Trying to conceive

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So, you want to get pregnant?

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DON'T STRESS: Understanding your cycle, how your body works and how your partner's body works could increase your chances of getting pregnant.

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We all know the facts of life and you may have heard from many mums- "it only took one time and I was pregnant! I must be really fertile"- but falling pregnant isn't always that easy.

You may be worried that it is taking so long but it is important to make sure you understand how your body works, when you are most fertile and when you and your partner should be having sex to increase your chances of falling pregnant.

Natural Fertility New Zealand, Endometriosis New Zealand and Family Planning have put together a comprehensive list on the steps you can take to improve your chances of getting pregnant and indicators of when it may be necessary to seek help:

Know your cycle:

Is your menstrual cycle regular?

If you aren't sure, count the days of your cycle from the first day of your cycle to the day before your next period. It would be advisable to keep a calendar of your last cycle and note the first day of your period, how long it lasts for and when you notice extra vaginal mucus and the start of your next period. Take your temperature each morning to check if you are ovulating. It is possible to have a period without ovulating.

Are you noticing any extra vaginal mucus at any stage of your cycle?

When you are fertile, mucus is usually watery. Mark on your calendar when you notice extra mucus, its consistency and colour, when it changes and stops. This will help you identify your fertile time. If there are no signs over two menstrual cycles talk to your doctor.

Are you having sex during your fertile time?

Intercourse every other day when your body is producing fertile mucus will maximise your chances of pregnancy. If you aren't sure when your most fertile time is, Essential Mums ovulation calculator can help you calculate this.  It will show you when your luteal phase occurs. This is important information when you are trying to conceive because you are at your most fertile for only a short window of time each month: two to three days before you ovulate and for about 12 to 24 hours after ovulation.

 Are you using a vaginal lubricant?

Many lubricants inhibit sperm motility (or mobility) or may contain a spermicide. Medical research has shown that many of the existing personal lubricants studied to date harm sperm. Either causing rapid losses in their viability (that is the percentage that are alive) and motility (that is the percentage of sperm able to swim) even at low concentrations.

However there are some lubricants available that do not harm the sperm. Pre-Seed  is available at Life Pharmacies in New Zealand and lubricates without harming the sperm.

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If you answered yes to the first three questions and you are still finding it difficult to get pregnant, there may be other factors that are causing a problem. It takes three months to build a record of your menstrual cycle, so give yourself time for any changes to work.

Know each other

Does your partner work with machinery that heats his genitals?

Heat can affect sperm production. Laptops on laps, mobile phones in pockets, riding motorbikes and constant exposure to any equipment that heats the genital area could cause a problem.

Do you or your partner have a very busy lifestyle with a lot of stress?

It may be time to re-evaluate your priorities, slow down and try to relax. Living on adrenalin can affect both male and female fertility. Consider taking up yoga, or mediation, learning breathing techniques can also help you manage stress better. Remember to put each other first, it can seem impersonal to be intimate at specific times of the month and the pressure to fall pregnant can cause your partner incredible amounts of anxiety. Remember to keep the romance alive, light candles, give each other a relaxing massage, book a weekend away in a lovely location and enjoy some pampering time together.

Do you or your partner exercise intensely - such as training for marathons or triathlons?

It's not advisable to cut out exercise altogether, but consider cutting down the amount you do, especially if it is affecting your cycle. For women, being below your healthy weight range isn't the only issue. Even if you are at a healthy weight, research shows that strenuous exercise could lead to reduced progesterone production during the luteal phase, or alterations in other hormone production. For men, heat generated during exercise can again impact on male fertility. Hours of long training may elevate the body temperature too much so that the testes are no longer the few degrees cooler than the rest of the body in ideal baby-making situation

Have you or your partner ever had a sexually transmitted infection?

Some STIs affect fertility. Go for a sexual health check up at your local Family Planning Clinic, or see your doctor if you are worried.

Do you and your partner eat a well-balanced diet?

If your diet lacks certain nutrients, it could be undermining your fertility. See a dietician and get onto a nutritious eating plan if you are worried. Cutting down on caffeine will also help.

Are you or your partner more than 5kg under, or over the ideal weight for your height and build?

Check your ideal weight with your doctor and make a plan to reach your goal weights together. If you are going on an exercise and healthy eating plan to fall pregnant, doing it together will be a great motivator.

Are you or your partner taking any prescribed medication?

Some medications may affect female fertility and sperm production. Check with your doctor to make sure the medication you are on is suitable for pregnancy and if it is ok to take when pregnant. Some supplements or "off-the-shelf" medication such as cough mixture or hay fever medication could reduce the production of mucus needed to help the sperm on its journey to the egg.

Know yourselves

It can be overwhelming and scary to make such big changes to your lifestyle, as well as trying to understand how your bodies work. If you are concerned about your fertility, or if you or your partner needs to understand fertility better, there are resources available to help.

Remember to communicate with eachother and to let your partner know you love them, that is after all why you are making a baby together.

Resources

Natural Fertility New Zealand

Family Planning

- © Fairfax NZ News

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