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Fertility Facts: the Path from Preconception to Pregnancy

More Preconception Facts about Ovulation & Fertility

The path to getting pregnant can’t be marked out by a formulaic list of facts, tips, or procedures. Everyone is different, bound by different life circumstances, and there are many paths, tempos, strategies, and expectations for conceiving a baby. The more you learn about fertility facts, the more you can turn this knowledge to your advantage. At the same time, one can overwhelm oneself with knowledge to the point of immobility; its easy to swamp oneself with a bunch of “neutral” facts that can practically bully you into beliefs about what is “normal” and what you “should” be doing!This article provides a general montage of preconception facts, tips, and techniques – some more important than others. While certain health tips should not be ignored, we suggest that you take a bricoleurs approach to selecting what might be useful for you without feeling overwhelmed by information! So consider the following…

Timing Intercourse“: Any time you try to turn lovemaking into a predictive science of dates, you run the risk of ruining the romance and fun. At the same time, making love during your fertile time (the handful of days leading up to ovulation) will increase your odds of a pregnancy, so figuring out ways to retain or integrate both elements (the science and the spontaneity) is a safe middle ground. Most fertility doctors recommend that you make love regularly anyway, even when you think you are not fertile.

• Preconception Health: Are you taking a prenatal supplement with folic acid? Even when you are TTC, a prenatal supplement is highly recommended. And that’s because important fetal development phases, including neural tube formation, take place very early, during the first weeks of pregnancy. Taking a prenatal supplement will reduce the odds of specific neural-tube-related birth defects. If you are using other vitamin supplements, consider switching to a specially-formulated prenatal as these vitamins are balanced with “just right” formulas that ensure you receive the safe and balanced levels of vitamins and minerals.

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You’ll often hear that conceiving is an “odds game”, which is to say there is an element of the roll of the dice. Even if you cover all your bases (good health, ovulation predicting, regular lovemaking), there is no guarantee you will get pregnant during a given cycle. Keep in mind that the odds are closer to around 25% per cycle and it takes most couples around six months to conceive. We advise controlling whatever variables you can, suited to your lifestyle, to increase those odds.

• Fertility Variables: Knowing when you ovulate is the key. To this end, nearly countless techniques exist to help you pinpoint fertility. Many women try to manage all the variables, others select a few, and some couples just let nature takes its course. A shortlist of ovulation predicting methods include keeping an ovulation calendar (counting cycle days), bbt charting with a thermometer, ovulation testing, using a saliva scope or fertility monitor, checking cervical fluids, observing changes in the position of the cervix, noting “pains” or physiological symptoms, and even “intuitive fertility feelings” about the right time.

• Fashion and Fertility? According to a blurb in a recent Harpers, studies indicate that women have been found to dress up and stylize when they are ovulating! So, if you find yourself in more “flamboyant” clothing, it may be your hormones talking. Your fashion choices might not be the most accurate ovulation test, but a sudden urge to fashion flair, jewelery, and aesthetic accessorizing might be telling you something. I guess this sums up, “listen to your body talk”.

You probably don’t need to hear from me that smoking or alchohol don’t mix well with conceiving a baby. But if you have not yet found the occasion to quit, now might be the time. Some studies indicate that smoking has not just a negative effect on overall health and wellness, but on fertility as well (and it’s certainly a no-no once you are officially pregnant). This would go for men, too, as smoking introduces agents into the body that may stress reproductive function and sperm health.

Preconception Check-Up! If you are considering getting pregnant, or already actively TTC, a preconception doctor’s visit is highly advised. A doctor can provide you with relevant information and tips based on your medical history (much better than this article can). In fact, issues like prescription drug use and pre-existing medical conditions should be brought to light. Your age, health, and diet are also variables to discuss. If you are using prescription drugs, talk with your doctor about possible side-effects or, in the event you should stop taking certain prescription drugs, finding alternative treatments. This goes for common over-the-counter drugs and herbal medications as well. Get the green light from a doctor, naturopath, or health care professional.

• Diet and Exercise: Of course, you don’t need to hear any preaching about processed foods, junk snacks, fast foods, or refined sugar, let alone alcohol. Needless to say, diet and exercise are central aspects of fertility health. Being over or underweight can impact the balance of reproductive hormones and affect your menstrual cycle. Too much or not enough exercise can throw your hormones out of balance as well. If you have questions or specific needs, just another good reason for a preconception checkup.

• Healthy Environments: Getting pesticides and dangerous chemicals out of the house (and out of the yard, now that its almost summer) can reduce the negative impact of specific chemical agents on fertility and overall health (the goes for men as well as women). Of course, a healthy vaginal environment is important as well. Experts recommend avoiding vaginal lubricants which can kill or immobilize sperm or alter the natural ph balance of the body. The exception is Pre-Seed, a moisturizer designed specifically for couples who are trying to conceive. Also, douching is typically viewed with a critical eye as it can also impact the normal vaginal acidity. In other words, anything scented or artificial is contraindicated when you are TTC. Even saliva makes the list of fertility-interfering substances.

Low Sperm Count: In some cases, your doctor may provide you with a lovemaking schedule if the sperm count is documented on the low side. Typically, this means having a rest – or an every-other-day schedule – to ensure that sperm counts remain at an acceptable level. Fertility supplements like FertilAid for Men have been shown to be effective in clinical studies in supporting male fertility and sperm health.

Other studies indicate that protracted abstinence from sex can actually decrease sperm counts in men. Doctors typically recommend regular lovemaking (at least twice a week or more) even when you consider yourself in a nonfertile phase of the month.

As noted above, there are numerous fertility and ovulation prediction techniques. Besides checking your fashion choices, bbt charting remains a favorite ovulation prediction method among trying to conceive women because it’s clean and non-invasive and yields a ton of information about your body’s unique cycle. By using a basal temperature thermometer, you can learn when you ovulate each month. Click to learn how to chart BBT.

Observing changes in cervix position and cervical fluids. During your monthly cycle, the amount of cervical mucus increases and decreases (in accordance with governing reproductive hormones). Not only that, cervical fluids change in texture and appearance, helping you figure out when you are most fertile. Also, as you approach ovulation, the cervix will likely rise, soften, and open a bit. During non-fertile times of your cycle, the cervix will feel relatively firm (often compared to touching the tip of your nose); however, about the time you ovulate, the cervix will become softer, pliable, and moist. To learn about monitoring CM, click here.

What’s a Two Week Wait? The 2 Week Wait is the time from ovulation to the day you discover you are either pregnant or not pregnant. The two weeks in question refers to the luteal phase of your cycle. Of course, if your cycle is longer than 28 days, your wait may be correspondingly longer (it’s more of an expression referring to that suspenseful, helpless waiting than an actual date-range). At Early-Pregnancy-Tests, we offer high-sensitive tests that can hopefully reduce your 2 Week Wait by at least a few days: our tests allow you to begin testing at 10 days past ovulation.

Pregnancy Testing During the 2 Week Wait: If you elect to test during the two week wait, there are further tactics for optimizing test results and accuracy (early detection). These include 1) using a first morning urine sample 2) holding your urine a number of hours before testing 3) refraining from drinking a great deal of liquids just prior to collecting urine (dilutes the sample) 4) if you are using test strips, make sure that the sample cup is clean and dry with no residual soap or cleaning detergents 5) observe all instructions and interpretive guidelines!

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