Get pregnant faster

There are all sorts of reasons why women may want to get pregnant faster. Some plan for their baby to be born within a particular ‘window’ of time, or work towards their children being separated by an age preferred space of time. Couples who don’t have the option of being together all the time may also need to plan conception more carefully.

Reasons why getting pregnant faster may be important

  • Maternal age. As women get older, conceiving naturally becomes more difficult.
  • Having their children close together in ages.
  • Work commitments. For some women, taking extended time off work is unrealistic.
  • A strong emotional drive to conceive and have a baby.
  • Medical reasons where falling pregnant may have been a recommendation. Some genetic disorders are more common in older couples.
  • When a partner works away from home and the option of leaving conception to chance is not feasible.
  • Personal reasons such as finances, housing and pressure from extended family – though this is never a good reason to conceive.

Conceiving in a hurry isn’t impossible, but it can take a little executive planning.

The general recommendation from health care providers is that if a couple has not conceived within 12 months of trying then it may be worthwhile for them to have fertility investigations done. But some couples choose not to wait this long, in case they will need some form of intervention.

Do what feels right for you. Many times, getting pregnant faster is a simple matter of adjusting the timing of sex to coincide with the days of a woman’s peak fertility.

What helps to get pregnant faster’

  • If you want to get pregnant faster, then look after yourself. This may sound pretty basic but it’s one of those strategies which is often overlooked.
  • Look after your general health and well-being. Working too hard, skipping meals, not getting enough rest or sleep all contribute to elevated stress levels which can potentially affect ovulation.
  • Make sure you and your partner are within a healthy weight range. Being overweight or obese won’t help your chances of getting pregnant.
  • Have regular sex. Without question, this is the number one way to get pregnant. Irregular, infrequent or sporadic sex automatically reduces the chances of conception. Aim to have sex every 2-3 days (or nights), and this will boost your odds.
  • Stop using all methods of contraception. If you have been taking the oral contraceptive pill, or have had contraceptive injections or implants, then you may find it takes a few months after they have been ceased for your regular cycles of ovulation to return to normal.
  • Be open-minded and not too prescriptive about your life. You may need to change plans to have sex when you are most fertile. Not everything can be planned for, and spontaneity is an important strategy when wanting to get pregnant faster.
  • Your partner and yourself may benefit by having a medical check-up. Gaining reassurance and getting the all clear from your GP will help to confirm for you that your body is ready to support conception and pregnancy.
  • Aim to have sex when you are about to ovulate, not afterwards. Sperm can live up to five days after they’ve left the man’s body, but ideally the woman’s egg needs to be fertilised within 12-24 hours after she has ovulated. You may want to keep an ovulation chart in order to track your cycle.
  • Learn about your body and how it works. There are some excellent books and web-based sites available which specialise in male and female reproduction. Check this pages for articles on conception,fertilisation and pregnancy.
  • Try to relax about conceiving. If sex becomes a chore and just a means to an end, then it won’t be enjoyable for you or your partner. Keep it in perspective and maintain your sense of humour. It can take months to conceive so don’t burn out too quickly. Remember, getting pregnant can be more of a marathon than a sprint for many couples.
  • Think about using an ovulation testing kit. There is some disagreement about how effective these are, but it won’t hurt to use one. Some women claim they benefit from the secondary gain of the kits helping them to become more familiar with their body’s cycles. The kits work by detecting changes in hormones which occur just before ovulation.
  • Avoid smoking cigarettes and taking any illicit drugs. Even excessive amounts of alcohol, caffeine and over the counter medications can impact on how quickly you could get pregnant. If you are taking prescription medication, then talk with your prescribing doctor about whether you need to go off it or if it is safe to continue taking it.
  • Check the Best positions for getting pregnant article on this site. It’s full of interesting information and tips on what may help to conceive.
  • Don’t be in too much of a hurry to stand up after you’ve had sex. There may be benefits to staying in a lying down flat position for 30 minutes or so after you’ve finished. Whether this helps with conception because it helps the semen to stay inside the vagina for longer, is open to debate. But it can’t hurt either.
  • Have sex in the mornings if you have a choice. Some research supports the theory that sperm levels are slightly higher first thing in the morning when compared to evenings or other times of the day.
  • Avoid using saliva or plain water as lubricants. Both can have an adverse effect on sperm numbers.

What can my partner do to help me get pregnant faster?

  • Ensure your partner is following a healthy diet. Zinc is an important nutrient which helps to support healthy sperm function. So seafood, green leafy vegetables, eggs, fruits and cereals all need to regularly feature in his diet.
  • It’s important that your partner does not allow his testicles to overheat. Wearing tight underpants, sitting in a hot bath or spa and wearing tight trousers will all have an effect on the numbers of sperm which he is producing. The reason why the testicles are located where they are is because they need to be kept at a cooler temperature than the rest of his body. He may want to consider wearing boxer shorts rather than briefs if you’re really keen to get pregnant more quickly.
  • Suggest to your partner that he conserves his semen for sex. It takes time for sperm levels to build up again after ejaculation which is why having sex more than once a day isn’t thought to help boost the chances of conceiving.
  • Keep interested and share the responsibility. Some men see their role in the baby making business as being over once the sex has finished. But keeping the romance alive and showing genuine concern and willingness to be involved makes a huge difference.

Other tips to help get pregnant faster

Aside from the physical aspects of boosting conception, it is also worth thinking about the emotional side of your relationship. Taking the time to be considerate with each other helps to support a regular and healthy sex life. If you feel your interest in each other is flagging, then try:

  • Doing something different. It can be very easy to let the goal of getting pregnant eclipse everything else in life. Keep some perspective on your life – balance is the key to a happy life.
  • Go away, enjoy a change of scenery and be adventurous. Many couples report their success with baby making came about when they had a break from their usual routine.
  • Be kind to each other and yourself. Small acts of thoughtfulness like making a meal, buying each other a treat, offering a massage or encouraging a sleep-in all count for a lot.
  • Some couples report that positive visualisation helps them to conceive. ‘Seeing’ themselves with their baby and creating welcoming, positive vibes won’t hurt.
  • Don’t feel you need to tell the world you’re trying to conceive. This can really cause couples to feel they’re under the spotlight and pressured. Know when to be discrete and keep some information to just yourselves.
  • Avoid viewing sex as a means to an end.

Best positions for getting pregnant

When you’re trying to conceive a baby it is worth giving anything a go which you think will boost your chances. This includes considering that there may be better positions for getting pregnant. But it pays to bear in mind that the human race has been around for over 200,000 years and most of us were probably conceived without our ancestors investing too much thought into the mechanics.

Science has proven that successful conception isn’t so much about sexual position as the frequency of sex between a fertile couple. Basically, if you want to fall pregnant, don’t use contraception and have frequent, active and enjoyable sex. Importantly, don’t stress too much about whether you’re doing it the right way. Women can, and do, conceive in any position. Nature has a way of making sure of that.

But what about the missionary position?

There are lots of fallacies about the missionary position being the best position for getting pregnant. With the woman on her back and her partner on top, it is thought that gravity will assist the sperm to swim upwards towards the egg. But this only applies if each of the woman’s reproductive organs are positioned in their perfect locations. Some women have a retroverted uterus, which means that instead of tilting forwards, their uterus and cervix (neck of their womb) is positioned more towards their back. This means that the sperm need to work harder to swim through the cervix and into the uterine cavity. Any amount of sexual positions won’t change the way a woman’s organs are located in her pelvis.

Sexual positions which may help with getting pregnant

The rear entry position may have a slightly better advantage when it comes to falling pregnant. Especially if the woman lies on her front for a while after the man has ejaculated. It can be useful to lie on a small pillow so her hips are tilted upwards slightly. This position fosters deep penetration so the semen is deposited very close to the cervical opening. But this position is uncomfortable for some women; it causes them pain and cervical tenderness. Even if your focus is on trying to conceive it still helps to relax and enjoy sex. Feeling tense because you’re in pain does not help with getting pregnant.

Remember, it’s important to feel comfortable and positive about your chances of conceiving.

How does it happen again?

It’s important to maintain a realistic approach to conceiving. All it takes is one sperm to successfully fertilise an egg, unless there is a multiple pregnancy of course. Each sperm has one agenda, to get to the egg first. Having to swim upwards or downwards, across or sideways is unlikely to make much of a difference.

Sperm are amazingly resilient little creatures, capable of living for up to five days after they have left the man’s body. Once they have swum their way through the woman’s cervix and into her uterus, their single goal is to keep swimming towards the fallopian tubes, which is where fertilisation usually occurs. So although it may help in the immediate post sex period to have a little lie down, being flat on your back for five days would not only be uncomfortable, but unrealistic as well. Sperm really can and do have a habit of looking after themselves.

Although these suggestions are unlikely to boost your chances of conceiving too much, they are unlikely to hurt either.

What might help to conceive?

  • Aiming for the man to ejaculate as deeply as possible into the woman’s vagina. This means that the smallest amount of semen escapes and is retained as close to the cervix as possible.
  • The woman can try lying on her back with her lower back positioned on a small pillow for around 20-30 minutes. This will help to tilt the vagina backwards so the semen pools around her cervix. There is some disagreement about whether this is an effective strategy or not. But it does not seem to do any harm either.
  • Avoid standing up immediately after having sex. Gravity causes the semen to leak from the vagina so staying flat helps to keep it in.
  • Some women believe that avoiding going to the bathroom and doing a wee straight after sex helps them to conceive. Whether this is true or not is open to debate, though it does support the theory of lying down for a while after you’ve had sex.
  • Lying on your side also fosters deep penetrative sex. Use pillows to tilt your pelvis so that your vagina is tilting downwards.
  • Try putting your knees or legs up after sex to boost gravity’s influence. Some women swear that their chances of conceiving were helped by placing their legs upwards on the wall next to their bed.

What doesn’t help to conceive?

  • Having sex whilst standing or sitting up. In either of these positions gravity will be working against you and the semen will be more likely to drain from your vagina.
  • Using contraception. Simple as it sounds, it’s important to stop using all forms of contraception if you’re trying to conceive.
  • When the male does not ejaculate into the woman’s vagina. In order for the sperm to find their way to the egg, they need to be deposited as close as possible to the cervix. Simple but true.
  • Having irregular or infrequent sex.
  • Making sex a chore with only one focus i.e. to conceive a baby. It can be a real turn off to some partners if they feel their sole focus is simply to become a sperm donor. Keep a sense of balance about the whole conception issue and don’t let it eclipse everything else which is going on in your life.
  • When the egg is no longer fertile. There is a window of time – 12-24 hours after ovulation when the egg is most capable of being fertilised. If you miss this, then you’ll need to wait for another month at least to maximise your chancing of conceiving.
  • Worrying and feeling tense. It’s important to enjoy sexual relationships and be as relaxed as possible. When you’re trying to conceive it’s likely you’ll be watching your cycles but where possible, maintain a sense of fun and pleasure.
  • Sexual positions where the woman is on the top. Remember, gravity is your best friend when you’re trying to conceive; other than your partner of course.

Getting pregnant tips

Your biological alarm clock has gone off, you’re tracking your menstrual cycle, maybe you’ve had a preliminary checkup with your doctor. (You might even be secretly buying baby magazines!)

We’ve scoured the latest research and fertility advice to compile this big list of ‘getting pregnant tips’ to help you out.

For would-be new parents (even those under 35), getting pregnant is not always as straightforward as you would expect. Even in your most fertile time of life, generally your mid-twenties, your chance of falling pregnant is just 25 percent in any one cycle.

There’s lots of different factors which can affect your fertility. Below is a compilation of getting pregnant tips, many of them evidence-based, which may help you improve your chances.

The most important information you need to have, if you are planning to have a baby, is a good understanding of your own cycle – and when you are likely to ovulate.

You are most fertile one to two days before ovulation. Having sex after ovulation is often too late for conception.

Fortunately, a key sign of impending ovulation is the change in cervical mucus several days before to a clear, stretchy, consistency. Charting your cervical mucus is a great way to improve your chances of getting pregnant.

Dietary tips for getting pregnant

Can you eat your way to pregnancy? In 2007, publication of landmark findings from the Nurses’ Health Study in association with the Harvard School of Public Health revealed strong statistical support for certain links between diet and fertility, after collecting data for eight years from over 18,000 women.

  • Avoid “trans fats,” which are unsaturated fatty acids, found in some margarines, in fats used in deep frying and pastry doughs and in products containing ‘partially hydrogenated oil’ on the ingredient list (foods like deep-fried fast foods and takeaways, packaged biscuits, cakes and pies) – as little as 4.5 grams a day is thought to raise testosterone levels in women, reducing fertility
  • Use more unsaturated vegetable oils, which improve insulin response. Nuts, seeds, and cold water fish like salmon and sardines are also good for improving insulin response.
  • Increase vegetable protein – like beans, peas, soybeans or tofu – to replace some of the protein you would otherwise get from meat
  • Choose fibre-rich slowly digested carbohydrates such as whole fruits, whole grains and vegetables
  • Drink whole milk rather than skim milk – or aim for a daily serve of full-fat yoghurt
  • Boost your folic acid intake to 400 micrograms a day – and take a multi-vitamin
  • Get extra plant-based iron from whole-grain cereals, spinach, beans, pumpkin and tomatoes
  • Reduce your coffee intake and alcohol intake to one a day each – and skip sugary soft-drinks. Drink lots of water.
  • Increasing Vitamin E and zinc for men may improve sperm health

Lifestyle tips for getting pregnant

  • Quit smoking. Toxins in cigarette smoke accelerate the aging of a woman’s eggs and damage the fallopian tubes
  • Moderate daily exercise improves fertility, according to one study which recommends women aim for 30 minutes a day of gentle exercise
  • Try to normalise your weight. Around 40 percent of women who fail to ovulate are at either end of the weight spectrum; most experts suggest aiming for a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 20 to 25 will optimise your chances of conception
  • Chill out. Make yoga, deep breathing, tai chi or meditation a part of your life. Take a long leisurely walk when life gets a bit much. One study showed that women who participated in relaxation workshops improved their chance of conception by 50 percent.

Sexual position tips for getting pregnant

  • Apart from the fairly obvious requirement that whatever sexual activity you engage in ends up with sperm deposited into the vagina (so oral sex is out, at least at the happy ending stage), there’s no research that supports any particular sexual position as being more advantageous for pregnancy.
  • Lots of people believe that the missionary position, man on top, means sperm will be deposited closer to the cervix; others argue that ‘doggy style’ is more effective. However, there’s no evidence suggesting any particular position works best (although it may have been a bit difficult to research!). Most fertility experts believe that, since millions of sperm are usually deposited and most will swim towards the egg, sexual position is irrelevant.
  • Some fertility experts recommend the woman lie prone for five minutes or so after sex to improve the odds by keeping as much semen inside the vagina as possible. There’s no evidence either way, but it can’t hurt!

Tips for: Things worth trying to increase your chances of getting pregnant

  • Make sex fun. You’ll be doing rather a lot of it; why not enjoy it? If you loosen up and don’t make it all about babies, you’ll have such a fabulous time trying to get pregnant you’ll both be keen to do it all over again – as often as possible!
  • Talk to a fertility expert if things don’t happen for a while. There’s strategies you can try without getting all interventionist; for example, men with a low sperm count might try is low or marginal, you may be advised to have intercourse every other day to allow his sperm count to build up. Your doctor may even recommend that your partner refrain from ejaculating during the days leading up to your most fertile period.
  • Just to confuse the issue – some studies show that men who don’t ejaculate for over seven days can have lower fertility because so many of the sperm cells are older and less fertile! So you need to find a happy medium.

Tips for: Things to avoid when you’re trying to get pregnant

  • Coffee: According to some studies, as little as one cup of espresso coffee a day can reduce a woman’s chance of conceiving by up to 50 percent. And it won’t hurt your partner to join you; some studies suggest coffee also affects sperm quality.
  • Alcohol: While some experts suggest alcohol is fine in moderation, with red wine in particular lowering some levels.
  • Stress: Some people and some places just fill us with angst; try to get rid of unnecessary stressors when you’re trying to conceive. Stress has been shown to affect the performance of hormones that influence ovulation such as LH.
  • Chemicals and hazards: Various studies link low fertility to the presence of many everyday chemicals including pesticides, painting and printing fumes. Try to minimise your exposure to these; eg you might postpone fumigating or painting your house.
  • Men should avoid too much cycling, hot baths or showers and wear loose-fitting pants so they don’t overheat the environment for sensitive sperm.
  • Athlete-level fitness: There’s such a thing as being too fit – one study showed that women who worked out for four hours or more per week reduced their chance of conception by around 40 percent.

By Fran Molloy, journalist and mum of four

Chances of getting pregnant

What are my chances of getting pregnant in any given month?

For a healthy, fertile couple where both partners are under the age of 35, the chance of getting pregnant straight away is actually pretty low – it’s estimated at around 25 percent per month, if you have regular unprotected sex around the time of ovulation.

If you’re not actively trying to conceive and not planning intercourse to occur around the time of conception, but you are having regular unprotected sex, your chances of getting pregnant drop to just 11 percent per month.

That’s why doctors have traditionally suggested waiting until you have been trying for a baby for a year before starting fertility investigations, although many couples choose to start preliminary investigations after six months, particularly if they are over thirty.

How do the chances of getting pregnant change as I get older?

On average, a woman with no fertility issues will fall pregnant after four months of trying to get pregnant – but from around the age of 21, fertility slowly declines with age until around 35, then declines faster until the age of 40, after which fertility decline is very rapid.

There is much debate between scientists about the odds of conception.

Here is one of the most commonly cited estimates on the percentage chance of conception after one year of trying:

  • Age 20: 90% probability
  • Age 30: 70% probability
  • Age 35: 55% probability
  • Age 40: 45% probability
  • Age 45: 6% probability

A 2002 study by Dunson et al studied 782 healthy couples in Italy and the USA and found that there was great variability in the chances of getting pregnant on the peak day of conception (two days before ovulation). They estimated that, for a couple who were the same age, the odds of falling pregnant in any one menstrual cycle when having sex on the peak day for conception were:

  • Aged 19 to 26: 50% chance in any one menstrual cycle
  • Aged 27 to 34: 40% chance in any one menstrual cycle
  • Aged 35 to 39: less than 30% chance in any one menstrual cycle, but with a male partner five years older, the chance falls to less than 20% chance in any one menstrual cycle

This research suggested that smoking, sexually transmitted disease history and occupational exposures contributed to lower fertility rates.

Can IVF improve fertility rates for older women?

Increased use of assisted conception treatments by older couples has helped promote the idea that fertility treatments like IVF can postpone the natural decline of fertility.

However, success rates for IVF still mirror those of natural fertility, with reports issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that the rate of live births from IVF and similar treatments using the mother’s eggs decreases with age.

The latest figures show that for women under 35, the percentage of live births after one cycle of assisted reproductive treatments (including IVF) was about 45%.

Success rates declined after this age group. For those between ages 35-37 it was about 37%, dropping steadily to just 6.6% for those aged over 42.

But older women can dramatically raise their IVF success rates by using an egg donor; the CDC report states that the chance of a fertilised egg implanting depends on the age of the woman who produced the egg.

Success rates for women, even in their mid-forties, who use a donor egg from a woman in her 20s or early 30s remains above 40%.

Many women have no trouble falling pregnant over 35 or even over forty; but if you’re over 35 and haven’t fallen pregnant after six months, it’s worth talking to your doctor and starting fertility investigations.

What can be done to improve my odds?

Plenty of products, consultants and websites promise to improve your chances of getting pregnant – for a price. But many are rip-offs with no scientific evidence, which prey on the vulnerability of people keen to have a baby.

Here’s some tips on improving your chances of getting pregnant, without paying a fortune:

Reduce your stress levels

There’s a strong correlation between stress levels and fertility. If the main reason you’re stressed is that you want to have a baby, then this is hollow-sounding advice indeed.But there are often ways you can change other stresses in your life; take a holiday; re-think your job or other commitments that might shift down your priority list.

Aim for a healthy weight

Research shows that there is a strong connection between obesity in women and lower fertility. Being significantly underweight for long periods of time can also negatively impact your fertility. Try for a healthy balance!

Improve your diet

While research evidence is inconclusive, some fertility experts swear by a diet of organic foods. It’s your choice whether to go all-out or just keep an eye on your food choices (eating at home and avoiding takeaway is a good start!)

Quit smoking and cut back on the booze

There’s a strong link between smoking and reduced fertility in both men and women; this might be enough of an incentive to help you kick the habit.

Regular exercise

You don’t have to become a gym junkie – in fact, it’s better if you’re not – but some regular exercise each day can’t hurt; and if a nice long walk reduces your stress levels and improves your cardio status, it might well help your chances of getting pregnant.

By Fran Molloy, journalist and mum of four

Best time to get pregnant

When is the best time to get pregnant in a woman’s cycle?

Getting pregnant is all about timing. Having sex as close as possible to the moment of ovulation (when an egg is released from your ovaries) is the best time to get pregnant and will give you the best chance of a successful conception.

Your egg usually lives for just 12 to 24 hours, but sperm will live inside you for anything from a few hours to seven days, with one to three days the optimum time.

The best time to get pregnant is in the first few hours after your ovary releases an egg (ovulation), so to optimise your chances for conception, you can plan intercourse so thatovulation occurs when the greatest number of sperm are alive and swimming towards the fallopian tube.

If you have sex the day before ovulation, there’s a good chance that lots of sperm will have made it to your fallopian tubes, ready for the release of the egg.

Under the right conditions, the best-swimming sperm can swim through the cervix into the womb in around two minutes – a feat worthy of Grant Hackett, when you consider their size and the distance they have to travel.

But because a small number of sperm are long-living, having sex up to six days before ovulation can also result in pregnancy.

The most important information you need to have, if you are planning to have a baby, is a good understanding of your own cycle – and when you are likely to ovulate.

What biological changes happen in my body around the best time to get pregnant?

From puberty until menopause, the body of a fertile woman will go through a regular cycle (averaging 28 days) where it prepares for pregnancy.

If conception does not occur shortly after ovulation, the unfertilised egg passes out of the body – and the whole process is repeated, getting ready for the next egg.

Following menstruation, your body’s hormone levels begin to rise. As the days progress, the walls of your uterus thicken and become engorged with blood, preparing for the implantation of a fertilised egg.

There is also a change in vaginal mucus; as the time of ovulation nears, the mucus becomes thin, stretchy, slippery and clear (a bit like an egg-white) and goes through chemical changes designed to help sperm to swim rapidly towards the fallopian tubes.

Ovulation normally occurs at the same time each month, theoretically in the middle of your cycle, so in a stock-standard 28-day cycle, ovulation will (in theory, again) occur on the 14th day after menstruation.

Around 20 percent of women are thought to experience ovulation pain, where they can feel anything from a slight twinge to strong painful cramps around the time of ovulation.

The increased levels of the hormone progesterone will cause a rise in your body’s basal (resting) temperature of anything from around 0.2 degrees Celsius to 1.6 degrees, just after ovulation, to create a more receptive environment for implantation.

This slightly elevated body temperature happens after the ovulation. Most fertility experts think it’s not likely you can fall pregnant once your temperature has risen – it’s often only useful to give you an idea about when ovulation occurred.

You will still have a higher basal temperature until your progesterone levels drop around 10 days later, triggering menstruation.

The rise in your body’s temperature combined with the changes in cervical mucus are important indicators of the stages of your body’s cycle.

What ages offer the best time to get pregnant? Is peak fertility the same for men and women?

Fertility in women is all about the eggs. Most women are in their main reproductive period from the ages of 20 to 38, with the first seven years the most fertile years of this life stage.

But while women are physically capable of carrying a baby well into their forties (and even fifties), their chances of releasing eggs that will sustain a successful pregnancy will generally decline after the age of 35.

Between the ages of 20 and 27, our eggs and our fertility levels are at their peak. But up to the age of 35, while egg quality will decline slightly, women are still in a period of high fertility. Each year after 35, however, there is a significant decline in the quality of the eggs.

Peak fertility for men is normally early to mid twenties, but while men do experience age-related fertility decline, it is not as universal as that of women.

When high-profile men father children in their seventies and beyond, it’s often – wrongly – assumed that men remain fertile as they age, despite significant research to the contrary.

From thirty, a man’s levels of the hormone testosterone (necessary for the maturation of sperm) begin to reduce slowly. After the age of forty, men’s testes start to shrink and the quality and quantity of the sperm that they produce slowly declines over time.

But while biologically, the best time to get pregnant may be in your early twenties, this is often not a practical option for many prospective parents who need a few more years to complete their education, establish job security, meet a suitable partner – or just enjoy a carefree existence for a little longer.

In the end, the best time to get pregnant is as often about when you are emotionally ready, as it is about your biological readiness.

How to get pregnant

Conception information

Today we know a lot more about the importance of pre-conception care, and are aware that careful planning can have a positive impact on the health of the couple and the baby, both while in the womb and throughout life.

Pre-conception care is not solely an issue for the gals. Did you know, for example, that it takes three months for sperm to develop so that they are capable of fertilising an egg? Pre-conception care for men can improve the viability and functionality of their sperm as well as provide a general sense of wellbeing, so we advise both partners to be prepared.

When to start your pre-pregnancy dietary changes?

Ideally, pre-conception care starts four to six months before the planned time of conception (obviously for many it starts with “going off the pill”). If you aren’t able to work with time-span then try for at least one month so that you can build up adequate stores of folic acid and other vital nutrients.

There are many theories and recommendations to help get pregnant, but common to most of the research are three basic aims:

  • To achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
  • To ensure a healthy diet with adequate levels of vitamin B9 (folic acid).
  • To ensure a varied diet that offers adequate levels of other beneficial nutrients.

To make these points even clearer, we have come up with 16 points on how to get pregnant. For some, these will be a challenge, so start small and keep progressing.

The sixteen essential points on how to get pregnant

1. Get the timing right

Remember that the day before ovulation is the most important day for intercourse to ensure the freshness of both sperm and egg. If you are unsure of when you ovulate, use an ovulation kit or read up about understanding your cycle.

2. Avoid cigarette smoke

It seems highly likely that smoking lowers a man’s sperm count; it may lead to sperm abnormalities (sperm count and motility) and may be a factor in impotence. Even more notably, smoking has severe effects on female fertility, such as ovulation, and well-documented effects on embryonic development in pregnant women, for example, low birth-weight infants. Smoking also lowers the body’s total vitamin C. Vitamin C can potentially reduce some of the side-effects from smoking such as poor eyesight and ‘ageing’ of our cells.

3. Avoid alcohol where possible

Most government agencies recommend that you avoid drinking entirely when planning for pregnancy so that if you were to become pregnant without knowing, alcohol won’t affect the baby. Recent research has also suggested that fathers who drink heavily during the month prior to conception have babies that on average weigh 6.5 ounces less than other babies (cited in Telles, 2004).

4. Avoid over-exposure to caffeine (less than two cups per day)

Caffeine significantly increases your chances of miscarriage as well as potentially lowering fertility in both men and women.

5. Avoid exposure to chemicals (including those used in the home)

Try to limit your exposure to toxins such as cigarette smoke, alcohol, artificial sweeteners and recreational drugs. Chemicals such as solvents, pesticides and many household products should also be avoided.

The risk of pesticides is dose-related: the greater your exposure, the greater the likelihood that you will have a reaction. The effect on our health of pesticide residue in our food is not yet clearly documented. Obviously, a way to avoid pesticides is to buy organic produce and meats. ‘Organic-certified produce’ requires that the food was grown, harvested, stored and transported without the use of synthetic chemicals, irradiation or fumigants. Not only is there an ever-increasing number of organic outlets but many supermarket chains now retail their own organic brands.

6. Check medication side-effects with your doctor

If you are on medications, review them with you medical practitioner. Check your medicine cabinet at home for drugs that may affect fertility and pregnancy. For men this may include Tagamet for heartburn and Azulfidine for rheumatoid arthritis. Women may need to review antibiotics and painkillers and – under the guidance of a pharmacist or healthcare professional – swap to a more appropriate medication.

7. Maintain a healthy body weight

The importance of healthy body weight for women who want to get pregnant has been well documented. The sex hormones produced by men and women are closely linked to weight. It appears that an extra 10% to 14% of body fat can reduce a woman’s chances of conception. (Mayo Clinic, 2001). Obesity in women is a high risk issue in conception and pregnancy; for example, overweight women are more likely to have miscarriages. Likewise, underweight women have a higher risk of premature labour and anaemia.

8. Men should avoid hot baths and saunas

Testicles are generally 2°C cooler than the rest of the male body; sperm functions best at 34-35 degrees. So guys, it’s best to avoid spas and saunas and opt for boxer shorts, a sexier look. The popular myth about tight jeans and male fertility is just as said – a myth.

9. Reduce stress and where possible practise relaxation techniques

Relaxation can play an integral role when wanting to get pregnant, with evidence that those with reduced stress or improved ability to handle stress may have better rates of conception. Further, this has a positive effect on the foetus. Even mild stress can interfere with a man’s testosterone production and can lower sperm count (Telles, 2004). This evidence may shed some light on why many couples with fertility issues found that after IVF or adopting they fell pregnant without assistance. Given the elusive nature of stress, it remains a difficult subject to substantiate; however, there’s no doubt that lifestyle changes that enhance positive feelings are of benefit.

10. Exercise regularly to promote tissue strength and blood circulation

Moderate and regular exercise is important in any healthy lifestyle. Going for a brisk walk, exercising at the gym or playing sport all contribute to general health and wellbeing and ultimately improve chances of getting pregnant by lowering the risks of diseases thought to be caused by inactivity and overweight.

But- over-exercising is not advisable for women as this can adversely affect hormone balance and impair ovulation (due to the lack of body fat). Further, in the event of conception, excessive exercise can impair placental and foetal growth, as well as potentially overheat the foetus. Exercise considered ‘excessive’ would be running the equivalent of 16 kilometres a week.

11. Eat a nutritious diet

Studies have shown that a nutritious diet with adequate protein and complex carbohydrates, nutrient-dense foods, foods with healthy fats over unhealthy fats and one that is high in fresh fruit and vegetables provides a solid nutritional basis for health and conception. A good pre-conception care diet is one that is high in vitamin C, zinc and folic acid (particularly for women); for example, red capsicum, coloured berries and guava are all very rich in vitamin C; nuts and seeds are high in zinc; and grains are good sources of folic acid (although supplementation is commonly recommended for B9).

Restrictive diets have been shown to have a negative effect on a women’s hormonal levels (such as progesterone) and consequently affect couples trying to get pregnant, so avoid heavy dieting.

Both men and women should avoid over-eating sugar, especially added sugars, as this can interfere with hormone levels via our insulin balance.

12. Drink plenty of good quality water (8-10 glasses a day)

Every cell in our body contains water. Water is the fluid in which all life-processes occur in the body. The bodily functions our body fluids perform include: transporting nutrients and waste throughout the body; forming much of the structure of large molecules; and providing suspension by acting as a shock-absorber inside the eyes, spinal cord and the amniotic sac surrounding the foetus in the womb. Furthermore, many chemical reactions occur in fluid; water acts as the solvent for minerals, vitamins, amino acids, glucose and a huge range of other small molecules; it is also important in lubricating and cushioning joints, assisting in the regulation of body temperature and maintaining blood volume.

Drink quality water throughout the day. If your urine is coloured, has a strong odour and you urinate infrequently, you are likely to be dehydrated. Fluid intake is particularly important in hotter weather, when exercising, and during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

13. Begin taking 400mcg/d of folic acid

Studies have shown that taking supplements of dietary folic acid before pregnancy and during the first trimestersignificantly lowers the risk of neural tube defects. Talk to your pharmacist or healthcare professional about the right supplement for you.

14. Discuss nutritional supplementation with a healthcare professional

Particularly important if you are considered to be in a high-risk category. Women in a high-risk category, such as those with an illness, history of miscarriage, anxiety etc., should consider supplementation under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional; this may also be wise for many men.

As mentioned, it’s important to start taking B9 and also consider a multivitamin and mineral supplement that contains zinc, iron, vitamin C, B group vitamins and vitamin E. Remember, though, that supplements are not a substitute for a good diet but rather a safeguard. Also, research indicates that the benefits of these nutrients is greatest in our foods rather than when taken as a supplement.

Note that women wanting to get pregnant should not take vitamins A and D without supervision because they can potentially be toxic.

15. Review pets in the home

Especially cats, regarding toxoplasmosis and potential effects on the unborn child.

16. Have a check-up with your GP and dentist

Other pre-conception care considerations include testing for rubella immunity, diabetes, blood pressure and a full blood count (ensuring iron status is adequate). Having a dental check-up is also recommended so that any treatment can be done before pregnancy.

This information has been provided by Leanne Cooper from Cadence Health. Leanne is a qualified nutritionist and mother of two very active boys. Thank you to Christian McErvale for his research.

This information should not replace the expertise of qualified health professionals. Always check for relevant credentials when sourcing fitness and health professionals.

Pregnancy planning

Pre-pregnancy checklist

 

Here is a guide to help you plan for your pregnancy physically, financially and emotionally.

Physical preparation for pregnancy

You don’t need to be a top athlete to have a baby – but it’s a great idea to get your body ready before you try to conceive.

Have a look at your lifestyle – do you have a healthy diet? Are you getting regular exercise? Do you smoke or drink coffee or alcohol? What medications, herbal preparations or drugs (legal or otherwise) do you take regularly?

And although women need to prepare their bodies for pregnancy, men play a pretty important role in the conception stage, so it’s worth making sure you are both involved in getting physically ready.

Regular gentle exercise can usually continue throughout conception and pregnancy; it is usually wise to discuss your exercise regime with your doctor to make sure that you can keep up your present activity.

Eating and Drinking when you’re planning for pregnancy

Follow general healthy eating principles to prepare your body to make and carry a baby and cut down on harmful extras like alcohol, coffee, tobacco and non-essential drugs.

More information on healthy eating is available at Healthy Active Australia.

Women should also try to increase their intake of folic acid (a vitamin present in green leafy vegetables and some cereals) for three months before they try to conceive, to prevent neural tube defects. Keep up the folic acid intake until three months into a pregnancy; many good folic acid supplements are available in pharmacies.

Men aren’t off the hook when it comes to eating sensibly; sperm take 75 days to develop, and some researchers recommend that men ensure they are eating a healthy diet that includes adequate zinc and selenium (or take a multivitamin) for at least three months before conception.

Sometimes health advice can be confusing. Some research suggests that high levels of mercury in some seafood can be particularly bad for couples wanting to become pregnant, however many experts note that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon are very good for you and vital for a baby’s brain development.

If you’re confused, talk to your doctor or a trusted nutritionist to get the full story.

You can also read our article on fish, essential fatty acids and Omega 3 in the feeding your baby section.

Medical check-up

Try to plan a visit to your General Practitioner before you start trying for a baby. Knowing your medical history, doing some simple tests and identifying some precautions that you in particular may need to take, can make your pregnancy planning much more smoothly.

Before you visit your doctor, though, there’s some information that you need to gather.

Make a detailed list of your medical history

It’s worth making the struggle to recall those long-forgotten childhood illnesses. Have you had measles, mumps or rubella? What is your immunisation history?

What other illnesses have you had? Any sexually transmitted diseases that either partner has experienced may be relevant; also note any surgery or chronic conditions for either of you.

Talk to your parents and your partner’s parents – or perhaps other relatives – to find out more detail about both your childhood illnesses – and also, your families’ genetic histories. Are there twins in the family? What about inherited diseases?

Some diseases are particularly relevant to pregnancy; for example, are you predisposed to diabetes or heart disease? Gather information about serious illnesses that you have had or that appear regularly in your family – like high blood pressure, cancer, epilepsy, kidney disease or arthritis.

A woman’s gynaecological history is important at this time; you will be asked about menstrual patterns, sexual history, pap smear history, use of birth control and any previous pregnancies, miscarriages, abortions or births, and about any other gynaecological issues. If you haven’t kept a menstrual diary in the past you might consider doing so now.

Genetic Counselling

Sometimes, delving into your family history may uncover information about blood relatives with hereditary disorders. Family history may mean that you may (or may not) have a greater risk of passing on genetic disorders (like cystic fibrosis), chromosomal disorders (such as Down’s syndrome) or congenital defects (like cleft palate).

Some of the more common genetic diseases include haemophilia, thalassemia (more common in those with a Greek heritage), Tay-Sachs disease, sickle cell anaemia (more common in those with an African heritage), and cystic fibrosis.

A specialist genetic counsellor can help you understand your risk of passing on a hereditary disease and how you might manage this risk or what other decisions you might make. Other reasons to seek genetic counselling may include a history of repeated miscarriages or a blood relationship between partners.

Your doctor can arrange a referral if you are concerned. More pregnancy planning information and support is available at:

  • The Association of Genetic Support Australasia (Genetic Counselling)

The Pre-pregnancy Doctor’s Visit

At this visit, you can talk to your doctor about your plans and have a full medical check-up. A basic examination will include heart-rate, blood pressure, a breast check and pap smear (if this is due.)

Your doctor may order some blood and urine tests; for example, your doctor may check that you have antibodies to rubella (also called German measles), as exposure in early pregnancy can often cause birth defects like deafness. Even immunised women may lose immunity, so you may face another vaccination and then a three-month delay in conception to prevent your baby being exposed to the virus, which is still quite common.

In pregnancy, rapid hormone changes can trigger all sorts of reactions; you can discuss these with your doctor in light of your own medical history.

Having a record of your blood pressure before pregnancy also makes it easier to monitor changes in blood pressure during pregnancy that may indicate potential problems like pre-eclampsia, which can be managed with early intervention.

Discuss your current contraception with your doctor so that you have a plan in place for stopping contraception before trying to conceive. If condoms or diaphragms are used, little planning is required, but those on the pill or with an IUD or implanted contraceptives may need to stop contraception anything up to a few months before attempting to conceive.

You can also talk to your doctor about your plans for pregnancy care; you may choose to be referred to an obstetrician, a midwife, a hospital birth centre or to have shared care between your General Practitioner and a specialist.

Financial Planning – preparing for a family

It’s true, babies don’t need much in the early days, despite the masses of baby gear available in shops. The most difficult thing for most couples to handle is the loss of income when the baby’s primary caregiver stops work. If you both choose to continue working, child care can also be very costly.

If you haven’t already done so, a visit to an accredited financial planner may help you to identify how to manage your finances for your new family. You can find one through the Financial Planning Association of Australia

You may be eligible for a government Maternity Payment when your child is born and may also be entitled to other benefits like the Family Tax Benefit, Child Care Benefit or Parenting Payments

The Australian Government’s “Understanding Money” website has a useful section which explains the current government assistance available for parents, and links to specific advice on the legislation on parental leave.

  • Understanding Money: Having children

Planning your work for pregnancy and baby

Some careers are more family-friendly than others. If you are in a role that you don’t wish to continue during pregnancy or beyond, you may want to think about how you will handle this. Permanent employees must be employed for twelve months before they are eligible for parental leave, so make sure you have considered the implications of pregnancy if you are thinking about changing your work plans.

The Career Development Association of Australia has a directory of careers advisors who are available for consultation if you are thinking about looking for a family-friendly career.

  • The Career Development Association of Australia

Building your Relationship

Although research suggests that the majority of new parents in Australia still assume the traditional roles of male provider and female carer, most don’t discuss their new roles and responsibilities.

Author, Alison Osbourne, says new parents often have unspoken expectations about what their partner should do, what each parent should provide, even basic details about domestic duties, based on their own family background. These expectations that haven’t been communicated can lead to conflict.

She suggests that before they have a baby, partners discuss how they will share household duties outside core working hours and how each partner will get some time out alone after their baby is born.

Is Your Health Insurance Adequate?

However private obstetric, midwifery and private hospital care during pregnancy and birth can be very expensive, so it is wise to ensure you have adequate health cover.

But if your due date has been confirmed by your doctor and you need to claim for a premature birth or pregnancy complications, this is usually covered.

You can find a private health fund option to suit you through one of these directory services:

  • i select
  • Australian Health Cover Advisers

Alternatively, the main health insurance providers usually list details of each plan on their websites:

  • ANZ Health Insurance
  • Australian Unity
  • Grand United
  • HCF
  • MBF
  • Medibank
  • NIB
  • NRMA