10 things that might surprise you about trying to get pregnant

Are you having sex often enough, or too often? What about timing? When are you ovulating, anyway? Here are some common fertility mistakes couples make when trying for a baby.

1 Doing it only on ovulation day

Even if your menstrual cycle is every 28 days like clockwork, you may ovulate a day or two before or after the day you expect. And even if you’re ovulating on day 14, sperm can live inside your body for between 24-48 hours and even longer in some cases. Once you’ve worked out when you’re likely to ovulate, start having sex about four to six days prior to ovulation, and continue for four to six days post-ovulation to increase your chances of conceiving.

2 Saving up sperm

You may have heard the one about how men should abstain from masturbation or intercourse until the all-important ovulation day, so he has a higher sperm count and is more fertile for doing the deed. Yeah, no. Men can’t “use up” all the “good sperm” prior to sex – it doesn’t work that way. Sperm can live for up to a week in the vagina, so you might be getting pregnant using “old sperm” anyway. And having regular sex can improve sperm quality. The more times a man ejaculates during his partner’s fertile window, the more sperm is available to fertilise the egg, and the higher the chances of conceiving.

3 Making sex a chore

Yes, you want to have sex at the time when your body is most likely to conceive – but don’t turn it into a regimented, every-single day experience that you’re going through the motions of. Putting pressure on yourself and your partner to conceive can kill the buzz of trying to get pregnant, and can even make one (or both) of you feel resentful of the process. Plus, having sex every day can deplete your partner’s sperm count, so stick to every other day – and enjoy it! You don’t want your memories of conceiving to be stress-filled and negative.

4 Stressing out

When you want to get pregnant and it’s just not happening, and everyone around you is telling you to “Just relax, it’ll happen!” and “As soon as I stopped worrying, I got pregnant!” Getting stressed about stress is even worse than being stressed about conceiving! But cortisol, the stress hormone, can negatively affect your ovulation and fertility, so you really do need to calm down. Easier said than done, right? Meditate, do yoga, indulge in a spa day, try talk therapy, and if things still aren’t happening, it’s time to see a specialist.

5 Waiting too long to try

Look, there’s never a “perfect time” to have a baby. Your bank account will never have enough money. Your career might take decades to be fully established. If you live in Auckland, buying a house might be a pipe dream. So stop trying to create the perfect moment. If you wait too long, you might not be able to get pregnant – or your chances of conceiving may be significantly reduced. If you feel ready to have a baby, then start trying.

6 Being too clean “down there

Please don’t douche or use vaginal perfumes and scented creams, either out of an effort to smell better, or as lubricants. Douches and other products can act as spermicides an alter the pH of your vagina, which impairs fertility. If you do want to use a personal lubricant, buy one that’s non-spermicidal – don’t just use the body cream you put on your arms and legs! Just don’t. Stick to au naturel. Your vagina knows what it’s doing.

7 Being overweight or underweight

Weight – hers AND his – does have a significant affect on your ability to get pregnant (and his ability to produce healthy sperm). Being overweight or underweight prior to pregnancy can also increase the risk of miscarriage and birth defects, so it’s vital that you and your partner are your healthiest selves when you’re trying to conceive. Eat healthy, exercise, and get your BMI under control – but don’t overdo it. Talk to your GP about what your healthy weight should be and make some goals for getting there.

8 Having a last hurrah

It’s tempting to live it up prior to trying to conceive, but drinking, smoking, and staying up all hours needs to stop at least a couple of months ahead of time so your body can be at its optimum level of health and wellbeing. Early pregnancy is a critical time in the development of your baby, so give a thought to the potential of getting pregnant and ease up on any wild ways.

9 Not knowing when you’re ovulating

Your best bet for getting pregnant is to have sex around the time you’re ovulating – and most women don’t know when this is. Ovulation occurs midway through your menstrual cycle, assuming you have a “regular” 28- to 32-day cycle. Generally, women ovulate 14 days before the beginning of their period, even if your cycle is irregular. So if your cycle is 26 days, you will ovulate at around day 12. It can be tricky if your period is irregular. Ovulation predictor kits can help you pinpoint your most fertile time, or download an ovulation app.

10 Waiting too long to see a specialist

The ability to conceive decreases by 50% between the ages of 20 and 40, so if you’ve been trying for a baby and not succeeding, talk to your GP about whether it’s time to see a fertility specialist. It’s better to go sooner rather than later, particularly if you are over age 35. Also, if you have irregular periods, heavy or painful periods, you’ve had pelvic infections, endometriosis, or your cycle is shorter than 25 days or longer than 35 days, get thee to a fertility specialist.

The jury is out on… Positions

Evidence hasn’t yet proven or disproven theories about what sexual positions will help you conceive, or what post-coital positioning might help sperm to find its way to the egg. Laying on your back with your legs up the wall may or may not do anything. Missionary-style isn’t better or worse than girl-on-top. So by all means, if you want to stand on your head after sex, do it – or not. We think the most important factor is whether you’re having fun!

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BUMP & baby is New Zealand’s only magazine for pregnancy and early babyhood. Our team of mums and mums-to-be understand what it’s like to be pregnant in this connected age, and that’s why BUMP & Baby online is geared toward what pregnant women and new mums really want to know.

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