How To Increase Your Odds for Conception
Want to improve your odds for getting pregnant? April is “Infertility Awareness Month” and we asked Dr. Alison Zimon, a board certified reproductive endocrinologist at Boston IVF (a program affiliated with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center), for tips on increasing the odds that you’ll get pregnant.
Below, Zimon breaks down the specifics such as the signs of infertility, when to have sex, and when you should consult a doctor.
1. Get healthy. “Get your health in order and see your primary medical doctor to be sure your health screening is up to date,” Zimon says. “Many very common health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and hypothyroidism can prevent pregnancy if undiagnosed or untreated.”
2. Think baby ready. “Begin to do the things you would do once pregnant,” she says. “Take prenatal vitamins with 800 mcg of folic acid, cut back on caffeine, limit alcohol, quit smoking if you smoke, maintain a healthy balanced diet, and stick to a regular consistent exercise plan.”
3. Understand the birds and the bees. There’s more to it than what you learned in 7th grade health class. “In a regular cycle, it takes approximately two weeks for a developing egg in the ovary to be ready for ovulation,” Zimon says. “Once ready, your brain sends a luteinizing hormone signal, the LH surge, which triggers ovulation. Immediately after ovulation, the egg enters the fallopian tube where if sperm is present and waiting it may fertilize. Once fertilized the egg becomes an embryo, travels along the fallopian tube to the uterus where it implants about five to six days later.”
4. Know your cycle. “Chart your cycle month to month. Most women ovulate on cycle day 12 to 16 which is usually 14 days before their next period,” she says. “Correlate this timing with symptoms that signify ovulation such as stretchy egg-white cervical mucus, ovarian pain (called Mittelschmerz), and increased libido.”
5. Time intercourse in your fertile window. “Timing is everything! The ovulated egg survives for approximately 12 to 24 hours and sperm survive for at least two to three days,” Zimon says. “Having intercourse every other day during your fertile window is the best way to ensure that the sperm and egg connect allowing fertilization to occur.”
6. Pinpoint ovulation. “If your cycles are less predictable or you want to hone in on your ovulation window, use ovulation predictor kits (OPK or LH-kits) which detect urine LH,” Zimon says. “When the kit reads a positive result, you are having your LH surge and you will ovulate within 24 to 48 hours. Have sex the day of and the day following a positive OPK test.”
7. Be Patient. “Getting pregnant can take time. Even under the best of circumstances, the chance for pregnancy in any given month is only 20 percent and somewhat lower in women over the age of 35 years,” she says. “It is normal to take a number of months before conception occurs. In the meantime, be good to yourself and embrace activities that help you de-stress, such as relaxation, listening to music, exercise, yoga, massage, and sleep.”
8. Run a checklist of barriers to conception. “Signs and symptoms that may indicate a barrier to pregnancy include history of pelvic infection, pelvic scarring from surgery, fibroids, irregular or infrequent menses, very painful periods, breast discharge, uncontrolled diabetes and thyroid problems,” Zimon says. “If you have these or other signs of infertility, see your physician or a fertility specialist sooner rather than later for an evaluation of your fertility potential.”
9. Know when too long is too long. “Approximately 85 percent of women under age 35 will conceive within in one year. You may have infertility or subfertility if you have not conceived after a year of trying and at that point you should definitely consult with your doctor or a fertility specialist,” she says. “If you are over 35 years of age, you should seek guidance after six months of trying so as avoid to delaying fertility treatment while you still have good fertility potential.”