Fertility 101: What you need to know about getting pregnant
Attempting to get pregnant is an exciting time for most women. However, in the midst of that excitement, you probably have quite a few questions too.
Here are some simple tips from an OB/GYN to help you further understand your body and the process of making a baby.
Before you try
There are a few very important steps to take prior to getting pregnant. First and foremost, it is important to see your doctor to discuss pregnancy. Your OB/GYN can assess your overall health, medications and history, as well as make adjustments or recommendations to help you have a healthier pregnancy.
Genetic conditions can be passed on to your children. Therefore, testing for these conditions, like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia, is also important.
Start a prenatal vitamin with folic acid, at least 0.4mg per day. Any over-the-counter vitamin will do, but if you’d like a prescription, your OB/GYN can help you with this. The goal is to be on a prenatal vitamin at least one month prior to conceiving.
It’s also important to check your benefits for maternity leave. Each employer has different coverage and requirements for maternity leave, so make sure you plan this in advance.
Related: 6 questions to ask yourself before you consider pregnancy
When to stop contraception
Once you have done your research and are ready to get pregnant, you can stop taking contraception. Your fertility may return within two weeks of stopping contraception use. If you are not ready to get pregnant, use protection after stopping your contraceptive method.
When to get pregnant
A woman’s fertile window is individual. The average menstrual cycle is 28 to 35 days. Typically, a woman releases an egg, or ovulates, about two weeks prior to her period. The egg is able to be fertilized 12-24 hours after ovulation, and sperm is viable for up to 72 hours after release. Often, intercourse before ovulation is the most productive and successful time period to conceive.
While you are attempting pregnancy, it can be helpful to be aware of your cycles and even log them on a calendar. This can help predict future fertile windows and identify any issues.
There are many methods to help you predict ovulation including calendars, menstrual apps on your phone, basal body temperature and ovulation predictor kits. It is important to associate your symptoms with each method. Some women have changes in their vaginal discharge, breast tenderness or cramping around ovulation.
A pregnancy test can be positive as early as the first day of your missed menses.
What about intercourse?
If you’re trying to get pregnant, have intercourse daily or every other day around the time of ovulation, and avoid lubricants if you can because it can inhibit sperm motility.
As for sexual position, it does not affect pregnancy rates or gender — that’s nothing more than a myth.
A man’s sperm count can decrease if he waits more than five days to ejaculate. With the exception of bicycling more than five hours per week, physically active men have better sperm counts than sedentary men.
Does age affect pregnancy?
Fertility can gradually decrease starting at age 32, but that decline becomes more rapid around age 37. As a woman gets older, she is at an increased risk of pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Also, the risk of having a child affected by genetic abnormalities, like Down Syndrome, does increase with age, but is still very low.
If you are considering having children at a later age, talk to your OB/GYN about what to expect from a high-risk pregnancy.
When to see your doctors
Although it’s easy to worry as time goes by, attempting pregnancy for a full year is normal. After a full year, it is time to be evaluated by your doctor. In women 35 years or older, the evaluation should start after six months.
More than 80 percent of women will achieve pregnancy within 12 months. More than 90 percent of women achieve pregnancy within two years. Each woman’s fertility journey is unique, so try not stress if things aren’t happening right away.
Remember to cherish the process and consult with your OB/GYN about any questions or concerns you may have — we’re here to help you have a safe and healthy pregnancy.
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