax during the process and be intentional about taking care of yourself so that you don’t let stress hormones run amuck. I’ll be posting more about this soon.
9. Keep track of secondary fertility signs. This is very unique to each woman. Some women actually feel ovulation. If you notice pains in the middle of your cycle or when you have fertile fluid, make sure to keep track of it. Some women have mid-cycle spotting or spotting upon ovulation (a trace amount of blood when the egg erupts). If you see a tiny amount of pink or brown in your fertile fluid, this is an excellent sign that you are at your most fertile. Have sex on those days!!
Other women notice things like pimples, stomach aches, migraines, etc. around the time of ovulation. Just keep track of these things so you know what fertility signs to look for.
10. Take advantage of your increased libido. Most women actually want to have more sex when they’re fertile–imagine that!! Many women notice that their senses seem to be “on alert” when they’re near ovulation. If you can name the brand of cologn the bag boy is wearing, it’s a good sign that ovulation is imminent!
These are just a few ideas. The best advice is to know your own body. Please feel free to leave your own tips–or what has worked for you–in the comments.