10 Tips for maximising your chance of having a baby
You have made the decision to try for a baby, so you will probably want to get pregnant as soon as possible, especially if you need the help of donor sperm. So here are some tips to maximise your chance.
1. Have sex or if you are using a donor - inseminate regularly around your fertile time.
If you have regular, unprotected sex/or inseminate for a year, about 84% of couples will get pregnant.
It's important to know your fertile cycle - Going back to basics here, you only get a baby when a sperm meets an egg and that egg only comes usually once a month, around day 14 in your cycle.
The egg only survives for a day or two, so there's only a limited window each month during which you can actually get pregnant. It's probably around six days.
During ovulation some women feel a twinge of pain in one side and cervical mucus may become thin and slippery.
If you have an irregular cycle or feel you need extra help, you can buy ovulation prediction kits to help you find out when you are most fertile.
Knowing your cycle is really important but there is knowing and then there is obsessing, so make sure you keep it in balance and try to develop a 'mindfulness' about your cycle rather than a fixed obsession.
2. Ensure your sperm is healthy
Once you have found your ideal co-parent or donor, it's really important to check his sperm count. Even if your donor has had children previously, lifestyle factors since may reduced their sperm count.
A simple sperm count can be performed at home using a sperm test such as the Fertilcount male fertility test. Alternatively a sperm count can be undertaken at your fertility clinic.
Sperm health can be improved by not smoking and having a healthly diet, In addition there is some evidence that wearing loose boxer short may help along with not using laptops on the lap and avoiding hot baths or jacuzzis.
3. Folic acid and a check up
Women who are thinking about getting pregnant should take a 400mcg folic acid supplement each day. Some women are advised to take a 5mg folic acid supplement each day; for example, those with Celiac disease or diabetes.
If you take folic acid when you are trying for a baby (ideally for at least three months before conceiving) and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, it reduces the risk of having a baby with conditions such as Spina bifida.
It's recommended to get a check up with your GP, as they can do any blood tests needed and if you are on medication discuss if these will effect your fertility.
4. Give up smoking
We all know by now that smoking is bad for our health generally, but it may reduce fertility as well.
The current advice from NICE is that smoking or even passive smoking may affect a woman's chances of getting pregnant. For men, a link has been found between smoking and poorer quality sperm.
5. Be a healthy weight
If you are in a healthy weight range you have a body mass index (BMI) of between 18.5 - 24.9. NICE says women who have a BMI of more than 29 can take longer to conceive than women whose weight is in the normal range.
Excess weight is associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome, resulting in a hormone imbalance which can affect fertility and may cause miscarriages.
Try and live a healthy lifestyle, Exercise but do not exercise too much, and make sure you have a healthy BMI - not too high or too low.
Being underweight is just as bad for fertility as being overweight.
6. Eat a healthy balanced diet
To give yourself the best possible chance of getting pregnant it's important to eat a healthy and balanced diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, eggs, beans and wholegrains. The emphasis should be on eating real unprocessed food, ideally organic, rather on specific fad diets.
However do be aware of food intolerances such as gluten and diary. In addition try and reduce caffeine intake along with minimising refined sugar consumption.
Research has shown that a Mediterranean diet high in healthy oils, such as olives, avocados and fish can help improve hormone imbalances and improve fertility.
7. Cut alcohol
The UK's chief medical officers say there is no safe amount of alcohol that women can drink during pregnancy, and it makes sense to stop drinking while trying to conceive too.
8. Don't leave it too late
A woman's fertility peaks in her early twenties but these days more women are leaving it later to have a baby.
More women are holding out until their thirties and forties to start a family. According to the Office for National Statistics, since the mid-1970s women aged 30 to 34 are more likely to become mothers for the first time than any other age group.
Having a baby before the age of 35 improves your chances, but women can have babies into their 40s if they are fit and healthy and in good health
9. Getting pregnant - Inseminations
If you are conceiving at home using a donor - After inseminations, it may help to put a cushion under you to tilt the pelvis for 20 minutes. It is also recommended to climax following inseminations as this causes contractions which help the sperm along their journey.
Try and make the inseminations an enjoyable experience, maybe play some relaxing music or light some candles.
Its important to be prepared mentally and emotionally for getting pregnant.
Couples lead busy lives, climbing the career ladder, with lots of things going on in their lives. Making a baby can be an added stress.
Sometimes couples go down the IVF route when they could make lifestyle changes instead.
Relaxation CDs and hypnotherapy may help. Exercise is a good way to get rid of stress, especially less vigorous forms like yoga and Pilates. Holistic therapies such as Acupuncture or Reflexology may also help with relaxation and wellbeing.
Its important to take care of your emotions, manage your stress levels and take time out to relax and switch off.
Be careful not to make the mistake of making 'Baby making' a stressful project which must to completed. A belief that you will become pregnant when the time is right, is more beneficial.
When to get help
Fertility problems affect one in seven couples in the UK.
More than eight out of 10 couples who have regular sex/inseminations without contraception will get pregnant within a year. If you've been trying for a year with no luck, have a check-up.
If you are using donor sperm with no success after a year, then it is recommended to try another donor prior to considering fertility treatments such as IVF.
Your GP will do tests to see what's happening and give advice on options.
It you are over 35, it may be worth getting your fertility checked out for peace of mind.