Many couples spend so long trying to avoid getting pregnant that when they make the decision to start a family, it can come as a surprise when getting pregnant does not happen immediately. Most of us know what to do if we don’t want to be getting pregnant, but when it comes to trying for a baby, not everyone is as well informed.
The most important factor in conception is timing. What many couples don’t realise is that there are only about five days in the month when a woman can try getting pregnant. A woman’s most fertile time is the five days leading up to ovulation. This is because sperm can survive for up to six days in the right environment, so if they are present when ovulation occurs, there is a chance of pregnancy. Once an egg is released during ovulation, it only lasts for 24 hours, so sex after ovulation has less chance of success. Ovulation usually occurs 14 days before your next period, regardless of how long your cycle is. This means that you need to be familiar with your cycle in order to predict when you will ovulate and increase the chances of getting pregnant, so keep track of your periods for a few months using a calendar or one of the many smartphone apps available.
There are other signs of ovulation that you can become familiar with, such as changes in your cervical fluid and basal body temperature. Ovulation predictor kits, which are available online and in chemists, will allow you to pinpoint the best days in your cycle to have sex.
The experts at the Merrion Fertility Clinic recommend that couples trying to conceive should have regular intercourse two to three times per week; you don’t need to have sex every day.
Ensuring you are in the best possible health will also improve your chances of conception. Dr Ros Drake, team member of Achieve Fertility, gives the following advice: “Couples trying for a baby should focus on three main areas: diet, lifestyle and stress. Women should take 500mcg of folic acid every day, cut out processed foods and alcohol, and increase their intake of omega-rich foods. Stop smoking and take regular exercise. Finally, ask yourself if there are any changes you can make to your financial or work situations to ensure this is the right time for you to conceive.”
Unfortunately, one in six Irish couples will experience difficulty conceiving. The Merrion Fertility Clinic recommends that if you have been trying for a baby for more than 12 months without success, you should seek advice from your GP, sooner if you are over 35. They have advice on their website, www.merrionfertility.ie, about what you can expect at this GP visit, and about preliminary tests that can be carried out on both the male and female partners. If you have any concerns about your periods, sexual health or family history, you should speak to your GP, who will be able to offer you advice about conception based on your own circumstances.