So, you’ve decided you want to try to have a baby!
To give yourself the best chance of conceiving you should learn a bit more about your own body.
Do you know when your fertile window is open? When exactly are you at your most fertile?
Here are some things you should know before you start trying to conceive.
Preparing to conceive
So you’ve talked about trying for a baby. Now all you need to do is stop using contraception and have sex, right?
Hopefully, getting pregnant when you want to is easy as ‘one, two, three’. But your age and that of your partner, plus lifestyle factors such as being overweight or smoking, can affect how long it takes to get pregnant and whether you can conceive at all.
As a first step, you and your partner should visit your GP for a preconception health check-up.
The fertile window
Your chances of getting pregnant greatly increase if you’re having sex at the fertile time of the month but many people are unsure when the ‘fertile window’ is.
The fertile window is the three days leading up to and including ovulation. To calculate when this three-day period is within your cycle, you will first need to know how many days there are in your cycle. Then subtract 14 days from the expected start of your next period and you’ll have the expected ovulation day.
So if you have a 28-day cycle, you can expect to be fertile around days 12-14.
Other ways to tell that you’re ovulating:
- Mucus changes – around the time of ovulation a woman may notice her vagina’s mucus is slick and slippery.
- Abdominal pain – some women experience pain during ovulation. The pain may be general or on one side of the abdomen.
- Premenstrual symptoms – premenstrual symptoms such as breast tenderness, abdominal bloating and moodiness may accompany ovulation.
- Use an ovulation predictor kit and ovulation calculator
Weight and fertility
People who are overweight or obese (have a body mass index or BMI of more than 25) can find it harder to get pregnant. The good news for overweight women trying to conceive is that even losing a few kilos will help improve your chances of conceiving.
However, if a mother is obese, there is increased risk of pregnancy complications and health problems for the baby. Babies born to overweight or obese mothers are more likely than those born to healthy-weight mothers to become obese children and adults, and to have associated health problems. So if you have a weight issue and are planning to have a baby, try to get your weight to a healthy level first.
Smoking and fertility
Women who smoke reach menopause earlier than women who don’t smoke. Smokers also find it harder to get pregnant, with women who smoke 1.5 times more likely than non-smokers to take longer than a year to get pregnant.
Passive smoking also affects a woman’s ability to get pregnant – if a male partner is a heavy smoker, this will increase the likelihood of a woman taking longer to conceive. The good news? It’s estimated that within a year of stopping smoking, the effects on fertility are reversed.
Alcohol and fertility
The scientific evidence regarding the link between alcohol use and fertility is unclear but it is clear that heavy drinking does affect fertility – increasing the time it takes to get pregnant and reducing the chances of having a healthy baby. So women who are trying to get pregnant are advised to not drink alcohol at all and men are advised to stick to the National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines of no more than 2 standard drinks per day.