Whether you've wanted a baby since you can remember, have been trying for a few months, or you only decided last week that the time is right, when you've worked out you want a baby, you want one, er, right now. And not knowing how long it will take you to conceive can seriously try your patience.
A quick google search will throw out hundreds of tips on getting pregnant, such assex positions, but how do you know what actually works to increase your chances and improve your fertility? Luckily, there are some things you can do while trying to conceive (TTC) to make the whole process a lot easier for yourself, mentally and physically, as well as your sex life, and for your relationship. Professor Geeta Nargund, Medical Director at CREATE Fertility, shares her advice on the things you need to do when trying for a baby.
When is the best time to try for a baby?
The NHS says that the best time to try for a baby is when you are ovulating, as this is when you are most fertile. Remember, sperm can last in your body for up to 5 days, so planning your sex around the days leading up to ovulation can also result in pregnancy.
Related: What is TTC? Learning forum acronyms
6 things to do when trying for a baby
1. Know your monthly cycle
“This sounds simple but I am amazed at how often women don’t fully understand their menstrual cycle,” says Professor Nargund. “Women have a short fertile window around ovulation – when the chances of conceiving are greatest. In order to be precise about understanding the timing of ovulation you can use an app or buy ovulation test kits from most pharmacies. However, having sex every two to three days is a good way to help you meet your fertile window.”
2. Get your weight in check
While Professor Nargund stresses that you don’t have to turn into a gym fanatic overnight, she does stress the importance of moving more, as studies have shown that weight is a contributing factor to fertility.
“Maintaining your ideal weight for pregnancy, which is a BMI between 19 and 25, will help improve your chances of getting pregnant. Too much or too little body fat can make periods irregular or stop them completely, which can affect your ovulation and your ability to conceive. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine found that obesity is associated with decreased fertility and increased risk of miscarriages. Regular low intensity workouts and long walks are best, as vigorous exercise may have adverse effects when trying for a baby.”
3. Maintain a healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet can improve your fertility chances. “Balance is key - avoid alcohol and go for plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and calcium and folate rich foods daily,” says Professor Nargund. “If you eat fish, try to opt for it two or three times a week as it is the best source of omega3 fatty acids, which is another positive fertility nutrient. Although take care to avoid fish with high mercury levels.”
The NHS also states it’s important for women to take a folic acid supplement. Women trying to conceive should take 400 micrograms, every day, while trying to get pregnant and then continue this until you’re at 12 weeks pregnant. This will reduce any risks of problems in your baby’s development.
4. Stop smoking
“Still puffing? Give it up. Advice from the NHS is that ‘smoking may reduce fertility in women by reducing egg quality’. This includes passive smoking. Research has also proven that smoking can be linked to early menopause in women and damaged sperm in men. “
5. Have a health check up
According to Professor Nargund, many couples don’t pay visits to their GP when trying for a baby, but this is something you should both do to make sure that you’re both healthy and ready to conceive. “Also, do a spring clean of your medicine cupboard,” she advises. “Prescribed and over-the-counter medication contain ingredients that may affect fertility. Ask your doctor about what’s safe. Take Vitamin D and folic acid supplements.”
It's important to take time for yourself. “High stress levels can lead to reduced libido and it goes without saying that having sex more frequently is better for your chances of conception,” says Professor Nargund. “Different methods for relaxation, such as acupuncture, medication and yoga, are popular with couples trying. The activity itself is less important, as long as you are doing something positive that helps you to unwind.
How to stay positive when trying to conceive
It's all too common that TTC takes over your life a bit, particularly if you're struggling to get pregnant. Trying for a baby can start to feel overwhelming. It's easy to feel down when things don't happen the way you want them to after months of trying for a baby. Though it can feel even more of a struggle to stay positive in this crazy world we're living in, with so many external stresses, let alone the pressure you're putting on yourself to get a bun in the oven - keeping your spirits up is important right now, and these easy ideas can help.
Don't shut your partner out when you're feeling down. It can be hard to talk when you're feeling despondent, but open up and chat through your emotions – he's probably having a hard time too.
Make a list
Note down everything that is brilliant about your life. It will be longer than you expect, and great to look at from time to time to remind you that life is good.
Have a laugh
Take your mind off things and make time for fun. Watch a hilarious film and boost your brain's dopamine levels: the hormone is a neurotransmitter that triggers a feeling of pleasure which has a positive effect on mood, as well as motivation.
See friends (even if it's virtually) and let them cheer you up. Being around other people and showing an interest in their lives has been shown to boost positivity.
Get your trainers on
Yes, we are going to tell you to go for a walk. Going out and connecting with nature has been shown to give you more physical and mental energy as well as a feeling of wellbeing.
Try some mindful meditating
Before you dismiss the idea, just give it a go. Sit outside and pay close attention to what you're doing, your thoughts and your sensations. Appreciate the breeze and the sunlight on your face and think about how amazing the trees are, rather than thinking about how things aren't going your way right now.
Make a happiness box
Put things you love in there – like a happy photo, some chocolate, a favourite scent... and open it every time you need a boost.
Support when trying for a baby
If you're struggling while trying to conceive or going through fertility treatment, there is support out there.
Fertility Network UK offer support groups where you can share your TTC journey with others who are going through the same experience. You can also find other support lines to help with stress and anxiety here. You're going through an emotional rollercoaster right now, you're allowed to feel overwhelmed - just don't feel like it alone.