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How to Get Pregnant Faster
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- Svitlana Pavzyuk for Veer
While it might seem like you’ve spent much of your adult life avoiding getting knocked up, once you’re ready for a baby, most women want it to happen, like, yesterday. We checked in with an OB/GYN, a midwife, and a reproductive endocrinologist to learn about the best ways to get pregnant ASAP.
Schedule Preconception Counseling
It’s not like you’re clueless as to how babies are made, but if you and your partner are ready to start a family, checking in with your healthcare provider before you start trying can be a very smart move, says Peyman Banooni, M.D., an OB-GYN in private practice at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA.
During that visit, you’ll get a chance to review your medical history and discuss any possible issues that might come up during pregnancy due to past or current medical conditions. You should also come prepared with a list of all current medications, in case any might have a negative impact on your fertility or a pregnancy.
Your healthcare provider will also likely do a complete gynecological exam, blood tests, tests for sexually transmitted diseases, tests for rubella immunity (if you’re not immune, you should get vaccinated and use a reliable form of birth control for the following 3 months before getting pregnant) and possibly some genetic tests, based on your family history. Additionally, your obstetrician or midwife will likely suggest that you start taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid. Elizabeth Stein, a New York-based certified nurse midwife, also suggests that her patients see a dentist as well, to make sure their oral health is good as well, given that late miscarriage has been linked to maternal periodontal (gum) disease.
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Go Off Birth Control in Advance
This may seem like a no-brainer, but some forms of birth control may reduce your fertility for a while even after you discontinue use.
The Pill: Your fertility should return almost immediately, given that the effects of hormones in birth control pills aren’t long-lasting. The same kind of menstrual cycle you experienced before going on the Pill is likely what you’ll have again. For example if you had a regular 28-cycle that should return, or if you experienced irregular cycles, it’s likely that you’ll have irregular cycles once again, explains Dr. Banooni. The same principles apply to the birth control patch (Ortho Evra) and the birth control ring (NuvaRing), and your fertility go back to normal once you stop using them.
IUD: Regardless of whether you have the hormonal or non-hormonal version of an intrauterine device (IUD), your fertility should return right away once you have the device removed by a healthcare professional.
Depo-Provera: The effects of Depo-Provera are meant to be long-lasting, so although you need to get the shot every 3 months to ensure protection against pregnancy, Stein explains that “theoretically, it’s wearing off, but it may take much longer to return to fertility. If you’re thinking you may want to get pregnant in the next year, stop getting the shots, as we have no medication to counter its effects.”
If you want to go off of a hormonal form of birth control but you’re not quite ready to get pregnant yet, be sure to use a barrier form of birth control like condoms in the interim.
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Determine When You Ovulate
You might remember from high school sex ed that an egg can only survive for 12 to 24 hours after ovulation, while sperm can survive for 48 to 72 hours after sex. Unfortunately, this means that there’s a pretty narrow window of opportunity for babymaking.
To up your chances of timing things properly, it’s helpful to know when you ovulate. While you might have a vague notion that ovulation typically happens around day 14 of your menstrual cycle (counting the first day of your period as day 1), that is probably the case only for women with a regular 28-day cycle, which is a minority of us (most women fall somewhere in the 24- to 35-day range). What’s true on a broader scale is that ovulation usually occurs about 14 days before the last day of a woman’s menstrual cycle, or the day before she gets her period. So, for a woman with a 24-day cycle, ovulation likely happens around day 10, while a woman with a 35-day cycle would likely ovulate around day 21.
If you’re not sure how long your menstrual cycle is naturally or when you ovulate, it may be helpful to keep track on a calendar of when you get your period and how long it lasts, to give you a better sense of when you’re most likely ovulating.
Chart Your Basal Body Temperature
Another way to determine when you ovulate is by charting your basal body temperature (BBT). To do so, you’ll need to buy a basal thermometer, which shows tenths of degrees. You’ll need to take your temperature every morning immediately upon waking—before even getting out of bed to pee. Your temperature usually drops subtly the day you ovulate; then it rises the following day and stays elevated until you get your period (or throughout your pregnancy, should you conceive that month).
Charting your BBT likely won’t be very helpful that first month, as you’ll only know after the fact that you have ovulated (courtesy of that temperature spike)—but charting your BBT for a few months in a row can help you determine patterns in your menstrual cycle and better predict when you will ovulate the next time around (and therefore when you and your partner should be getting busy). But, basal body temperature can be thrown off by a number of factors, including illness. And if you don’t remember to do it first thing, it won’t be accurate.
Additionally, charting your BBT can help to confirm that any fertilized eggs would have time to implant. If your luteal phase (the time between ovulation and your next period, during which your BBT should be slightly elevated) is shorter than 11 days, that may mean that any potential pregnancy could have difficulty “sticking,” explains Ringland Murray, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist in Chattanooga, TN.
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Spotting or Bleeding
One of the first signs of miscarriage can be bleeding, ranging from light spotting to a heavier, bright red flow. Of course, many women who experience bleeding early on end up having a healthy pregnancy, but call your doctor to have it checked out, just in case.
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Use an Ovulation Predictor Kit
If charting BBT or monitoring cervical mucus sounds like a bit much, you can also pick up an ovulation predictor kit (OPK) at your local drugstore ($20-$50), although they are by no means a necessity when you're just getting started trying to conceive, says Dr. Banooni.
OPKs help to give you a heads up that you‚re about to ovulate, which is a signal that you and your partner should schedule some immediate sexy time. They work by detecting a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine, which generally happens about 24 to 36 hours before you ovulate.
Kit instructions generally recommend testing at the same time each day, but it's usually best with the second pee of the day (this is because the hormone surge often starts around 3 am, so there's not enough of it in your first urine of the morning to be detected). To test, simply pee on a test stick (or dip the stick in a cup of urine), and wait for the results to appear. Depending on the kind of test, it may show a second line (the first is a control line to show you the test is working properly), or a symbol like a smiley face to indicate that it's go-time.
It’s helpful to use an OPK in conjunction with another method of determining when you ovulate, like charting your BBT, so that you’ll have a better sense of when to use the OPK, because they usually come with only about 5 to 7 test strips, which means you need to have a good sense of when to start testing during your menstrual cycle. If you’re sure of when you ovulate, then feel free to head straight for the OPK.
Try a Fertility Monitor
Another, albeit more expensive option, would be to use a fertility monitor, like the Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor ($200, plus $50/pkg of 30 test sticks), which tracks not only the LH surge but estrogen as well, potentially identifying up to 6 of your most fertile days. This works best for women with cycles between 21 and 42 days long, and is not recommended for women who have recently been pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking hormonal birth control or fertility drugs (instead wait until you’ve had two full menstrual cycles without any of these factors that could affect your cycle).
To use a fertility monitor, you’ll get started on the first day of your next period and will choose a 6-hour window for daily testing. Check the monitor each day during those 6 hours to see if you should use a test stick. If so, you’ll do the same kind of urine testing as with a regular OPK, but instead of reading the results on the stick yourself, you’ll insert it into the monitor, which will give you a reading of low, high, or peak fertility. The monitor will ask you to use at least 10, if not 20 sticks during a cycle to obtain sufficient information about your hormone changes through that time.
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Have Sex Before Ovulation
To ensure that your partner’s swimmers are meeting up with your egg at just the right time, try to have sex every other day, starting five days before you expect to ovulate (this 6-day period is sometimes referred to as the “fertile window,” ending on the day of ovulation). If you’re using an OPK and you get a positive result that day (around day 12 in a typical 28-day cycle, where ovulation would take place on day 14), have sex that day and the next two days, if possible. While there is some evidence that having sex daily may lead to slightly higher pregnancy rates, every other day should suffice—and daily sex should be avoided if it’s just adding to the stress of trying to conceive for you or your partner. If you’re up for it, though, sex every day won’t do you or your partner any harm—there’s no evidence that frequent ejaculations decrease male fertility, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).
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Don’t Sweat the (Sexual) Details
While we’re all for a girl getting exactly what she wants, don’t worry about it if you can’t achieve orgasm during sex; although it certainly adds to the enjoyment of the moment, it won’t impact your chances of getting pregnant.
On a similar note, just do what feels good to the two of you. Don’t worry about which position will increase your chances—the best is the one that feels good to you. And while you should feel free to hang out on your back for a few minutes post-sex, don’t feel like you have to, as sperm can be found way up in the cervical canal seconds after ejaculation, regardless of which position a couple was in, according to the ASRM.
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Skip the Lube
This is a great excuse to encourage your partner to really amp up the foreplay: lubricants can be toxic to sperm and may reduce your chances of getting pregnant. And while there are some lubricant formulas that claim to be fertility-friendly, you can also just go for more kissing, touching, and whatever else you need from your partner to get in the mood. And who knows? Maybe he’ll even learn a thing or two. (But should you need an additional form of lubrication, the ASRM recommends mineral oil, canola oil, or hydroxyethylcellulose-based lubricants, like Pre-Seed, if foreplay alone doesn’t do the trick.)
Don’t Be the Sperm Police
Although you may have heard that guys should keep their “boy bits” cool for optimum performance and maintaining sperm count, there’s no evidence that wearing briefs instead of boxers alters scrotal temperature significantly, so don’t go throwing out all of his tighty-whiteys just yet.
Additionally, most men likely aren’t greatly affected by time spent in hot tubs or saunas, according to the ASRM, as long as it’s done in moderation.
Yes, there are dozens of valid reasons to quit smoking, but if you (or your partner) haven’t kicked the habit yet, add one more reason to the list: you could negatively impact your fertility—as well as that of any potential kiddos (yep, smoking may actually harm your child’s fertility too).
Virtually all scientific studies on smoking and fertility show that smoking leads to a higher rate of infertility and a longer time to conceive, according to the ASRM—and that seems to hold true whether your exposure to cigarette smoke is first or secondhand. Not only does smoking harm a woman’s ovaries, but it likely hastens the loss of eggs and may even bring on menopause 1 to 4 years early. Additionally, smoking has been associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, premature and low birth weight babies, and an increased incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
If your fella needs more convincing, let him know that smoking may lower sperm count and motility, as well as lead to increased abnormalities in sperm shape and function.
In short, you and your partner should both kick the habit if you want the best chance at conceiving quickly and having a healthy pregnancy and baby.
- Raphaël Büchler
Cut Back on Alcohol
Although many of us know women who got pregnant seemingly thanks to a few drinks, there’s not a whole lot of clear information about the link between female fertility and alcohol. There has been some indication of a higher risk of infertility in women who consume two alcoholic drinks per day, so it’s probably best to avoid having two or more drinks per day when trying to get pregnant. However, there’s no evidence that more moderate alcohol consumption decreases fertility.
- Jennifer Harrington
Caffeine in Moderation
Many of us rely on our morning cuppa to help us ease into the day—and it’s totally fine to have a cup or two of coffee per day or its equivalent when trying to get pregnant. But, high levels of caffeine consumption (more than 5 cups of coffee per day or 500 mg of caffeine) have been associated with decreased fertility—and consuming more than 200-300 mg/day during pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage. So feel free to continue enjoying your morning latte—just know that a 16-ounce (grande) cup of Starbucks brewed coffee can pack a whopping 330 mg of caffeine.
- Tina Rupp
Although fertility rates are decreased in women who are super skinny or obese, there’s little evidence that any particular diet helps increases a woman’s chances of getting pregnant quickly. Good general guidelines are to eat a well-balanced diet and avoid heavy consumption of seafood high in mercury, as elevated blood mercury levels have been associated with infertility (so avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish, and eat up to 12 ounces a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury, like shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish, recommends the FDA).
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Seek Medical Help If You Need It
We get that it can be incredibly frustrating to get your period while you’re trying to get pregnant, knowing that yet another month has gone by without a pregnancy. But, rest assured that the vast majority of couples (about 85 to 90 percent) do conceive on their own within a year. More specifically, at age 20, a couple has a 93 percent chance of getting pregnant within 12 months (or a 25 to 30 percent chance of becoming pregnant each month), but by age 40, that number drops to 70 percent (or a 10 to 15 percent chance of becoming pregnant each month), according to Dr. Christopher Williams’ The Fastest Way to Get Pregnant Naturally.
For women younger than 35, the general rule is that if you’re not pregnant within a year, you should seek medical advice. For women 35 and over, speak with your healthcare provider if you’re not pregnant within 6 months.
But, Dr. Murray advises that women think not just about the time they have been officially “trying to get pregnant,” but instead about the length of time they’ve been at-risk for pregnancy. If you and your partner have had unprotected sex for some time before you were officially trying to conceive, take that period into account when deciding whether to seek medical advice or any kind of infertility testing.
- Fancy Photography for Veer
Relax and Have Fun
“Just relax” are likely the least favorite words of many women trying to conceive, especially if it’s taking longer than you hoped. But there is growing evidence that stress may indeed play a role in infertility. If it sounds appealing, you may want to consider trying yoga or another mind-body program to learn relaxation or stress-reduction techniques that could help you chillax while trying to conceive. Or, try to do more of whatever gets you to your happy place.
Stein adds, “Once women catch baby lust, nothing will satisfy them except for a baby, but you don’t want to be emotionally bankrupt by the time you get there. Don’t make having sex a chore.”