Editor’s note: This post is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a medical professional or physician before treatment of any kind.
Getting pregnant isn’t easy for everyone. Some women have no trouble conceiving as soon as they decide they’re ready, but for everyone else, the process can be emotional and painstakingly slow. Even perfectly healthy and fertile couples only have a 25 percent chance of conceiving during each menstrual cycle – and that’s if they’re younger than 35. In short, getting pregnant can take some work, but there are ways to increase your chances. First, it’s important to know the basics:
- Just because sperm can survive up to six days inside of the uterus before ovulation doesn’t mean it will. A one-to-three day lifespan is more common.
- Fertilization is possible up to a day after ovulation. An egg will survive between 12 and 24 hours after it’s released from the ovary. While it’s more likely for the egg to be fertilized by sperm that’s already in the fallopian tubes, if sperm enters the uterus during this period, it could happen.
- The more sex you have, the more chances you have to conceive, right? You actually don’t have to over-do it – your best chances to conceive are two to three days before ovulation starts and throughout the day of ovulation. So try more during this window, and take a break later.
For anyone who is having trouble conceiving, being in tune with you and your partner’s body is all it could take. Here are the do’s and don’ts of increasing your luck.
- Stay in check with your cycle.Counting the days of your menstrual cycle will help you to approximate when you’re most fertile, but only if your cycle is regular. If you have a regular, 28-day cycle, ovulation should begin about 14 days after the start of your last period. This can vary from woman to woman, as factors like illness, stress and exercise can affect the timing of ovulation. Also, if you have a longer cycle, you’ll have to do a bit more math. Figure out how many days are in your shortest cycle, and subtract 18 from that number. Remember this number, and at the start of your next period, count ahead this many days. The next week is likely to be your most fertile time period. However, although counting days is a helpful estimation tool, be sure to note that this method is not an exact science and can often be inaccurate, especially for women with irregular cycles.
- Watch for changes in mucus.During or just before ovulation, cervical mucus is more slippery, wet and clear – similar to uncooked egg whites.
- Be a healthy weight.Whether you’re overweight or underweight, it really matters to get healthy. Exercise and eat right to optimize fertility – you might even want to try a special pre-pregnancy diet.
- Choose a sex position that facilitates deep penetration.While there is no scientific evidence for this method, some experts suggest that the deep penetration of a rear-entry position or the missionary position (man on top) may aid in getting the sperm closer to the cervix. However, regardless of sexual position, your cervical mucus is meant to be enough to carry the sperm toward the egg – so no worries if deep-penetrating positions are not your preference.
- Orgasm during sex.The female orgasm is not necessary for conception, but it might help. There is no evidence to support that a woman who climaxes after or at the same time as her partner has a higher probability of conceiving, but it has been suggested that uterine contractions help sperm travel toward the fallopian tubes (similar contractions sometimes occur involuntarily during or around ovulation time). It’s worth a shot, right? At the very least, you’ll feel good.
- Keep the penis in the vagina post-ejaculation.Although there’s no scientific evidence to support this method, some couples believe it’s helpful to wait to remove the penis from the vagina until it’s soft to optimize the chance of conceiving. This might help to ensure that the majority of ejaculate won’t leak out.
- Lie flat for 15 minutes after sex.There’s little evidence that this will make a difference, but it’s worth a try. Lying horizontally for 15 minutes or so after sex might help keep more semen in your vagina. In fact, in 2009, researchers in Amsterdam found that women who lay flat for 15 minutes after being artificially inseminated were 50 percent more likely to conceive than those who stood up immediately post-procedure. However, we can’t yet be positive that this applies to post-intercourse, so if you do get up right away afterward, you can take solace in knowing that there are millions of sperm in each ejaculation.
- Use lubricantsResearch has found that vaginal lubricants (even non-spermicidal types) are toxic to sperm, and when mixed with sperm during intercourse, have the potential to affect sperm quality and decrease the chances of fertilization and conception. However, you might have to use vaginal lubricants as part of a fertility treatment, so consult your doctor about the potential effects of the brand you’re using. Otherwise, if you can do without a lubricant, try to avoid it.
Don’t get frustrated if it takes a long time to conceive – it’s perfectly normal. It will be worth the wait when it does happen.