Recently, I watched a sci-fi movie, Children of Men, which got released in 2006. The film takes place in 2027 when two decades of human infertility have left society on the verge of collapse. Though the movie back then depicted a hypothetical situation, unfortunately, it is slowly turning out to be the sad reality in the present day scenario. In the United States, approximately 1 out of 8 couples suffer from the curse of infertility.
Infertility is the inability to get pregnant despite having frequent, unprotected sex for at least a year. Sometimes even a healthy couple becomes frustrated while planning for having a baby because there is only a 20% chance of getting pregnant per month for a healthy, 30-year-old woman. Unfortunately, there is no proven trick that assures pregnancy. However, if you follow several dos and don’ts, your chances of getting pregnant might increase significantly. When you and your partner have decided to have a baby, two of you must engage in unprotected vaginal intercourse unless you are Mother Mary. However, copulation becomes more than just deriving sexual pleasure when you desire to conceive. You would want to do everything the right way to increase the odds of getting pregnant.
1. The right timing: When should you have sex?
The best way to ensure the pregnancy is to make sure that you are making love with your partner at the right time. Although a woman can get pregnant anytime after having unprotected sex, her body is most fertile two days before ovulation and the day of ovulation. So, a couple who wants a baby should do sex regularly over a 6-day-window starting five days before ovulation and including the day of ovulation.
The natural question that might be coming to your mind at this point is, “how do I track my ovulation?” One way is by monitoring your menstrual cycle. The cycle starts on day 1 of your period and ends on the day before your next period starts. You can mark your menstrual cycle in a calendar or use some digital apps. In general, a lady ovulates in the middle of her cycle. That means if you have a 28-day cycle, you are likely to ovulate around day 14.
You can also look out for other cues, such as a change in the vaginal discharge and a rise in basal body temperature, to track ovulation. The amount of vaginal discharge (cervical mucus) increases and becomes more transparent, thinner, and slippery before the ovulation starts. Ovulation predictor kits are another easy option to track your ovulation. You can urinate on these test strips every morning during a period you think you will ovulate to detect a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH). Read the instructions on the kit to learn to interpret the test report. Once you get a positive result, start having sex for the next few days.
2. The right frequency: How often should you have sex?
Frequent sex often reduces the quality and quantity of sperm. Therefore, a couple should do sex once a day or every other day during the fertile window. However, it would help if you do not burden yourself by considering sex a chore. The ideal frequency is whatever is comfortable for both of you and your partner.
3. The correct positions: What positions are the best?
There are plenty of myths suggesting some positions are more favorable for conceiving than others. You might have heard that the missionary position is the best position to get pregnant. Some suggest that keeping the female partner’s hips elevated for some duration after sex helps. Unfortunately, there is no study to support these claims. Therefore, there is no need to stick to any particular position. Try things out and stick to what is comfortable and enjoyable.
4. The right lubes: Which lubricants are the best?
Choosing the right lubricant is essential as some products reduce the motility and viability of the sperms. You might want to avoid the following products: Astroglide, K-Y jelly, and olive oil. It would help if you did not use your saliva. If using a lubricant is necessary, the following products are considered safe for the sperms: Pre-Seed, mineral oil, and canola oil.
5. Quit smoking
For women, smoking tobacco has a prolonged and dose-dependent adverse effect on ovarian function. However, smoking has a transient toxic impact on the fertility of women. Current smokers have a considerably reduced pregnancy rate compared with past smokers. Smoking can cause infertility problems in men as it affects the semen quality, reduces sperm count, and affects sperm viability and motility. Besides, if the male partner smokes, the female partner’s ability to get pregnant gets affected due to passive smoking. Smoking not only leads to infertility, but it dramatically raises the risks of preterm birth and stillbirth, miscarriage , ectopic pregnancy, and other complications in the newborn. Therefore, the couple should quit smoking tobacco if they are planning for a baby.
6. Abstain from alcohol
For women, drinking delays pregnancy and reduces the chance of pregnancy. Binge drinking during pregnancy might lead to miscarriage, premature birth, and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). For men, heavy drinking affects sperm quality, reduces sperm production, causes early and decreased ejaculation, and shrinks testes leading to impotence. Also, please note, there is no ‘safe dose’ for drinking. Therefore, it is imperative to abstain from alcohol if you are planning for a baby.
7. Maintain a healthy body weight
Being overweight or underweight affects your ability to get pregnant negatively. Obesity influences reproductive health adversely. Overweight women exhibit a higher rate of menstrual dysfunction and anovulation. The risk of subfecundity and infertility, conception rates, miscarriage rates, and pregnancy complications are higher in these women. Consequently, you might want to shed those extra pounds before you plan to conceive. Being underweight is also detrimental to conceiving. Underweight women suffer from irregular menstrual cycles due to hormonal imbalance. If your BMI is 18.5 or less, you should consult a dietician. The female partner must maintain healthy body weight for better health and improving the chances of conception.
8. Reduce stress and relax
Stress affects a woman’s menstrual cycle as anxiety interferes with the hormone regulatory function of the brain. Stress reduces the quality of sperm in men and reduces sexual desire. Physical work out, yoga, meditation, and body massage helps in reducing stress and anxiety.
9. Start taking food supplements
If you are planning for a baby, it is essential to start taking a multivitamin. Folate, vitamins B6, B12, and D, and iron all have roles in mechanisms that could affect fertility. For example, iron deficiency might degrade egg quality. The lack of vitamin D disturbs the hormone imbalance. The shortage of vitamin B12 might cause irregular ovulation. Besides, folic acid is vital to prevent neural tube, heart, and limb defects during the first few weeks of the pregnancy.
Getting pregnant might feel like a game of dice. However, it sometimes takes close to a year for a healthy couple to get pregnant. Most healthy couples conceive within a year of active effort. If you follow the above guidelines and are under 35, but no luck so far, you must consult a doctor. If you are above 35, you should consult a doctor after six months of active effort. Couples should also seek professional advice if they have a history of miscarriage or some other known complications. An average healthy couple should be patient and keep trying for a year before they seek professional guidance.
- 13 Infertility Stats You Should Know
- The effects of smoking on ovarian function and fertility during assisted reproduction cycles
- Effect of smoking on semen quality of infertile men in Shandong, China
- Substance Use During Pregnancy
- The Association between Smoking and Ectopic Pregnancy: Why Nicotine Is BAD for Your Fallopian Tube
- Prevalence and Characteristics of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
- Smoke, alcohol and drug addiction and male fertility
- Alcohol and fertility: how much is too much?
- Impact of obesity on infertility in women
- Weight, fertility, and pregnancy
- To Evaluate the Effect of Perceived Stress on Menstrual Function
- The Impact of Preconceptional Multiple-Micronutrient Supplementation on Female Fertility