•Know when you ovulate… • Understand natural fertility signs • Learn when to make love! • Know when to take a pregnancy test…
For most couples, there is more to trying-to-conceive a baby than simply making love and waiting for a missed period. For most couples, trying to conceive is not so simple… In fact, between writing “day one” on the fertility chart and taking a pregnancy test four weeks later, it seems that there is a ton to do when it comes to increasing the chances of becoming pregnant – from ovulation testing and checking CM to waking up to the beep of your basal thermometer and, of course, making love. Below you’ll find some tips for becoming pregnant sooner. Most importantly, in order to understand and take advantage these trying-to-conceive tips, you need to understand your cycle, day by day. Learning about your body, your menstrual cycle, and fertility is the key to conception! If you know the when’s, why’s and how’s of ovulation, you are in a good position to ‘take charge of your fertility’.
Preliminary Tips to Help You Conceive
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But… before even trying to try to conceive, the number one tip is to get healthy. This means no more alcohol, smoking, and cut down on the caffeinated beverages. Eat right, eat natural, be at a healthy weight, exercise. Needless to says, illicit drugs are the ultimate no-no, and if you are taking prescription drugs, ask your doctor if they are safe to use while you are trying to conceive. Some prescription drug medications may be contraindicated during pregnancy or when you are TTC.
But the one pill you should be taking, of course, is a prenatal vitamin. The FDA recommends a minimum daily dosage of 400 micrograms of folic acid. Folic acid has been shown to reduce the chances of birth defects. The prenatal multivitamin we carry, PeaPod Prenatal, contains 600 mcg of folic acid… Another big tip? Make Love Regularly. Yes, “timing intercourse” to your most fertile days is central to becoming pregnant sooner. But research indicates that couples who make love regularly throughout their cycle, at least a few times a week, will improve their overall odds of conceiving sooner.
Fertility & Ovulation Day-by-Day
Let’s take a look at your menstrual cycle as you move through the month. The following “ovulation calendar” is based on a 28 day cycle, so if your cycle is a bit longer or shorter, please adjust accordingly (for some help here, visit our online ovulation calendar). We take you through your cycle day-by-day and interject a few points and tips (like when to start ovulation testing or how to interpret changes in cervical mucus – a natural fertility symptom).
Cycle Day 1: Day one of your 28-day (or so) cycle is the first day of your period – the first day you see red blood. This is the start of your period (or menstruation) when your reproductive hormones are at low ebb and the ‘old’ uterine lining is shed. This is what causes menstrual bleeding.
Get Pregnant Tip # 2 Start Fertility Chart: A fertility chart will be the cornerstone of your trying to conceive efforts – a daily ovulation calendar where you record your fertility signs, your daily basal temperature (more on that below), the results of ovulation tests or fertility monitors, and when you made love. A fertility chart will help you predict when you ovulate – your most fertile time to get pregnant.
Cycle Days 1-5: Menstruation typically lasts about 5 days or so. As your progesterone hormone has dropped off from your last cycle and your estrogen levels may yet to rise, your body will likely be in its “cool phase” with temperature low.
Get Pregnant Tip # 3 Record Basal Body Temperature: Your basal body temperature is your resting body temp upon waking in the morning. By charting your basal temperature daily with a special basal thermometer, you can discover when you ovulate during you cycle.
Cycle Days 6-8: The cool phase of your cycle is dominated by the hormone estrogen. However, before estrogen can be produced, the brain and body relay a set of sophisticated hormonal messages (kind of like a series of falling dominos) to get your body on the path to ovulation. First off, the hypothalamus (the “brains” of the operation) facilitates the secretion of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), which in turn nudges the pituitary gland to produce FSH – or follicle stimulating hormone. The follicle is the body that holds and nurtures an egg. The pituitary gland also produces LH (or luteinizing hormone). FSH and LH facilitate the maturation off eggs and follicle. And as the eggs develop, they in turn produce estrogen!
Get Pregnant Tip # 4 Observe Changes in Cervical Mucus: Cervical fluids play an amazing role in fertility. They provide a transport mechanism for sperm to reach the egg; they nourish and protect the sperm inside the vagina; they create a proper pH environment in the vagina so sperm can survive. Cervical fluids, therefore, are also a great natural fertility sign telling us when we ovulate! By observing changes in the amount, texture, and color of mucus, we can know when we are fertile. During the early part of the cycle, after day 5, there may be very little cervical mucus. As estrogen promotes mucus production, through cycle days 6-8, you may begin to observe more cervical mucus (though it will be opaque, sticky, and white/yellowish in color).
Cycle Days 8-11: As the eggs mature, estrogen production should now be at full speed! The increase in estrogen should effectuate observable tactile changes in the cervical mucus. At the same time, estrogen also supports the build-up of the endometrium (the lining of the womb), preparing your uterus for pregnancy. During these cycle days, your body temperature will still remain low. The amount of cervical fluids may be increasing, though they may still be sticky and translucent.
Get Pregnant Tip # 5 Use an Ovulation Microscope or Fertility Monitor: The increase of estrogen prior to your most fertile time is one way to test for ovulation. Both ovulation microscopes (like Fertile Focus) and fertility monitors (like the Clearblue or OvaCue) can predict fertility by determining when estrogen increases in your system! Learn more about ovulation monitors.
Cycle Days 11-13: If you have a 28-day cycle, you’re getting close to ovulation and are just entering your fertile window. Estrogen levels are high. You should start to see stronger “ferning patterns” in your ovulation microscope. Also, cervical mucus (CM) will start to become clear, stretchy, and slippery – and there will be more of it! At this point of the month, your fertility level is “high”, even though ovulation may be more than a few days off. The reason you can still get pregnant is because sperm, under optimal conditions (fertile CM), can survive a handful of days in a woman’s body. As estrogen is still the dominant hormone, your body temperature will remain low.
Get Pregnant Tip # 6 Urine Ovulation Tests: Ovulation tests detect the surge in the hormone that causes ovulation itself. The hormone is called LH, or luteinizing hormone. A positive on an lh test tells you that you will likely ovulate within the next twelve to thirty-six hours, and that baby-making sex should commence over the next few days.
Cycle Days 13-14: Things are getting pretty exciting. The estrogen levels are at their highest, which ultimately precipitates a boost in the hormone LH. This LH surge actually causes ovulation, the emergence of the egg from the ovarian follicle. By day 14, ovulation is about to – or already – taking place! You are at peak fertility. As the egg can only survive just twelve to twenty four hours, ensure that you can arrange a daily tryst with your significant other in the days preceding (and the day of) ovulation. To be on the safe side, intercourse on the day after ovulation does not hurt either as a “just in case”…. Oh, and one important note: the day of ovulation, your basal temperature will remain lower. You’ll typically see a temp increase the day after ovulation (so while bbt charting does not predict ovulation for a discrete ovulatory cycle, it will give you an important macroscopic vantage for knowing when you ovulate during your cycle).
Get Pregnant Tip # 7 Ovulation Pains: Some women experience midcycle pains, or ovulation pain, or “mittelschmerz”. These are physical symptoms that ovulation may be taking place. Not all women experience them, but if you are “lucky” enough to have mittelschmerz pains, then you know that you may be in the process of ovulating. Note them on your fertility chart.
Cycle Days 14-15: Ovulation has just taken place! Now for the waiting game (also know as the two-week-wait)… With ovulation, estrogen levels drop sharply and your body moves from the cool phase to the hot phase (the luteal phase where progesterone calls the shots). After the egg emerges from the follicle, the follicle becomes a “corpus luteum” and starts producing progesterone – and your body starts to warm up. Now, within 24 hours, you can confirm that ovulation has taken place by seeing your basal body temperature rise (a bbt increase of typically 4/10ths to a full degree). The temperature rise should last through most of the remainder of your cycle. A few days before your period, if you are not pregnant, the corpus luteum will exhaust itself and progesterone levels will drop.
Cycle Days 16-22: The corpus luteum continues to produce progesterone through the second half of your menstrual cycle (the luteal phase). Your basal body temperature remains high. A few days after ovulation, the amount of cervical mucus should decrease and you will see it become more cloudy, opaque. It will increasingly become more sticky. Conception must take place within 24 hours of ovulation or the egg will die. If the egg is fertilized, it begin the trip to the womb to implant. About a week after ovulation, progesterone levels are peaking as are your bbt temps.
Get Pregnant Tip # 8 Implantation Bleeding: A handful of days after ovulation, women may experience implantation bleeding. Slight spotting may be experienced during this time when the fertilized egg implants in the uterine wall. This is called implantation and may be your first sign of pregnancy.
Cycle Days 23-27: Unless you become pregnant, the corpus luteum will begin to falter and you may see your bbt temps drop right at the end of your cycle. If, however, there is a pregnancy, the developing placenta will “tell” your body to keep pumping out the progesterone. That’s because once the embryo implants, it produces a special hormone called hCG. It’s the same hormone that your common home pregnancy test looks for. If pregnant, your bbt temps will stay high. If not, the basal temperature will begin to drop.
Get Pregnant Tip # 9 Take a Pregnancy Test: This is your number one early pregnancy symptom – a big fat positive on a home pregnancy tests. With an early detection pregnancy test, you can begin testing as early as 7-10 days past ovulation (though a negative this early may not foreclose the possibility of pregnancy). Use first morning urine as it will contain the highest levels of the pregnancy hormone.
Cycle Days 28: If you have a 28 days cycle, this will be your last cycle day. Both estrogen and progesterone levels are low. If you are not pregnant, you can expect to have your period tomorrow (or Cycle Day 1 of your next cycle). If you are pregnant, your positive test line on your pregnancy test will be getting bolder and bolder….