Now that you’ve decided you want to have a baby, you want to get pregnant as soon as possible. Totally reasonable. However, there are a few things you should do prior to trying, and few things you can do to help facilitate the process.
Be your healthiest self.
This may seem obvious, but are you at a healthy weight for your body? If you are underweight or overweight, your fertility decreases, so keep your weight inside that healthy zone. According to the BMI chart, that means a BMI of 19 to 25, but talk with your doctor about a healthy weight range for your body.
If you aren’t already doing it, now is the time to start exercising, eating a healthy diet and taking prenatal vitamins.
Seriously, as soon as you even start thinking about pregnancy, you need to start taking prenatal vitamins.
Neural tube defects like spina bifida develop in the first 28 days after conception, which may be before you even realize you are pregnant. Folic acid is the nutrient that helps prevent neural tube defects, so choose a prenatal vitamin that contains at least 400 micrograms of it. You can also find folate in leafy green vegetables, nuts, beans and citrus fruits.
Habits that decrease fertility include smoking, heavy alcohol consumption (more than two drinks a day), heavy caffeine consumption and recreational drug use.
Since I know you’re wondering… yes, your morning cup of coffee is fine, I promise.
Help your guy get healthy.
Men’s health is important for fertility, too.
Obesity is clearly linked to impaired sperm production, so the two of you can work on your fitness and nutrition goals together.
Vitamins C and E have been shown to result in a slight increase in sperm count and motility. You can get find those vitamins in citrus fruits, broccoli, leafy vegetables and tomatoes, or you can find a multivitamin.
Men also need to stop smoking. Smoking is associated with reduced sperm quality not to mention lung cancer, emphysema and more, and secondhand smoke exacerbates asthma and colds in kids, so make quitting priority No. 1. Anabolic steroids and marijuana are also associated with impaired sperm function.
One last random no-no: briefs. Some studies have found that wearing brief type underwear increases the temperature around the scrotum, thereby decreasing sperm quality. Try to avoid anything that can raise scrotal temperature—hot tubs, laptops on your lap, etc.
Make these changes right away, because it takes three months for them to be reflected in the sperm, as that’s how long it takes the little swimmers to mature.
Go to your doctor or midwife for a preconception care checkup.
I know you’re ready to start trying now, but first make an appointment to see the provider who will be taking care of you during your pregnancy.
At this visit, your doctor will offer you genetic carrier screening—which is a test to see if you or your partner carry certain inherited health conditions
. Your doctor will screen for things that may hinder your ability to get pregnant and will attempt to maximize your health prior to conception.
Chronic conditions like asthma, HIV, diabetes, high blood pressure, clotting disorders, or substance abuse can complicate your pregnancy.
They will also make sure you are up to date on vaccines, some of which you can’t get during pregnancy. This visit is also a great opportunity for you to ask any questions your may have. (Check out our full list of the 10 questions you should ask your OB-GYN or midwife.)
Know when you ovulate.
Start tracking your cycles now.
You usually ovulate 14 days prior to your period. For example, if you have a 28-day cycle, you ovulate on day 14; if you have a 32-day cycle, you ovulate on day 18.
Sperm can live for five days in the reproductive tract, but your egg is only viable for about 24 hours. This means you want the sperm ready to meet that egg when you ovulate, so your “fertile window” is five days prior to ovulation. Two to three days prior is your most fertile time.
You may notice a change in your cervical mucus/discharge around this time, another clue that you’re ovulating. In addition, you can get an ovulation predictor kit (another stick to pee on), which senses the LH surge that happens 24 to 48 hours prior to ovulation. When the OPK turns positive, have sex daily for the next three to five days.
And have sex often. Studies have shown that long periods of not having sex can decrease the quality of sperm.
You should have sex every 1 to 2 days during your fertile window.
Just so you know, it takes sperm five minutes to reach the fallopian tube after being ejaculated into the vagina, so you don’t need to worry about staying in funny positions or tilting your pelvis. Some lubricants can make the sperm move slower and decrease their ability to survive, so avoid those during your fertile window.
Know when to get help.
Statistically, healthy young couples have a 20% chance of becoming pregnant in any given month, and 80% will become pregnant within a year. But if you have been having regular, unprotected sex for a year, and you’re not pregnant yet, you need to see an infertility specialist. And if you’re older than 35, you should go after six months of trying. Other reasons to see an infertility specialist include irregular periods, a history of sexually transmitted infections and pelvic/abdominal surgery.
Lastly, breathe, relax, and enjoy the process.