How to Get Pregnant: 17 Tips on How to Conceive

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How to Get Pregnant: 17 Tips on How to Conceive Naturally, from the Experts

Let's talk about (more than) sex

how to get pregnant
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The details of how to get pregnant were probably something you thought you had full knowledge of in your teenage years, whether you learned it from an awkward birds-and-bees chat with your parents or via old school sex ed classes.

But, actually, getting pregnant isn’t quite as simple and, as well, instant, as we were maybe allowed to believe. Of course, ceasing use of your chosen contraception is the first step to kicking off proceedings, but then what? Is it really possible to improve your chances of conceiving by making a few lifestyle switches?

Dr. Geeta Nargund, medical director at CREATE Fertility, thinks so. As such, WH asked her the ever-complex question of how to get pregnant, to share her expert guidance on maximising your fertility.

If you've been trying to conceive for over a year and have had no luck, head to see your GP. If you're over 36 or are aware you might have issues with fertility, go after six months.


How to get pregnant

1. Get to know your cycle

If you're wondering how to get pregnant, the best place to start is by getting to know yourself and your cycle better.

An app like Clue can help you to track your cycle, and will give you a good idea of when ovulation might take place (usually 12-16 days before the start of your period) and, subsequently, can alert you to when your highest chance of conceiving is.

      2. Have sex every two to three days

      'If you're trying for a baby, having sex every two to three days throughout the month will give you the best chance of conceiving,' says Dr Nargund. It is not necessary to have sex more often than this — although you can if you want to, of course! Just be conscious of each other's needs as having sex every day may not be practical or pleasurable for both parties and you might find the prospect unappealing when that all-important time comes around.

      3. And don’t prioritise a certain time of the month

      You are most likely to get pregnant if you have sex within a day or so of when you ovulate (which you can tell by reading up on signs of ovulation or by downloading a period tracker app) as this is when the egg is moving down the fallopian tube and is most likely to meet the sperm. Your egg stays in the fallopian tube for between 12-24 hours, waiting to be fertilised by one of the 250 million sperm that enter the body on ejaculation. (For real.)

      But try not to fixate on this too much, as doing so could actually hurt your chances of getting pregnant. Especially as your prediction for when you're ovulating could be slightly inaccurate.

      'If you're having sex every two to three days, you shouldn’t worry about waiting for a certain time of the month to have sex,' says Dr Nargund. 'Becoming too clinical about having sex by planning around when is the 'optimum' time can actually cause stress on both partners, and so could have a negative effect when attempting to conceive.'

      4. Eat balanced meals and cut down on junk food

      'It is important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, rather than rely on supplements,' says Dr Nargund. This is because your nutrition not only impacts your own health and fertility, but could also affect your baby if you get pregnant.

      5. Up your folic acid intake

      Leafy greens, granary bread, and brown rice are all high in folic acid, which the British Nutrition Foundation says is important. Why? It reduces the risk of your future baby having problems with their spine, known as neural tube defects.

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      However, it is almost impossible to get enough folic acid just from your diet, so women who are thinking about how to get pregnant are advised to take a daily supplement of 400 micrograms.

      6. And maybe your Vitamin D

      Dr Nargund adds that taking a Vitamin D supplement may also be necessary for some women, so you should speak to your GP to find out if this applies to you. It is important to carefully check the labels of any supplements to see if they are suitable for women trying to conceive. You should not take any that contain Vitamin A, as having too much could harm your unborn baby.

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      7. Get to a healthy weight

      'It is advised that women achieve a BMI of around 20-25, as being overweight or underweight can affect ovulation and fertility,' says Dr Nargund.

      The NHS website has a handy calculator that makes it easy to work out your BMI. If you need to lose or gain weight to get into the optimum range, speak to your GP about how to achieve this. It's not the time to make extreme changes as unhealthy diet plans can also impact your chances of conceiving.

      8. Be conscious of your alcohol intake

      'It is not necessary to give up alcohol entirely, but it is important to reduce your intake when trying to conceive,' says Dr Nargund. 'Drinking alcohol excessively can affect the quality of sperm, so women and their partners should consult their GP or visit the NHS website for guidelines on alcohol consumption.'

      Think you'll miss the hit of that first sip of Friday G+T? Try replacing Bombay Sapphire with Seedlip, a convincing booze-free bev to muddle with tonic and lemon.

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      9. Bin the ciggies (of course)

      'It is also very important to give up smoking when trying to conceive,' says Dr Nargund. 'There is a link between smoking and poor quality sperm in men, and a link between smoking and egg quality and quantity.'

      You can seek advice and support to quit through your GP or on the NHS website.

      10. Be honest about your history of STIs

      'When you approach your GP for fertility advice, depending on your previous history and previous exposure to STIs, a test may be recommended – but is not necessary for everybody,' says Dr Nargund. 'STIs, including Chlamydia, can affect fertility, so it is important to consult your fertility doctor if you have a history of the infection.'

      It's nothing to be embarrassed about and your GP won't be shocked by anything you tell them, but you can also buy an STI test online if you'd rather.

      11. Use an alternative to traditional lube

      Lubricants can cause problems for sperm motility (basically, movement) making it trickier for them to reach the egg, so make sure you choose something that's proven safer, such as the charmingly named 'Pre-Seed.'

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      12. Take time to unwind

      'Stress can have an indirect effect on your fertility as it can affect your relationship with your partner and therefore cause a loss of libido. In severe cases, stress may also affect ovulation and sperm production,' says Dr Nargund. 'Additionally, when people get stressed they are more likely to drink or smoke more.'

      Check out how to deal with anxiety and discover healthy ways to unwind.

      13. Get between six to nine hours of sleep every night

      Ensuring you get plenty of rest can help to regulate the hormones in your body, including those that affect your fertility through ovulation or sperm production, says Dr Nargund.

      Struggling to fall asleep? Read up on how to get to sleep.

      14. Get to know your family history

      'Be aware of your family’s medical history when trying to conceive,' says Dr Nargund. 'The age a woman's mother went through the menopause can have an effect on her own, so finding out whether they have a history of it happening early is important. It's also useful to check if their relatives have had under-active thyroid problems.'

      15. Stop before you pop that pill

      'You should consult your GP to ensure any medication you may be taking is safe while trying to conceive,' advises Dr Nargund.

      16. Know when to seek help

      'If you have been trying to conceive regularly for over a year, and haven't had any success, you should seek medical advice,' says Dr Nargund. 'Women aged 36 and over, and anyone who is already aware that they have fertility problems, should see their GP sooner, usually after about six months.'

      On the flip side, don't rush to an expert as fertile couples can take a few months to become pregnant.

      17. Don't make any assumptions

      Don't presume it's the woman that's causing any issues that you may be having. Statistically, in heterosexual couples, it will be in 50% of cases, but 40% of the time it's the man and the other 10% it's neither or both.

      How to get pregnant with PCOS?

      It’s thought that 20-30% of women are affected by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), so if you’re trying to get pregnant with PCOS, know that you aren’t alone.

      Whilst getting pregnant when you have PCOS isn’t always straightforward, if you do ovulate (even if you have irregular periods) you should try to conceive naturally. 'You have a good chance of having children if you are the right age, [twenties to early thirties] weight [you have a 'normal BMI'] and are generally healthy. It might take you a little while longer, though,’ Adam Balen, Professor of Reproductive Medicine and Surgery at Leeds Fertility told WH.

      Seek professional help if you don’t fall pregnant after six months of trying or if you don’t ovulate (meaning, you don't have periods at all). Fertility treatment can include stimulating ovulation with a tablet called Letrozole (to a success rate of around 75% of women with PCOS who take it), hormone injections which, again, stimulate ovulation, ovarian drilling (keyhole surgery with an admittedly unpleasant name which destroys testosterone-producing tissue of the ovary), and IVF.

      How to get pregnant with endometriosis?

      How to get pregnant with endometriosis comes down to how severe your case is and, most frustratingly, a myriad of other things that, actually, have nothing to do with endometriosis. Think: stress, overdoing the booze, plus other out-of-your-hands issues such as age (a woman’s fertility tends to start to decline at age 35, then picks up the pace when she reaches 38), or complications related to the sperm.

      If you’re trying to get pregnant with endometriosis, it’s advisable to seek professional help after six months of trying – even sooner if you’re over 35.

      A laparoscopy (keyhole surgery, in which a small telescope is used to peer at your internal tissue in your abdomen so that a surgeon can take any growth out) might be recommended for those with moderate endometriosis looking to get pregnant, whilst those with more severe cases – where endometriotic cysts are present on ovaries or are blocking fallopian tubes – might require surgical removal.

      'If conception does not occur within six to 12 months after surgery, then you should be offered IVF,' Professor Balen told WH.

      How long should you keep sperm inside to get pregnant?

      It's important for everyone to know you can most certainly get pregnant even if the sperm comes out as one of those 250 million little swimmers could still come in contact with the egg (... useful to know if you're using the famously unreliable withdrawal method of contraception or if you're sitting with your legs up the wall after sex. FYI: Don't do either).

      It takes seconds for sperm to get to the cervical mucus and then into the fallopian tubes after ejaculation, and from then sperm can live for seven days inside a woman's body, so it's possible to get pregnant for a few days either side of ovulation.

      Can you get pregnant on your period?

      It's unlikely, as your highest chance of getting pregnant is around ovulation (so, 12-16 days pre-period), but it's still a possibility – particularly if you have irregular periods and your cycle is less predictable.

      What's the best time to get pregnant?

      Having sex within a day or so of ovulation, which is when the egg is released from the ovaries, will up your chances of getting pregnant. But, as Dr Nargund says, don't block those days out in your diary as it's a surefire way to make the whole thing more stressful and, let's face it, less sexy.

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