Your Maternity Journey Vol. 7

Trying to Conceive? Increase Your Chances

The decision to have a baby is a momentous one and a fun project to work on. Sometimes, Mother Nature complies right away. Sometimes, it takes longer. And sometimes, couples need the help of a fertility specialist to make their baby dream come true. There’s no way to tell how this journey will work out for you until you start trying to get pregnant. However, there are some steps you can take to increase your likelihood of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy.

Take Care of Your Health

A healthy pregnancy starts with a healthy body. Schedule a preconception visit with an OB to discuss your current health and get screened for genetic diseases. If you are currently overweight, your doctor may recommend that you lose a few pounds before getting pregnant. Being underweight can also reduce your chances of conceiving. Even if you are at an optimum weight, be sure to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, dairy, and healthy sources of fat. Avoid fish with high mercury levels, including swordfish, shark, mackerel, tilefish, and tuna. Eliminate alcohol and cut back on caffeine. Current recommendations for caffeine intake during pregnancy are no more than one 12-ounce cup of coffee per day. If you smoke, quit. Smoking ages the ovaries, impacts the quality of your eggs, and promotes earlier menopause. To reduce the risk of birth defects, start taking a daily prenatal vitamin containing at least 400 micrograms of folic acid.

Get Your Timing Down

The most important thing you can do to increase your chances of getting pregnant is to have sex at the right time in your menstrual cycle. Every month, one of your ovaries releases an egg. That egg can only be fertilized for 12-24 hours. Fortunately, sperm can survive in your body for up to five days. That means you have a five to six-day fertile window during which you are most likely to get pregnant. If you have regular cycles, you will ovulate roughly two weeks before your period. Track your periods on a calendar or an app for several months to evaluate just how regular you are.

Predicting ovulation is more challenging if your cycle is irregular, but there are several techniques you can try:

  • Ovulation predictor kits detect the luteinizing hormone (LH) that surges before ovulation. You simply urinate on a test strip every morning until the strip shows a rise in LH. Once the strip yields a positive result, have sex that day and several times in the next few days.
  • Basal body temperature dips slightly four days or so before you ovulate, and then increases slightly for three days. Take your temperature every morning before getting out of bed. Try to have sex when you notice the decrease in temperature and for the next few days after that.
  • Cervical mucus, the vaginal discharge women experience during their fertile years, varies in amount and frequency according to where you are in your cycle. After your period, you may not notice any discharge at all. Then, as you near ovulation, you will notice an increase and the discharge, which may be yellow, white, or cloudy and have a stretchy, glue-like consistency. As your estrogen levels rise, right before you ovulate, cervical mucus will be more clear, watery, and slippery, resembling egg whites. The PH level and consistency of this mucus helps sperm survive longer, so this is a good time to have sex. After ovulation, your mucus will once again appear thick and cloudy, or you may have no more discharge until your period starts.

Don’t Overdo the Workouts

Exercise is good for you and, unless your doctor advises against it, you should be able to stay reasonably active throughout your pregnancy. However, frequent strenuous workouts can interfere with ovulation. Talk to your doctor about your exercise routine to make sure you aren’t overdoing it.

Avoid Certain Lubricants

Astroglide, K-Y jelly, olive oil and even saliva can decrease sperm motility and viability. If you need to use a lubricant, Pre-Seed, mineral oil, or canola oil have no effect on sperm.

When to see a Fertility Specialist

As you get older, the quantity and quality of your eggs declines. Fertility drops gradually after the age of 30 and more rapidly after age 37. Moreover, your risk of developing conditions that affect fertility, such as fibroids, endometriosis, or blocked fallopian tubes, increases with age.

If you are 35 or older and have not become pregnant after six months of trying, or if you have a history of miscarriages, you and your partner should consider an infertility evaluation. Most healthy women younger than 35 will get pregnant within a year of trying. If you are under 35 and have been trying to get pregnant for a year without succeeding, you and your partner should both consider consulting a fertility specialist.

Ready to book a preconception visit? Call MarinHealth OB/GYN & Urogynecology | A UCSF Health Clinic to connect with the perfect provider for you: 1-415-461-7800.


Think You Might Be Pregnant?

If you’re trying to get pregnant, chances are you’re looking eagerly for early signs that you have been successful. While a missed period is often the first symptom many women experience – and the one that sends them running for a pregnancy test – there are other clues you can watch for that may indicate the earliest days of pregnancy. Some of these signs include:

  • Spotting and cramping. While seeing a small amount of blood can be alarming, it could also be one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. When a fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall, it can result in implantation bleeding. This generally occurs just 6-12 days after conception.
  • Increased body temperature. After ovulating, your basal body temperature will rise slightly, and stay elevated until after your next period. If it stays elevated for two weeks or more, it could be a sign of pregnancy.
  • Mood swings. Hormones surge during the earliest days of pregnancy, and can cause sudden and unexpected emotional highs and lows that begin just days after conception.
  • White, sticky vaginal discharge. Increased hormones and vaginal blood flow cause vaginal secretions early on and throughout your pregnancy.
  • Breast tenderness. The same sore or sensitive breasts you may experience just before your period can also be an early sign of pregnancy, along with darkening areolas. Both are caused by rapidly changing hormone levels, and should go away within a few weeks.
  • Increased urination. Just a few weeks after conception, your kidneys start to process more fluid as your body pumps more blood, which leads to more frequent trips to the bathroom to empty your bladder.
  • Smell sensitivity. Increased estrogen can heighten your sense of smell early in a pregnancy. For some women, this may continue through delivery.
  • Bloating. Increased progesterone production can slow down your digestive tract and cause constipation, gas and bloating.
  • Dizziness or fainting. Blood pressure often drops early in pregnancy, and dilated blood vessels can contribute to sudden dizziness or feeling faint, particularly when standing up quickly.
  • Fatigue. Some women can experience unusual fatigue as soon as one week after conception. This can be caused by several different changes taking place in your body, including increased progesterone, lower blood pressure or blood sugar, and an increase in blood production.

Many of these symptoms are also common with PMS, so it’s best to wait until the day of your missed period to take a pregnancy test. That’s when most home pregnancy tests are 99% accurate, so you can be more confident in the result that you get.