A Guide to Conceiving for Couples
If you’re planning on bringing a little one into the world, a good plan can go a long way. Planning is the key to success in life!
There are a few factors to weigh up, and some myths around the process of conception to keep in mind too, but don’t fret. Plenty of common questions and considerations will pop up on your journey, from understanding ovulation and the odds of getting pregnant, to the best time to attempt conceiving and the recommended methods.
Let’s take a look at some of the key steps along the way.
The odds of getting pregnant
If a couple is having regular unprotected sex, there’s a 16% chance of getting pregnant in a given month. That figure rises significantly over time:
- 70% within six months
- 85% within one year
- 90% within 18 months
- 95% within two years
What influences the chances of conceiving?
There are a number of factors that can influence both men and women’s fertility. Some are lifestyle factors and others are physiological.
One of the biggest factors is age. For healthy women, fertility peaks in the mid 20s and starts to decline during the 30s. Men’s fertility also declines, with a drop occurring after the age of 40.
Lifestyle also affects the chances of conceiving. An unhealthy diet or a Body Mass Index (BMI) that’s too high or too low can have a negative impact, as it may impair the body’s natural hormonal pathways.
Additionally, internal factors like medical conditions or irregular periods for women can influence the chances of conceiving, as it can interfere with when she ovulates.
Knowing and responding to the woman’s cycle
There are only a few days each month when conception can occur – this is when the woman is ovulating. Therefore it’s important that she understands her cycle; this will give her the best chance of conceiving. Tools like ovulation calculators can provide a rough guide as to when the woman is most fertile.
A common misconception is that it’s beneficial to have sex on a near-constant basis, as the belief is that frequent intercourse equals a stronger chance of conception. However, some times are more beneficial than others.
To give themselves the best chance of conceiving, it’s recommended that a couple has sex every two days for a week before ovulation, beginning when the woman’s period ends and continuing this throughout the ovulation window. Taking a break for two days in this way allows the man a chance to recharge his sperm count.
There are some myths that different positions can impact the chances of conceiving, however, there is no evidence to suggest this. The main thing is to relax and enjoy your physical relationship and the intimacy of trying to get pregnant. Continue to focus on making love rather than making a baby to avoid adding stress which can in fact work against natural conception.
Women should make sure to consult their medical history, as it may provide potential watch-outs when it comes to issues around fertility. For example, certain genetic factors can result in a woman being born with more or fewer eggs than usual, meaning they might deplete more quickly than the average woman’s.
Her own mother’s medical history may actually contain clues, too, like whether she went through the menopause early. It’s possible for this – and various other conditions – to be passed on, so it’s useful for a woman to know some information about her mum’s reproductive history, if conception doesn’t happen within a reasonable time frame for her.
Many people are uncertain about what effect the contraceptive pill will have on their chances of getting pregnant. However, couples can indeed conceive within the first month of coming off the pill, as the hormones leave the woman’s body quite quickly. It’s also safe to conceive right away, as studies show it has no effect on the baby.
Smoking and alcohol consumption
Studies have revealed that smoking is a contributing factor in cases of infertility. Cigarettes can negatively affect the growth of a developing foetus, and it may also have a negative impact on getting pregnant. Smoking harms DNA in both men and women, even when consumed moderately. Cutting out the habit entirely is strongly recommended.
Heavy drinking is also advised against for mums-to-be, as drinking during early stages of pregnancy has been linked to premature births and more serious alcohol abuse can cause foetal alcohol syndrome.
When to get checked
If you and your partner are trying to conceive but aren’t having any luck, it’s advised to wait a year before getting your fertility checked. However, for women over 35, it’s best to get checked after six months.
If there’s a problem
Finding out there’s an issue can be an incredibly nerve-wracking and stressful time. However, there are a number of resources and options available. Firstly, talk to your doctor together, and aim to discover your best options and how best to move forward from that point. Consulting with your doctor will often reassure you and that in itself can help in achieving your pregnancy naturally.
This blog was written in partnership with Mr Declan Keane, founder and Senior Clinical Embryologist at ReproMed.