Trying for a Baby: What are the Basics
You and your partner may know you’re ready to start trying for a baby, but you may not know exactly the basics of how to conceive. When we were growing up, we were taught primarily how to avoid getting pregnant, but now that you’re ready to conceive, you may wonder the best way forward in order to have a happy and healthy baby!
Trying for a Baby Means Knowing When You Ovulate
When you’re trying for a baby, knowing when you’re ovulating is extremely important. Ovulation is when your body releases an egg from your ovary that is ready to be fertilized for approximately 12 to 24 hours. Your partner’s sperm can live in your body for three to five days. This means that when you’re trying for a baby, if you know when you’re ovulating, and you have sexual relations around that time, you can make certain that there is sperm ready to fertilize the egg you’ve just released. This will help maximize your chances of achieving a pregnancy.
How Can You Tell When You’re Ovulating?
When you get your period, it’s considered “Cycle Day 1”. The majority of women’s menstrual cycles last 28 days, and on average, they ovulate anywhere from cycle day 11 to 21. However, every woman’s cycle is different. This is why when you’re trying for a baby, it can greatly help your efforts to learn more about your cycle and when you tend to ovulate. You have several options to choose from when you’re trying for a baby:
- Ovulation Prediction Kits. These can be purchased at your local drug store and are not expensive. Directions are included in the kit, but in general, they detect levels of your luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine. When you get close to ovulation time, your LH increases, which lets you know that it would be an ideal time to have sexual relations.
- Basal Body Thermometer (BBT). You can also buy these at your local drug store. You would record your BBT every morning throughout your cycle and document it. It’s important that you do this at the same time each morning before getting out of bed to ensure accuracy. When you track a slight increase in your body temperature, this would indicate you are ovulating.
- Documenting Cervical Mucus. This entails tracking your vaginal secretions, which is something that some individuals may not be comfortable with. Cervical mucus can provide insight into your overall vaginal health, ovulation and more. When you’re trying for a baby, you need to look for mucus that looks similar to egg whites, is stretchy and almost clear. This not only indicates you are ovulating but also that the consistency is ideal for the sperm to swim in.
Trying for a Baby: When You Should Seek a Doctor’s Help
If you’ve just started to think of trying for a baby or if you’ve been trying for a baby for a few months, you don’t necessarily need the help of a reproductive endocrinologist just yet. The overall recommendation is that you see a fertility specialist if the female partner is under the age of 35 and has been trying for a baby for at least one year without success, or if the female partner is over 35 and you have been trying for a baby at least six months without success.
There are some reasons you may want to seek a doctor’s help sooner rather than later. Reasons could be if::
- You are female and at least 40 years old
- You are concerned that you may not be ovulating
- You needed treatment for tubal damage or endometriosis
- You have missed periods or experience irregular periods
- You have been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- You have a history of pelvic infection, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- You have a known male factor fertility concern
- You have had two or more miscarriages
While some of the above may sound concerning, reproductive endocrinologists work with each of these conditions on a regular basis and there are many tests, options, and treatments available to help you when you are trying for a baby. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of a proper diagnosis and making some lifestyle adjustments that can help you on your path to parenthood. In other cases, you may need assisted reproductive technology such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) or Preimplantation Genetic Testing for Aneuploidy (PGT-A) which was previously known as PGS. If you have had recurrent pregnancy losses, PGT-A can be helpful because it identifies if the correct number of chromosomes are present in embryos. Approximately half of all first trimester pregnancy losses are due to chromosomal abnormalities, so PGT-A can reduce the risk of pregnancy loss by your doctor only transferring embryos that were identified as chromosomally normal.
Trying for a baby is an exciting time, but it can also be intimidating. The thing to remember is if it doesn’t happen as quickly as you expected, it’s not uncommon, and you have support and options to explore. Take one step at a time and remember that if you need the help of a fertility expert, they are only a phone call away.