You’ve improved your diet, changed some habits and even got your partner on board with altering some of his lifestyle choices. Now the time has come to start trying to conceive.
Lots of blurry facts about how to successfully conceive may be circling inside your head, making you somewhat confused and, perhaps, even anxious. But, far from making it a chore or scheduling it with military precision, your ‘baby making experience’ ought to be fun!
So, let us shine some light onto all you need to know about sex when planning for a baby.
How to know when to have sex
Every woman and every menstrual cycle is unique and this, together with other hormonal changes that can occur daily and for different reasons, means that there is a chance you could get pregnant at any time throughout your cycle, even during your period.
However, as we discussed on our blog about how to know when you’re most fertile, there are a few days in your cycle in which you are most likely to conceive. This ‘fertile window’ occurs a few days before ovulation and is usually evident by a significant change to your vaginal discharge (cervical mucus) which becomes copious, slippery and stretchy, very similar to raw egg white.
Nature is wise and this slippery discharge is very ‘sperm-friendly’, helping sperm travel more easily through your reproductive system to meet the egg that’s been released from your ovary.
You may also notice that you feel more sexual during these days, as your body’s baby-making instincts nudge you to ‘mate’. Needless to say, this is when you are at your most fertile and the opportunity for having sex should not be missed!
Just how often is enough?
The more you have sex, the greater your chances are of conceiving – it’s that simple!
When you release an egg from one of your ovaries (ovulation), the egg only has 12-24 hours to be fertilized. But, because sperm can survive inside you for up to 5-7 days, having regular sex will mean that, in theory, there will always be a few (million) live ‘little swimmers’ around to fertilize your egg when it is released.
Because of this, if you have sex an average of 3 times a week, you will significantly boost your chances of becoming pregnant.
The best thing you and your partner can do is relax, have fun and enjoy your relationship without worrying or fixating on becoming pregnant. Anxiety and stress can act against you, so don’t allow yourselves to go down that rabbit hole. Try not to ‘strategize’ and just enjoy having more sex!
You may not have the opportunity or desire for regular sex, or you may struggle to ascertain when your body is close to releasing an egg. There are many methods you can use to help you work out when you may be at your most fertile:
The Rhythm method: This involves daily charting of your vaginal discharge, basal body temperature (BBT), changes to your cervix and any other symptoms. By keeping track for a couple of months, you’ll start to know your pattern and be able to more accurately determine when you ovulate and which days are your most fertile.
Ovulations sticks: These use your urine to measure the level of a hormone called luteinizing hormone (LH) which is at its highest when your body is close to ovulation. A kit usually includes several sticks, so you can compare levels throughout a few days. It’s best to use your afternoon wee for more accurate results, and to start using the sticks when you are almost half-way through your cycle.
Fertility monitor: A step-up from the ovulation sticks, a fertility monitor usually includes a thermometer to measure and record your daily BBT or a slot into which you can insert urine sticks for measuring hormone levels. Either way, the fertility monitor will be able to tell you when you are at your most fertile and track your menstrual cycles for patterns.
Wearable fertility gadgets: You can now find fertility watches and fertility tracker bracelets which measure and analyse things like your sweat, temperature, breathing rate and/or resting pulse, picking up changes that occur as you approach ovulation and alerting you when are at your most fertile. Some of these gadgets will also connect to your smart phone.
Do you always ovulate?
Illness, stress, excessive weight gain or weight loss and other lifestyle habits can interfere with ovulation, resulting in about 15% of women who have periods not releasing an egg every month. If you think you may not be ovulating, do speak to your GP.
The road to making a baby may be longer for some and shorter for others but it does not need to be exhausting. Having sex is, well, essential when trying to conceive naturally; yet trying to schedule it can easily spoil intimacy. Enjoy having sex more often and regularly by relaxing and making it fun and spontaneous. Getting to know your body and its changes during ovulation will also help you to improve your chances of becoming pregnant.