So you’ve made the decision to try for a baby, and in your head, the minute you ditch your birth control - Bingo! The pregnancy double line is going to glow in the first month! Right?
Sadly, this isn’t always the case. Unless you are super-lucky, those baby making skills can take a lot more effort than you think.
How long will it take me to get pregnant?
It’s impossible to say how long it takes to conceive as there are so many factors that can affect a couple's chances of having a baby. Some can fall pregnant almost immediately after stopping using contraceptives, whereas others can take up to a year.
It really depends on quite a few things such as age, health, weight, reproductive health and how often you have sex.
As a general *guide, most couples (about 84 out of every 100) will get pregnant within a year if they have regular sex and don’t use contraception. Having said that, women become less fertile as they get older.
One study found that among couples having regular unprotected sex:
aged 19-26 – 92% will conceive after one year and 98% after two years
aged 35-39 – 82% will conceive after one year and 90% after two years
Chuck out the charts
While it’s really beneficial to have an idea of when you ovulate and when your period is due - it can become a stressful situation and make the baby making an unhappy and sometimes stressful time.
Rather than charting on a calendar where you can see it, opt for a little reminder on your phone when your period is due, or when roughly you are ovulating, or download an ovulation calculator. This way, you won’t have a constant visual that dominates your life.
The more relaxed you are about it all, the more chances you’ll have of conceiving.
Stress can affect labido and even periods - so try not to focus on dates and times.
Have lots of sex
As advice goes, this one is pretty obvious. But did you know that many couples trying for a baby don’t have sex often enough?
We all know there are certain times during the month when you are more fertile, but according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) only trying to conceive around ovulation every month can be stressful and is not recommended.
Instead, you should aim for regular sex, at least every 2-3 days, throughout the month if you are actively trying for a baby.
Make sex fun
Spontaneous sex is far more fun than regular, planned sex, so get creative.
Have sex when you’d not normally do it - perhaps meet at home on your lunch break for a quick baby-making break? Plan naughty weekends away, lazy weekends in bed, or after-work ‘baby dancing’ to spice things up.
Try to avoid the regular sex in bed after a long day when all you really want to do is sleep. You’re making a baby after all, so make it with some fireworks and chances are, you’ll be growing a little one in no time.
One study measured the amount of semen that had leaked out after sex, and found that when female orgasm occurred a minute or less after ejaculation, sperm retention was greater.
Watch a movie in bed
After sex, cuddle up in bed and watch a movie together. Although there’s no research to back up claims that lying down after sex increases chances of conceiving, some experts (and common sense) say that staying in bed for a little while after intercourse will help keep semen from leaking out of the vagina. So get comfy and cuddle up for a while while the sperm do their thing.
You don’t have to adopt the full-on ‘my body is a temple’ mode while trying for a baby, but research has shown that for both men and women, food and fertility are linked. Enjoy treats, meals out and fun times, but have in mind that a balanced diet will boost your chances of a healthy baby.
Eating foods such as fresh vegetables, spinach, whole grains, and calcium-rich foods will ensure your are giving your body the essentials.
Remember though, under-eating or harsh diets can affect your periods, which will make it difficult to predict when you ovulate or when your period is due. Those who are significantly under-weight can stop periods altogether.
For men, now is the time to up the essential vitamins and nutrients such as zinc and vitamins C and E - these are are important for making healthy sperm.
You should both take folic acid too as this can make healthier sperm, and is very important for the development of a healthy foetus, as it can significantly reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs), such as Spina Bifida.
Confide in close friends only
While it’s a very exciting time, try to avoid the social media announcements just yet. The more people who know you are trying, the more pressure you’ll have to get a result, and the constant unsolicited advice that goes with it.
Having said that, it’s equally important to have someone to talk to about what you are going through, as it can be a worrying time when things don’t happen right away. Choose one or two friends who you can trust not to tell others.
Take time out
Resting and spending quality time together is essential when trying for a baby. The less stressed you are, the more relaxed you will be.
With our busy lives, baby making can often just be forced into the mountain of tasks in daily life, so make time for each other, and for yourselves too. Hang out with friends and don’t make every day about trying for a baby - it’ll just add to the stress levels.
It may sound like the worst ‘trying to conceive’ advice ever, but to stop focusing on conceiving can actually have a positive effect.
When your whole world revolves around trying for a baby, it can eat you up a little. So, stop the baby talk, delete the baby sites from your internet favourites, and stop actively trying for a few months.
Instead, plan a holiday, organise some house improvements or plan an event. Sometimes this simple tip can result in the pitter patter of tiny feet when you least expect it.
If you are really worrying about trying for baby, if you have problems with periods, problems conceiving before or it has been over 12 months of actively trying to conceive, pop to your GP who will offer guidance and advice on the next steps to take.
*NHS ages likely to conceive guidelines 2016 www.nhs.uk