There is a lot of science involved when it comes to having a baby. You can go unprotected and hope for the best, but we thought it would be beneficial and possibly helpful to look at and understand a little better the process of conception.
We talk to Fertility Network UK to understand the menstrual cycle and how knowing your cycle a little better can help. Plus! We share their tips to help with conception.
Getting to know your cycle
Most women have a 28-day menstrual cycle: this means there are 28 days between the start of one period and the start of the next period. Ovulation (when an egg is released from the ovary) occurs on day 14 of a 28-day cycle. Whether that egg gets fertilised by a sperm depends on the day(s) in the cycle in which intercourse occurs. The chance of getting pregnant is low at the beginning of the cycle and starts to increase from about day 8 onwards. Women are most likely to get pregnant if they have sex 2 days before they ovulate (i.e. on day 12 of 28-day cycle).
Once ovulation has occurred, the chance of getting pregnant decreases dramatically: sperm need to be present in the female genital tract prior to ovulation to maximise the chances of getting pregnant. The reason for this is that once ovulation has occurred, levels of the hormone progesterone increases, and this causes cervical mucus to become thick and sticky which prevents sperm from being able to swim through it to get to the egg to fertilise.
Having sex regularly
Couples that have regular sex (2-3 times a week) are most likely to get pregnant because this frequency ensures that a good volume of fresh sperm will be present in the female reproductive tract at the time of ovulation. If couples are only having sex once a week, the chance of getting pregnant is less because there will be less, fresh sperm present in the female genital tract at the time of ovulation.
In addition to knowing your cycle better, the following lifestyle tips can help with conception:
- Increase your water intake: by ensuring your kidneys can flush out waste effectively, this increases the fertile quality of the cervical fluid
- If you’ve been on the pill, supplementing vitamins can really help: it’s common for women who’ve been on the pill a long time to be low on certain vitamins and minerals. Taking specially formulated supplements (folic acid, vitamin D and B12) can help women trying to conceive
- Lying down for a few minutes after sex can increase the odds that the sperm will be able to meet the awaiting egg
- Establish an exercise regime before pregnancy means you’re less likely to experience the discomforts associated with pregnancy (such as back pain, swollen ankles etc.).
Try not to stress
It is worth keeping in mind that there is only a 25-30% chance of conceiving in any given cycle. And the stress hormones can interfere with your ability to conceive. It has taken many couples around 6 -12 months to conceive. If you are not successful after this time, we recommend you visit your GP and seek medical advice. But, if you are over the age of 35, have been trying to get pregnant unsuccessfully and are concerned that you have a fertility problem, it is a good idea to see your GP sooner.