Are you a couple trying to conceive? Get strategies, tips, and advice to increase your chances of getting pregnant naturally.

 

By Dr. Liz Kane

So, you want to get pregnant, and you want it to happen this cycle. We’ll go through the steps you can take to get there. Remember, it can take a while to conceive—if it doesn’t happen instantly, that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to. About 90% of couples get pregnant within a year of trying. With that said, here’s how to maximize your chances of getting pregnant this month.

The basics

The most important thing to remember is this: if you want to get pregnant, you should have lots of vaginal sex, especially around your fertile window. It can be hard to make time in two busy schedules to have sex, but we hope you can use this shared goal of getting pregnant as a reminder to make time for each other.

When and how often to have sex

When should you be having sex to increase your chances of getting pregnant? It’s important to time intercourse around your fertile window: the time leading up to and including ovulation.

Let’s do a quick review of what the menstrual cycle looks like. Day 1 is the first day of your period, followed by bleeding for anywhere from three to seven days, on average. For people with an average cycle length (28-35 days), ovulation usually occurs between days 14 and 21. The first part of your cycle (from Day 1 to ovulation) is called the follicular phase, and the second part of the cycle (after ovulation to the day before your period) is called the luteal phase. Most people have a 14-21 day follicular phase and a 14 day luteal phase. 

The fertile window is the five days before and the day of ovulation, making six days total. Amazingly, sperm can survive in the female reproductive tract for about five to six days, which is why the fertile window extends to five days before ovulation. Unfortunately, eggs have short lifespans and can only survive for about 24 hours after they are released from the ovary (ovulation). To increase your chances of getting pregnant, you should have sex every day or every other day during your fertile window. We’ve created a downloadable ovulation tracker that can help you figure out when yours occurs.

There are a few other ways to know when you’re ovulating, too: here are three self-administered tests that you can take right at home:

1. Cervical mucus tests: You know vaginal discharge, the white stuff that sometimes appears in your underwear? That’s it! You may have noticed this before, but it’s worth clarifying—the consistency and texture of cervical mucus changes in response to your body’s monthly hormonal cycle. It’s nature’s way of helping sperm travel up the reproductive tract to fertilize an egg. When it increases in quantity, and becomes clear and slippery, similar to the consistency of an egg white, that’s the sign that your body is in its fertile window. The cervical mucus test is super easy—you just stick a clean finger into your vagina, pull out some mucus, and examine it for color and consistency. You can log the changes you’ve observed in your discharge—increased quantity, changes in color, drier texture—on our tracker.

The frankness of these instructions might make you uncomfortable at first, but this process can actually serve as a way to help you get to know your body and overcome the stigma that vaginal discharge is anything but natural. 

2. Basal body temperature monitoring: Your basal body temperature (BBT) changes subtly right around ovulation, and those changes can be used to determine when you are in your fertile window. 

When you ovulate, your BBT should drop very slightly and then rise about half a degree Farenheight for 10 days. To track your BBT, you need to buy a special thermometer—one that measures up to a one-tenth of a degree. Good news is they’re cheap and available in pharmacies and supermarkets, as well as online. To get an accurate sense of your BBT over time, you should take your temperature daily and record the number (on our handy ovulation tracker) so that when it changes, you’ll know.

If you’re able to observe your subtle BBT drop, that is an indicator that you are in your fertile window and have just ovulated. If you are unable to observe a drop in BBT, you will need to chart your BBT for a few months and use that information to predictively determine when you are likely to ovulate in your next cycle. BBT is an indicator of when you ovulated, not when you will ovulate

BBT tracking is the most labor intensive and error prone option of the three options discussed here. You are required to take your BBT immediately when you wake up, before you even sit up for the day. If you forget, that day’s reading is lost. In a study performed to test the accuracy of BBT tracking, 20% of women did not show changes in BBT despite regular ovulation confirmed via blood hormone level checks. That said, it’s relatively inexpensive so it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons.

3. Ovulation tests: These are urine tests, just like pregnancy tests. There are a few different kinds out there that vary in how you use them (either you pee on them directly or in a cup, either they are digital or analog) but they all work by the same basic mechanism—they detect the presence of hormones that precede ovulation in your urine, usually luteinizing hormone (LH). Ovulation tests can be found in stores and online

LH plays a very important role in your cycle: it cues the release of an egg—ovulation itself. Ovulation tests work by detecting the surge in LH that triggers ovulation. A positive ovulation  test means that you will ovulate in the next 16-48 hours and that you are squarely in your fertile window and should be baby dancing, if you so choose.

What sex position is best for getting pregnant?  

There’s a lot of speculation out there about which sex positions are the most optimal for making a baby. Take all of that with a grain of salt; little to none of it is actually supported by scientific evidence. The bottom line: it doesn’t really matter what position you use, as long as you’re having frequent (vaginal) intercourse around and during your fertile window. We’ve broken down some of the popular myths in more detail here.

Lubricants and getting pregnant

There are also questions about lubricants inhibiting your ability to conceive. While some kinds of lubricants have been shown to inhibit sperm motility (the ability to move) in a test environment (in vitro), in a secondary analysis of a couple’s ability to conceive, lubricant choice did not make any difference. The takeaway—if you’d like to shell out the extra cash for TTC-friendly lubricant, go for it, but if you’d rather save your money for diapers later on, you can rest assured it probably won’t make a difference. 

Putting the TLC in TTC 

If you’re trying to conceive, it’s important that you make sure you’re in good general health. Pregnancy can be hard on your body, and getting your weight, diet, and lifestyle habits in a good place before you’re actually pregnant is a good idea. Specifically, this means you should: 

  • Weight: If possible, get within the healthy range of weight for your height. Being underweight or overweight can make it more difficult for you to conceive. On the plus side, this best practice goes great with the rest of this list, so you’ll hopefully move towards this goal as you work on the others.
  • Diet: Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet, with all the vitamins and minerals that studies have shown your body needs during pregnancy. We’ve described these in detail, as well as how to get them by taking prenatal vitamins, in our post here. Pregnancy draws on your body’s whole skillset, so it’s especially important that you have enough folate, calcium, iron, DHA, and other vitamins and minerals that keep you and your future fetus healthy.
  • Exercise: You’ll also want to exercise regularly—but not excessively, as vigorously exercising more than five hours a week has been shown to decrease fertility in women whose BMI was less than 25. Most exercise in pregnancy is safe if you were doing it before you became pregnant—including high-intensity workouts, swimming, and jogging—but we always recommend checking with your OBGYN, too. 
  • No drug use: It’s important to avoid engaging in habits that are risky for your health—smoking, drinking in excess, and doing recreational drugs. If you do use tobacco products, the goal is to quit three to six months before trying to conceive, as it significantly impacts your ability to get pregnant. 

Seeking help from your doctor

During your preconception visit, check with your doctor about when you should follow-up if things don’t go as planned. For women under 35, an infertility workup is generally initiated after one year of unprotected sex not resulting in pregnancy; in women 35 or older, an infertility workup is initiated after six months. 

Some women get pregnant quickly, and for others, it may take more time. Everyone’s path to pregnancy is different, and we hope to shed light on each unique one. Learn more about getting pregnant here.