Every couple after settling down in their married life, plans a family with one or more children unless they have been planning to defer it. However, there are some couples, who despite their desire and efforts to raise a family, fail to do so. There is no reason why a normal couple cannot have a baby unless there are some exceptional underlying reasons. The information given below will help women who are trying to conceive.
Understanding the Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation
The first thing that a woman desirous of having a baby should do is, understand everything about her menstrual cycle and ovulation.
A woman’s ovaries produce an egg every month. The hormonal changes in the woman’s body make the ovary release the egg. The egg then travels down the fallopian tubes, which connects to the uterus. This is called ovulation. Ovulation is the time when the ovaries release an egg. Ovulation usually happens about 14 days after the first day of the last period.
A woman’s egg is fertile for only 12 to 24 hours after its release. For pregnancy to take place, a sperm must fertilize the egg at this time. A woman is most likely to get pregnant if she has sex within a day of ovulation. However, one fact that needs to be noted is, a sperm can survive for about seven days inside a woman’s body. This means that an egg can be fertilized even by a sperm that entered the body a few days before the egg was released.
Monitoring Ovulation by Menstrual Cycle
A woman, who wants to conceive, must keep a record of her menstrual cycle, the first day when it starts and the last day when it gets over. A record of more than six months would reveal whether the periods are regular or not, and what is their duration.
A regular period means her periods come after the same duration every month. If her periods are irregular, it means the menstrual cycle is varied month after month.
Using this information, one can predict when she is ovulating. A regular period makes it all the more easily predictable because ovulation takes place two weeks before the arrival of their periods. In a case of irregular periods, it is difficult to predict ovulation, but it usually occurs 12 to 16 days before the start of the next period.
Other Methods of predicting the ovulation
The Ovulation prediction kits
These are available OTC in medicine shops, and involve testing the urine for luteinizing hormones which increase during ovulation and causes the ovaries to release an egg. The three days next to a positive test result are the most fertile periods.
- The basal body temperature method: In this method, the woman takes her body temperature every morning. This is recorded for at least three menstrual cycles. After ovulation a woman’s basal body temperature increases by about half a degree Fahrenheit (0.3 degrees Celsius). A woman is most fertile during the two to three days before this slight rise in body temperature.
- Tracking the cervical mucus: A woman should regularly check the amount and appearance of mucus in her vagina. Just before ovulation when a woman is most fertile, a number of mucus increases and becomes thinner, clearer and more slippery to help sperms make their way to the egg.
- Making the Most Of the Fertile Period: The “fertile window” spans a six-day interval, from five days prior to ovulation to the day of ovulation. On these days the woman is most fertile, especially two days before ovulation. Having frequent regular sex or at least on alternate days helps in achieving pregnancy.
Maintaining a Healthy Body Weight
Overweight women having a Body Mass Index (BMI) higher than 35, have excess body fat which produces too much estrogen which interferes with ovulation. Underweight women with BMI less than 19 may not get regular periods or could stop ovulating.
Pre-natal Vitamin Supplements
Prenatal multivitamins, especially 400 mcg of Folic acid per day should be taken for at least a month. A healthy diet, containing critical nutrients such as calcium, protein, and iron, found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, milk cheese etc. and green leafy vegetables like cabbages, broccoli, beans, citrus fruits etc. containing Vitamin B, should be taken.
A Few Don’ts
- Reduce the intake of tea and coffee to two cups or less than 250 mg of caffeine per day. More than 500 mg is said to reduce fertility.
- Although light or moderate exercise keeps a woman’s body fit for pregnancy, excessive heavy and strenuous workout can cause menstrual disturbances and interfere with ovulation.
- Quit the habit of smoking as nicotine and carbon monoxide tend to deteriorate the quality of a woman’s eggs. Even secondhand smoke affects adversely. This is also true for alcohol. Drugs like marijuana, cannabis etc should also be totally avoided.
- Avoid long and frequent exposure to harmful chemicals like insecticides, pesticides, fertilizers, solvents, etc.
Age-Related Decline In Fertility
With increasing age the quality and quantity of eggs decline, which starts during the 30’s and reaches a stage of steep decline in the late 30’s. Thus it becomes more difficult to become pregnant.
Seek expert medical advice
Any woman who fails to conceive after one year of regular unprotected sex may consult a specialist taking her husband along, as both would need a check-up to ascertain the cause. If the woman is over 35 or has a history of any ectopic pregnancy or surgery that could affect fertility, help must be sought at the earliest.
It could also be possible that the husband’s sperm count is less, or the sperm motility is low. There can be several reasons that a specialist can investigate and recommend the next course of action.
Science and medicine have progressed a lot in the last few decades, and having a baby has become a lot easier than ever before.