Getting pregnant at the drop of a hat isn’t as common as sex-ed classes led you to believe. The best way to increase your chances of falling pregnant each month is to identify your partner’s peak fertile period then have sex at that time of the month – but it’s not that simple. Recent research suggests a 25-year-old woman has an 18% chance of falling pregnant in the first three months of trying. For a 40-year-old woman, this number decreases to 7%. Professor Geeta Nargund, medical director at Create Fertility Clinics, explains: “Over 80% of couples will conceive within one year if the woman is under 40 and you’re having sex regularly. Of those who don’t conceive in the first year, around half will do so in the second year.”
It Takes Two
It may sound obvious, but you play an equal role in helping your partner fall pregnant. “It takes two to make a baby,” says Zita West, fertility expert and founder of The Zita West Clinic. “It’s estimated that 50% of fertility issues are from the male side, so it’s important to do all you can to protect your fertility. It’s well documented that alcohol, cigarettes and recreational drugs affect sperm health and increase free radical damage, which affects the DNA of the sperm. Being overweight or underweight can also affect fertility, so it can help to take a good look at your exercise regime and diet. Recent research has found that men need to focus on their diet just as much as women when it comes to creating a healthy baby. Nutrients such as vitamin B9 (folate), carnitine, omega 3 and vitamin D can all help in creating and maintaining healthy sperm.”
Understand Her Cycle
A basic understanding of how things work can help you on your fertility journey and allow you to better support your partner. There are around five to six fertile days per month, which includes the four or five days before ovulation and the day of ovulation itself. “The length of the menstrual cycle varies from woman to woman, but the average is to have a period every 28 days,” says Geeta. “It’s tricky to pinpoint exactly when ovulation happens, but for most women it’s roughly 14 days before her next period. The fertile window is a short time and is around ovulation.” Zita also recommends monitoring vaginal secretions, which can be an indication of ovulation. “Most women don’t consider their cervical secretions, but once you know what to look for, it’s quite simple to spot the differences. At her least fertile times, secretions are either absent or cloudy and less stretchy in consistency. Around ovulation, however, the body produces a slippery, stretchy, clear secretion which is noticeably different. When she sees this, this is the time to have sex.”
Keep Things Regular
When it comes to trying for a baby, it helps to have sex regularly throughout the week, says Zita. “Aim to have sex three times a week. The egg only lasts up to 24 hours whereas sperm can last up to five days in the fallopian tubes, so by ensuring there is plenty of fresh sperm waiting for the egg to be released you won’t miss the short ovulation window. The most important thing to focus on is the sperm rather than the egg. Tracking ovulation also helps – if you haven’t been able to have sex three times a week, you can still focus on the week around ovulation,” she explains. It’s also not true that men need to save up their sperm – in fact, sperm needs to be constantly refreshed for potency. Tracking ovulation with an app or ovulation sticks can also help pinpoint the fertile window more efficiently and may help take the pressure off and prevent sex from becoming a chore.
Know The Right Time To Have Sex
There isn’t a huge amount of science behind it, but some studies suggest it could be worth having sex in the morning. “Testosterone levels are at their highest in the morning, so this can be a good time to have sex to make the most of a man’s hormones. Arousal also affects the amount of sperm released, however, so it’s important to ensure sex never becomes mechanical,” says Zita. How you have sex could also weigh into the equation, she says. “There are many myths surrounding conception, although there could be some truth in the old wives’ tale that says your other half should hold her legs in the air after sex. If she can stay lying down for around 15 minutes after sex, then it could be worth a try, although the speed of ejaculation means most of your sperm enters the fallopian tubes very quickly, which is why the ‘pulling out’ method doesn’t always work.”
Fertility encompasses eggs and sperm. “While the concept of a ticking biological clock is a well-worn cliché for women, men too experience age-related decline, and it can take five times as long to conceive where a woman has a male partner over the age of 45,” says Geeta. “Studies show that from the age of 40, and especially from the age of 45, the quantity and quality of a man’s sperm declines.” She adds that, once you are in your 40s, there is also an increasing number of genetic mutations found in sperm, making it trickier to fall pregnant and increasing the chance of miscarriage.
Consider Taking A Supplement
If you’ve been trying for a while, chances are your other half is taking a folic acid supplement, which is regarded as the number one pregnancy mineral. The NHS recommends women take folic acid every day while trying until week 12 of pregnancy in order to reduce the risk of problems in the baby’s development. But there are supplements men can be taking too, says Zita. “Because men produce sperm 24/7, the changes you make now can help in the near future. Zita West Clinic’s Vitamen is a good place to start – it’s a multivitamin and is a great all-rounder for male fertility and sperm health. It could also be worth taking an omega-3 supplement, which can help build healthy sperm cells, as well as formulas containing nutrients such as coenzyme Q10, which gives sperm energy, and arginine and lycopene, which boost sperm health.”
Know When To Seek Help
The general rule is: if you’ve been trying for a year without success, speak to a professional. “If you’re young and generally in good health, there’s no need to do anything before the 12-month mark unless you want to,” says Zita. “If you do want to seek help before this point, you’d need to do this privately as the NHS will ask you to wait for 12 months. If, however, you are over the age of 35 or have any underlying issues and are doing everything right, consider speaking to someone after six months of trying.” Zita also serves up some final words of wisdom: “Wherever you are on your fertility journey, it’s important to both be on the same page. Try to be there for each other when trying for a baby. Talking about everything, no matter how small, can really help.”
For more information, visit ZitaWestClinic.com and CreateFertility.co.uk.
For further support, check out FertilityHelpHub.com, founded by Eloise Edington, who launched the platform after experiencing her own problematic route to parenthood.
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