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We've heard of some couples taking a long time to get pregnant, from the time when they decide to start. We're wondering what we can do to make the process faster.

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+1. While I do think this question has nothing to do with parenting it is still a great question; and is a vital step in becoming a parent (sans-adoption, of course). –  David Murdoch Mar 31 '11 at 10:56
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It was decided on meta that pregnancy is on-topic: meta.parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/5/… –  blueberryfields Mar 31 '11 at 15:16
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You mean in addition to having lots of sex ?-) –  tomjedrz Apr 17 '12 at 6:13
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I have to agree with a number of the shorter answers below - if you have not yet tried to get pregnant without success for 3-4 months, do not assume in advance that you will have trouble. Just try it without planning for a bit before trying to "optimize" your chances. –  half-integer fan Feb 8 '13 at 3:59
    
Only one person hinted that the vagina was important but, just in case you don't know, vaginal sex is the way to go if you want to get pregnant. Sure, anal and oral may be fun but vaginal intercourse is the doctor-approved way of getting a bun in the oven. –  Alex In Paris Feb 3 at 10:28

9 Answers 9

up vote 34 down vote accepted

My wife is a doctor and we spent some time planning pregnancy and making sure we had the best chances. We were surrounded by people who had been trying for a long time with no success and we asked them - in intimate detail - about their health, lifestyles, times and dates of lovemaking, family history, etc. We compiled all the evidence and built a plan. It revolves around capitalising on the correct timing, maximising your health and fertility, and a little bit of technique.

Here's a synopsis:

Get the correct timing

  1. Stop birth control pill and move onto condoms for a couple of months or until 'real' periods return.
  2. Track your periods. Use a calendar or spreadsheet (yes, really) to track the first day of your period each month to determine your monthly cycle. Do this for a number of months to be absolutely sure. There are plenty of Fertility Cycle calculators online.
  3. Calculate your fertile days. Once you have tracked your periods for a few months, you can note your ovulation days - 14 days before your period +/- 2 days. A human ovum (egg) is only around for 24 hours, so you must know what this date is.
  4. Mark your 'try' days on the calendar. This is really important - if you have any other family commitments or office parties, etc, cancel them as getting pregnant is important to you. We suggest you annotate when the baby would be born if you conceived on each date.

Maximise your health

  1. Cut out alcohol. There's evidence that it affects fertility, but it also blurs your judgement. Yes, you're more likely to be in the mood for sex after some drinks, but that may also negate the items below.
  2. Stop smoking. Nicotine and tar both affect fertility and are known to cause birth defects - check the warning on the packet.
  3. Cut out caffeine. It lowers sperm counts and stops you sleeping.
  4. Get more sleep. It raises sperm counts and gives you more energy for exercise and lovemaking.
  5. Get more exercise. Your reproductive organs and hormone-releasing glands need oxygenating for optimal working conditions. The serotonin released after exercise will make you feel better too.
  6. Eat more healthily. There are many foods which can help fertility and vitality (fruit, fibre-rich foods, fish) and those that can mess it up (high-fat, high-sugar, processed food, fast food).
  7. Zinc supplements. Men should take daily Zinc supplements to improve the sperm quality.
  8. Folic Acid. Women should take Folic Acid daily supplements to prevent birth defects. This should be taken from 3 months before conception and up until 3 months after. 'Pregnancy health' supplements are also worth considering as they contain Iron and other essential vitamins which may not be in your diet.

Technique

  1. Best time to make love. Hormones and fertility are highest in the mornings, but this is no good if you have to run off to work. Waking up an hour early in order to make love shouldn't be a problem for most people.
  2. Stay fresh. If you have a shower when you come home from work, then you can make love at any point after that without anyone worrying about the dirt of the work day.
  3. Position doesn't matter that much, but is vital that after ejaculation, the woman remains laying down with her legs and pelvis raised - use a pillow under the buttocks, knees in the air. This is to give the best opportunity for the sperm to reach the cervix, inside which they can survive for longer. Standing up within half an hour of lovemaking risks that gravity will cause everything to leak back out.

My wife has given this plan (a more detailed version) to around 20 couples now and all have conceived within 6 months.

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Lots of good information here. One thing to keep in mind though: have fun! If sex feels like a chore, you're doing it wrong. If you're doing everything right and still having trouble getting pregnant, don't feel bad about getting you both checked out for any possible problems. –  afrazier Mar 30 '11 at 22:06
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I'm generally agianst prescribing things for this. The entire point of your existence, biologically speaking, is to reproduce. It will work itself out easily once you step out of the way. Stop using birth control, and go on with your lives. When the body is ready, it'll happen. Don't see any professionals until 9 months have passed. –  Carmi Mar 31 '11 at 5:14
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There's one item on Technique that is missing here. Both partners need to orgasm, and he needs to be first. The muscle contractions of the woman's orgasm have been shown (literally, with fiber optic cameras inside the vagina) to help get more semen into the fallopian tubes to be exposed to the egg by way of more of it being picked up by the cervix and brought into the uterus. –  cabbey Jun 1 '11 at 4:34
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I have always thought it interesting how couples will aggressively train the women's bodies not to get pregnant for decades, and then be confused when that it doesn't get pregnant immediately when they change their minds. –  tomjedrz Apr 17 '12 at 6:18
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Great instructions. I miss one important point: de-stress. Many women simply don't conceive because they have so much going on in their lives that a child would not fit in -- and their body know this and avoids getting pregnant or "loses" the child. –  user3140 Mar 14 '13 at 18:56

I see lots of well-intended medical advice here, but I would argue: forget about all of it and just relax. I know several parents who arguably tried everything, yet failed and adopted kids. Guess what happens after the adoption went through? That's right: they got pregnant.

Keeping calendar notes, adjusting your health, and thinking about the whole thing just way too much will be counter-productive, not helpful. Just relax, for starters; enjoy sex. Give this method a try for a year. If that doesn't work out, you can still go back to the medical advice routine and see what this does to you. Good luck!

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Agreed: in general. However, "trying for a year" might not seem like long to a bloke. But to a woman who has really been wanting children for years 1 year may be too long. There is nothing wrong with getting some basic medical tests/checks done even up front to rule out the big game changers. Failing to fall pregnant can be one of the biggest emotional stresses a woman can experience! You do not want to stretch that out longer than necessary. –  cottsak Aug 6 '12 at 5:46
    
Anecdotally, stress seems to be counter-productive, so relaxing is good advice. –  James Bradbury Oct 24 '13 at 9:12
    
The point of keeping records is that you have something to show a doctor when you seek further help. That can reduce the time spent gathering more evidence. Other than that I tend to agree - just relax and have fun. –  DanBeale Feb 1 at 12:55

One thing that JBR surprisingly doesn't mention is this, based on personal experience: If it doesn't happen for several months despite best efforts, then it might be a medical situation. We spent many frustrating months trying without success before questioning the biological machinery.

Dad should have his sperm count/quality tested -- there's not much more he can do for his part.

Mom should have her ovulation tested -- this can be many things but I guess it mostly boils down to having just the right levels of the right hormones at the right time. This is staggeringly complex and will often not solve itself automatically, so medication is a must, sometimes long-term. A set of blood tests in the course of the ovulation cycle will be in place.

However, medication is a treatment and not something couples should do preemptively -- first wait and see if nature works out for you.

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And medication is sometimes not the only treatment either. Sometimes it's just basic mechanics and surgery will be required. Surgery seems like a big deal but many women who end up having children normally, have had surgery to get the "wiring" back into place. Yes, give nature a go first, but realise then even "nature" can't thread a needle without a loop. (this is also based on personal experience) –  cottsak Aug 6 '12 at 5:51

The best advice I can give? Don't try.

Let me explain. Stress and conception are not compatible. The scheduling, the worrying about whether she will get pregnant this month so the due date will coincide or not coincide with family members' birthdays, the constant testing and charting, the exceitement that everything says she's ovulating, the automatic feel of lovemaking... all of that just reduces your chances, because the excitement produces higher blood pressure and an increased immune response, both of which are barriers to conception and implantation.

Relax. Take a deep breath. Ask God to grant you the serenity to accept the things you cannot change... and then enjoy tearing up the sheets (or the couch cushions or the kitchen counter if you're trying for your first little one) whenever you feel like it.

I speak from experience here. My wife and I, after moving into a new rental townhome with plenty of space to start a family, decided to give it a try. We tried for several months, and in the process we bought our first house. Nothing. We eventually gave up for a while, and she got interested in getting her tonsils out. The day before the procedure, she goes in for her pre-surgery labs... and they send her home because she's pregnant. I found the NuvaRing she was supposed to be using for that month in the refrigerator; it had slipped her mind. Our little one is now a month old, the most perfect little girl in history, and she definitely didn't happen by charting mucus consistency and basal thermometer temperatures.

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"Do, or do not. There is no try" –  SQB Feb 20 at 14:28

Just relax.

Using fertility monitors can help in achieving pregnancy. However, I wouldn't use one unless you are experiencing difficulties.

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Know your ovulation date. I have an android phone and there is actually an application that helps track your monthly and then estimates the ovulation also.

Avoid stress and caffeine Easier said then done.

If a woman is overweight it is recommended she lose some. My friend lost 50lbs and it worked.

Having sex to often when you are trying lowers the sperm count and can make it harder. So trying a day or 2 before and a day or 2 after your ovulation date. Sperm can live for 48-72 hours inside the woman.

I am sure there are more these are the few I remember from what I read when we decided to try for our second.

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Calculating ovulation by the days of your cycle will work reasonably well if the mom-to-be has a regular cycle. If she has an irregular cycle, then she should start tracking her basal body temperature to find out when she is actually ovulating. This website (http://www.fertilityfriend.com/) will give you a lot of great information about finding out when she is actually ovulating instead of just when she "should be" ovulating. If the cycles are normal, then this won't be much of an isssue.

Other good advice that has already been mentioned: Stop birth control pills a few months before you're officially trying to give her body time to get back on track. (Start tracking cycles during this time.) Work on your weight, and exercise. Quit smoking. Keep a calendar tracking everything, sex, temps, periods, pregnancy tests. (If everything goes great, this is excessive, but if you have problems, it helps to have all this information tracked for several cycles when seeking medical help.)

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When we decided it would be a good idea to have kids, we did lots of reading, and other research. The standard things turned up, all listed by JBRWilkinson.

Of all the books we read, the one unexpected and striking thing turned up in a book by Robert Winston, which I believe was in Getting Pregnant: A Guide to Infertility, but as it was a borrowed book I can't go back and verify. We knew Winston as a TV presenter, but it turns out he was a pioneering researcher in the IVF field, who related fascinating stories about the battle to increase the viability rate of embryos (like noticing a sudden drop in viability, and tracing the cause back to repainting of the hospital - in another wing!). But I digress.

The unexpected thing was a graph. It plotted on one axis how often the couple had sex in a month; on the other axis was how long it took them to conceive. It was dramatic, the relationship was clear: lots of sex and you get babies quickly. The discussion accompanying the graph said that timing ovulation cycles wasn't anywhere near as helpful as frequent copulation. I'm sure you're insightful enough to determine the various contributing factors to that increased success rate.

That sounded great, and at first, it was - but it quickly became like a death-march. Baby-making sex is no fun. Based on my experience and the graph, my suggestion to increase your chances of conceiving is: make sex more fun. When sex is more fun, you'll have more and get a baby quicker.

Try to remember that unlike the data from which Winston's graph was derived, my anecdote is not data, but we did conceive immediately - following all of JBRWilkinson's points (excluding the timing-related ones), and going on our death-march. We'd also decided that no kids wasn't going to be a deal-breaker, so we weren't emotionally vested in falling pregnant.

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You can improve your chances of getting pregnant, by tracking your ovulation. If you will have intercourse within your ovulation period, you can improve your chances of getting pregnant. I included herewith an article on how you can calculate ovulation, to help you determine when is your fertile period. The process includes using an ovulation calculator, an ovulation kit and many others. You can read the article for the full details. Ezine Article: How to Calculate Your Ovulation?

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Please consider editing this answer in light of the FAQ section I recently referred you to. It's fine to leave the information and article you linked, but I would suggest adding additional information. –  Beofett Jan 30 '13 at 13:29
    
Thank you for your kind assistance. –  Ayls Billones Feb 7 '13 at 14:13
    
I was actually referring to you disclosing your relationship to that particular article, per our faq. –  Beofett Feb 7 '13 at 14:20

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