Trying to Conceive: What To Do Before Getting Pregnant
Trying to get pregnant can sometimes be a lot harder than many women realize. After spending so much time worrying about trying to prevent a pregnancy, many women think that as soon as they stop their birth control and start trying for a baby, it will happen easily and quickly. When it doesn’t, it can be a huge source of stress. Some women do get pregnant right away. But for many others, the process of making a baby is a lot more complicated.
Even if you’re tracking your cycle and you know exactly when you are ovulating, there are a few things you can do to up your chances of conceiving. Knowing the connection between ovulation and conception is only part of the story. In this post, we’ll give you our best advice for some easy, daily habits that can help if you’re trying for a baby.
Drink plenty of water
Everyone benefits from drinking more water, but this is especially important if you are trying for a baby. Why? It helps the kidneys flush out waste products from the body and increases the fertile quality of your cervical mucus.
Speaking of mucus, it can give you a lot of information about your body and your fertility. Check out our blog post called What Your Cervical Mucus Says About Your Cycle.
How much water is enough? Experts say about 8-10 cups a day should do it. And remember if you find that drinking water is a bit boring, you can also substitute in herbal teas too!
Maybe you think a few drinks will help spice things up in the bedroom but the reality is that you should avoid or limit your alcohol intake if a baby is in the cards. Alcohol reduces your fertility and negatively impacts your ability to conceive for both men and women. In fact, the Department of Health advises that you avoid alcohol completely if you are trying to conceive and when you’re pregnant.
We know alcohol can be a big part of nights out with friends and social gatherings, so don’t feel like you have to miss out on the fun. Swap your cocktail for a mocktail or kombucha instead. When you wake up fresh in the morning without a hangover, you’ll feel very smug.
Reduce your caffeine intake
Caffeine is another thing you should avoid or reduce if you are trying for a baby. This is because caffeine is thought to restrict the growth of a developing baby by constricting blood vessels and reducing blood flow to the uterus.
If you can’t live without your morning coffee, you don’t need to cut it out completely but the current advice is to limit your caffeine intake to 300mg per day or below. That is the same as four cups of instant coffee, three cups of fresh coffee or six cups of tea - so it’s still a very generous amount!
Did you know that according to the British Medical Association (BMA), women who smoke have a 40% lower chance of getting pregnant? It also impacts a man’s ability to conceive too. Smoking decreases sperm count and increases sperm abnormalities.
If you’re currently a smoker and you’re trying for a baby, now might be the time to make the commitment to quit. Not only will it help your chances of getting pregnant, it will greatly improve your overall health. Need some help? Talk to your GP. Many practices have smoking cessation programs you can join that can be a huge help in quitting.
Exercising is proven to help your chances of conceiving. And, women who are active through pregnancy are less likely to experience common pregnancy pains like back pain, piles and swollen ankles. It can also help stave off excessive weight gain and make you feel more empowered and happier with your body.
Studies have also shown that women who exercise also have a better experience with childbirth and often recover more quickly. But balance is important. If you exercise excessively at a very high intensity, it can actually negatively impact your fertility. Excessive exercise can impact ovulation and pregnancy. The key is finding the right balance for you. This will be different for everyone. Consider your starting point. If you are currently inactive, now is not the time to start a rigorous training plan. Try walking regularly or doing a yoga class. If you already exercise regularly, keep it up, but remember to listen to your body. Take breaks and take time to stretch and recover.
Reduce your stress levels
Stress is never a good thing but it's especially bad if you’re trying to get pregnant. We know that getting pregnant in the first place can often be a source of stress for people, but it's important to try to find ways to relax and release that stress. Stress can impact your cycle and ovulation, so if you worry excessively, it can actually make it harder to conceive.
Some women find relief in mindfulness practices like meditation, breathing exercises or manifestations. If stress comes from other sources like work or family, see what you can turn the volume down on for a bit. Remember to take care of yourself. If the whole business of baby making is causing you excessive stress, consider taking a month off to regroup. It won’t make any difference in the grand scheme of things and it could provide some much needed headspace.
Guud to know: How Stress Affects Your Cycle
Maintain a healthy body weight
Maintaining a healthy body weight is important if you’re trying for a baby. Your BMI or Body Mass Index is the metric used by medical professionals to define a healthy weight. A healthy weight is a BMI between 20 and 25.
How do you calculate BMI? Just take your weight in kilograms and divide it by the square of your height in meters. Not good at math? Use a BMI calculator online like this one.
If you are over or underweight, it can take longer to get pregnant. It can also cause irregularities in your cycle and ovulation. Reaching a healthy body weight can help increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Play the odds
Baby making is a numbers game. More math we hear you say? Well, kind of! You have to play the odds. You could do everything right and have sex at just the right time and guess what? You still only have about a 25-30% chance of getting pregnant in any given cycle. That may sound discouraging but we hope you actually find it reassuring, especially if you’ve been trying for a while.
To help maximize your chances, you should try to have sex often - at least three times per week. The more often you try, the more chances you get at becoming pregnant. Try not to turn sex into a chore though. The best time to have sex is during ovulation. When you have sex within 12-24 hours after a mature egg releases, there is a high chance of conceiving.
You might think that having sex multiple times a day will increase your chances of getting pregnant. If you’re up to the job, go for it. Your partner is not going to run out of sperm cells no matter how often he ejaculates. However, a number of studies have looked at semen samples from men who ejaculated several times per day and found that it lowered sperm count. It’s nothing to worry about, but don’t exhaust yourself with a demanding sex schedule - it’s not necessary. In fact, you can even leave a day in between having sex when you’re ovulating. Sperm can live for several days within the female reproductive tract!
If you are on the pill
If you are on the pill and are now thinking about trying for a baby, remember that it can take time for your cycle to regulate as your natural hormones rebalance. But also remember that you can get pregnant quite quickly after quitting the pill too so if you would like to wait a bit before having a baby, remember to use another form of contraception.
There are a few things you can do to get your cycle back on track after you stop taking the pill. We’ve written a post about it here that you may want to read if you are on the pill and thinking about quitting soon.
What to do after sex to increase chances of conceiving
Is there anything you can do to increase your chances of conceiving after the deed is done? Yes! After you’ve had sex, try lying down for a few minutes vs. getting up and showering or getting dressed. It’s harder for sperm to swim against gravity so laying down will help the sperm swim toward the awaiting egg. There’s no need to do a headstand or put your legs up in the air, but it couldn't hurt to cuddle a bit longer afterwards.
Check your medications
If you are taking medicine or any prescription drugs, make sure you ask your doctor if it might impact your ability to get pregnant and if they are safe to continue taking if you are pregnant. You may need to stop or switch brands.
Track your period
To find the best time to get pregnant after your period, the best thing to do is to track your cycle. You can use a period tracking app or just mark it on a calendar. Also, if you do get pregnant, it’s important to know the first day of your last period because this is the day by which your due date will be calculated. The more certain you are, the more accurate your due date will be!
Wondering what period tracking app to use? We’ve listed our favorites in a blog post: Guud’s Top Picks for Period Tracking Apps.
Eat a pregnancy-friendly diet
You may not think it matters much but eating a healthy, balanced diet when you’re trying for a baby is very important. It helps to ensure your body has all the right nutrients and adequate stores of vitamins and minerals so that if you do get pregnant, your body has the resources it needs. Making a baby is hard work, after all!
Here are some of our top picks for a pregnancy-friendly diet:
- Dark, leafy greens like kale, broccoli and spinach
- Fortified breakfast cereals, citrus fruits and pulses because they have folic acid in them. Folic acid is super important if you are trying to conceive or pregnant. Why? Read all about it in our blog post: Everything You Need to Know About Folic Acid.
- Try a “Mediterranean Style Diet” which is a diet rich in things like avocados and olive oil and low in dairy and meat
- Add some nuts to your diet like almonds and cashews
- Fish, wholegrain breads, and watercress contain zinc which helps keep your immune system in top shape. Zinc also contributes to the production of healthy eggs and sperm
- Get some fibre in things like beans which can help keep your bowels health and flush away waste.
Take a supplement
It is also a good idea to consider taking a supplement designed to support conception. Supplements with folic acid are a good option as folic acid is particularly important for pregnant women. Also, a 2019 study showed that women who took an omega-3 supplement were almost two times more likely to get pregnant on their own versus the women who didn’t take the supplement.
Struggling to get pregnant? Feeling a bit confused? Talk to one of our experts. We have fertility specialists, midwives and sexual health experts here to answer any of your questions.
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