First of all, no need to panic! You’re doing great. The fact is that it may take a relatively long time to finally get that big fat positive on your pregnancy test. If you’ve been trying for more than a few months and are feeling a little impatient, know that it’s common to take a year or more to conceive and that sometimes it just takes time. Usually there’s no need to seek help just yet. That said, there are some things you can do to get the most out of your efforts and improve your chances of getting pregnant.
- Find YOUR fertile window
All right, time for some baby-making math. As you might already know, in order for conception to take place, sperm must be waiting in the Fallopian tube at the moment that ovulation occurs so it can fertilize the egg within 12-24 hours of the egg being released from the ovary. Because sperm can only live for up to 7 days in the female body, and only a small number of sperm will even survive the long journey to the egg, you and your partner need to have sex at the right time to maximize the chance that you will conceive. This means you need to know when you will ovulate, which is more difficult to determine than you might think. One reason for this is that due to normal fluctuations in your body, you won’t always ovulate on the same cycle day from one cycle to the next. If you’re tracking ovulation by charting BBT you may have noticed this. Fortunately, there are other reliable ways to measure what’s going on in your body and predict when your most fertile days in each cycle will fall. The most important thing is to find a method for pinpointing your fertile window that works well for you! Here is a brief introduction to two of the available tools that can be used to help you predict ovulation.
Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs) are a popular method for predicting ovulation. OPKs detect the presence of luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine. Approximately 12-36 hours before ovulation occurs, the amount of LH in your body “surges”. By testing with OPKs, you can identify this LH surge, which allows you to know that ovulation is just around the corner and that you are in your fertile window.
Electronic fertility monitors, like the OvaCue Wireless Fertility Monitor, can give you the most advanced notice of ovulation, up to 7 days. OvaCue uses the Electrolyte Method to track changes in the electrolytes in your saliva and cervical mucus that correspond to the fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone throughout your cycle. This device even works well for women with irregular cycles as it works by watching for trends in the readings rather than looking for set reading levels.
- Create a sperm-friendly environment
Newsflash! Many major lube brands harm sperm motility (ability to swim) and viability (ability to survive). When you are trying to get pregnant, it is important to understand that all lubricants are NOT created equal, and you need to be discerning when selecting a lubricant to use when TTCing.
Most everyday lubricants have a low pH and very high salt concentrations, creating a harmful environment for sperm. The FDA designates a class of fertility lubricants that undergo specialized testing to ensure that they won’t harm sperm or eggs and one of these is BabyDance. This fertility-friendly lube has a pH of ~7 and mimics the consistency of fertile-quality cervical mucus, which helps the sperm to swim through your cervix to meet the egg for conception. Not only does BabyDance mimic your own body fluids, it contains no ingredients that can be harmful to eggs or sperm.
Another way to help sperm survive is to support your body’s production of fertile-quality cervical mucus. Each cycle during your fertile window, your cervical mucus changes consistency to be very slippery and pH matched to semen. To help increase production of this natural lube, drink LOTS of water. Water is a key ingredient in the creation of this body fluid. And, consider taking a dietary supplement designed to increase your production of fertile-quality cervical mucus, such as FertileCM.
- Regulate your cycle and support egg health
An irregular period is defined as a menstrual cycle that is consistently shorter than 21 days or consistently longer than 36 days. Your cycle can also be considered irregular if the length varies significantly from cycle to cycle, for example, sometimes lasting 28 days, then 40 days, then 32 days. What does this have to do with fertility? Irregular cycles make it more difficult to predict your fertile window and ovulation, however, you may be able to improve your cycle regularity. For women with chronic irregularity, the cause is likely that there is an underlying hormonal imbalance. The herb commonly known as Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus), included in the dietary supplement FertilAid for Women, is frequently used to help women restore hormonal balance and cycle regularity. FertilAid for Women also contains a comprehensive prenatal vitamin, which helps to ensure that trying-to-conceive women take in all of the nutrients (think iron and folate) they need to sustain a healthy pregnancy.
Egg health is another factor you should consider, especially if you are over the age of 35. Each woman has a limited supply of eggs and you want to make the most of yours. Natural products like the dietary supplement OvaBoost protect your eggs from toxins and stress through a specialized formulation of antioxidants and vitamins, supporting egg quality and healthy ovulation.
- TTC is a team sport
If things are taking a while, both partners have an opportunity to up their game. While you are keeping your cycles on track, your partner can help move things along, too. A non-invasive and first step is testing his sperm health. At-home tests are available from the drugstore that measure sperm count. If the results of the at-home test indicate that his count is below normal, he certainly isn’t alone. The average sperm count has declined by 50% since the early 1900s, and experts suggest that sperm counts continue to decline by 1-2% each year. With a below normal result, he may want to consider a trip to the fertility clinic for a comprehensive semen analysis to determine what his actual sperm count is and whether or not his sperm motility and morphology are normal. The good news is that a growing body of scientific research indicates that supplementing with antioxidant nutrients, like those found in FH PRO for Men, can improve overall sperm health.
- Acknowledge that life is stressful
If you’re reading this, you may be stressed out about how long it’s taking to conceive. According to many fertility experts, chronic stress can be a fertility-buster, as it causes the body to be in “fight or flight” mode constantly, which suppresses reproductive hormones. While it’s probably not realistic to think you’ll be able to eliminate stress all together, now is the time to lean into your most effective stress-reducing tactics and self-care faves. The old standbys like yoga, meditation, and acupuncture continue to be popular for a reason. Take a careful look at the relationships and other activities in your life that might be impacting your stress levels and consider what options you have for changing those dynamics. It could make all the difference!