14 Tips to Help You Get Pregnant


OK, so you want to have a baby. Your chances of succeeding are excellent: About 85 percent of all couples who try to conceive will do so within one year. (After one year, couples are considered infertile.) Twenty to 22 percent will get pregnant within the first month of trying.
There are some obvious rules to this game. The first is that you and your partner need to have sexual intercourse, with the penis in the vagina. The penis must ejaculate inside the vagina, depositing sperm near the cervix, the mouth of the uterus. In addition, intercourse must occur at or around the time of ovulation.
There are also a lot of misconceptions and old wives' tales surrounding this issue. For example, it is not necessary for the woman to achieve orgasm in order for conception to occur, according to Paul A. Bergh, M.D., an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. Bergh explains that the fallopian tubes, the tubes that carry the egg from the ovary to the uterus, actually draw the sperm inside, coaxing them to unite with the egg. This occurs with or without orgasm, he says.
The following tips will help increase your chances of getting pregnant. Also refer to "When and Why to Seek Help" for a list of conditions that should prompt you to see a doctor before your year of trying is over. Good luck!

Get a physical.
Before spending a year trying to get pregnant, it's a good idea to have a thorough physical examination, according to Sanford M. Markham, M.D., an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. "Make sure that there aren't any physical problems, such as masses or cysts in the pelvic area," he says. "Your doctor should also treat any low-grade vaginal infections that you might have. He or she should also check for sexually transmitted diseases." Other conditions that can interfere with pregnancy are ovarian cysts, fibroids, and endometriosis, an inflammation of the lining of the uterus, Markham says.

Have sex around the time of ovulation.
The woman's egg is capable of being fertilized for only 24 hours after it is released from the ovary, according to Richard J. Paulson, M.D., an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of the In Vitro Fertilization Program at the University of Southern California School of Medicine in Los Angeles. The man's sperm can live for between 48 and 72 hours in the woman's reproductive tract. Since sperm and egg must come together for an embryo to be created, a couple must try to have sex at least every 72 hours around the time of ovulation (see "Methods of Ovulation Prediction") in order to hit the mark, Paulson says. "Every 48 hours is even better," he says. However, he adds, the man should not ejaculate more frequently than once in 48 hours, since that may bring his sperm count down too low for fertilization.

Men should ejaculate every two to three days.
Along with the advice to have sex no more often than once every 48 hours, men should also try to ejaculate at least once every two to three days throughout the month, says Bergh. Men need to keep ejaculating to keep up their sperm supply, he adds.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
The best way to enhance your chances of getting pregnant is to maintain an all-round healthy lifestyle. This goes for both men and women, says William C. Andrews, M.D., executive director of the American Fertility Society and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk. "A healthy lifestyle will also help ensure the quality of your offspring," Andrews says.

Try to eliminate stress.
"There is little doubt that severe stress will interfere with reproductive function," says Paulson. "At the simplest level, stress will take away your libido. At the extreme, the woman may stop menstruating. Although studies in men are lacking, it is quite likely that a similar effect may occur.

Keep the testicles cool.
Exposure to extreme heat can be the death of spermliterally. (That's why the testicles are outside of the body to keep them cool.) Bergh's advice for maintaining the proper temperature is to wear boxer shorts (if you find them comfortable) and to avoid hot tubs and whirlpools. Taxicab and truck drivers will benefit from the use of a beaded seat mat that allows air to circulate. "There was an old Indian fertility ritual where the men used to dip their testicles in cold water," says Bergh. "They had the right idea." Varicose veins in the testicles can also interfere with temperature regulation. If you have these, see a urologist, Bergh suggests.

Take your time in bed.
It's not a bad idea for women to stay lying down for half an hour after sex, to minimize any leakage of sperm from the vagina, says Markham. Although staying in bed for a while may not make a tremendous amount of difference (sperm are strong swimmers), it certainly can't hurt. "Just stay in bed and take it easy," he says.

Try elevating the hips.
Placing a pillow under the woman's hips after intercourse may prevent sperm leakage, says Bergh. Although this is not proven to have any effect, it can do no damage, he says.

Don't smoke.
Smoking has been shown to lower men's sperm count and to impair fertility in women, according to Paulson. "There is nothing that has been looked at that smoking has not had an impact on," he says. His message is cleardon't do it. Also, if a woman does become pregnant, cigarette smoke even in the first few days after conceptionmay be harmful to the developing embryo. So, the sooner you can quit, the better.

Eliminate alcohol and drugs.
Hormones can be thrown out of balance with drug abuse and high alcohol intake, says Paulson. This holds true for men and women. Even marijuana smoking can impair fertility. "Marijuana smoking has been associated with increases in prolactin, a hormone which can cause milk secretion from the breasts of both men and women. This can have deleterious effects upon reproduction," he says.

Eliminate medications.
Many medications, including common over-the-counter analgesics, can impair fertility, according to Markham. "A lot of things can inhibit ovulation and conception," he says. "It can be helpful to eliminate all medications." Be sure to check with your doctor before discontinuing any prescription medication, however.

Avoid lubricants.
Certain gels, liquids, and suppositories for lubricating the vagina may impair the sperm's ability to travel through the woman's reproductive tract and fertilize the egg, according to Markham. He recommends consulting a physician for a list of those that are not detrimental.

Try the missionary position.
This is another old wives' tale that can't do any damage and may do some good, according to Bergh. The missionary position, with the man on top, seems to be a good position for minimizing sperm leakage from the vagina.

Don't ruin your sex life.
One mistake many couples make is worrying so much about being able to conceive that it takes over their lives, says Andrews. "Don't be too mechanistic about it," he warns. "With a reasonable frequency of intercourse, a loving couple will tend to hit the right day. People sometimes make it an ordeal, rather than an expression of love. It can become so stressful that it is counterproductive."

Methods of Ovulation Prediction
Conception: the union of sperm and egg The oldest, most natural union in the world. To create this perfect match, conditions must be just rightthe egg must have been released from the ovary within 24 hours of its meeting with fresh, healthy sperm. Timing is everything
To hit the nail right on the head, so to speak, you could just have intercourse every 48 hours of every month (sperm lives in the reproductive tract for at least 48 hours). Or, if you want to be more scientific about it, you can work to predict the moment of ovulation and plan your attempts more precisely
The first method of ovulation prediction is the calendar method, according to Richard J. Paulson, M.D. This method involves charting the length of the menstrual cycle and making an educated guess about the approximate date of ovulation. This is less haphazard then it sounds, since the average woman ovulates 14 days before the onset of her next menstrual period, Paulson says. In a 28-day cycle, that would mean that ovulation would occur on day 14 (the cycle starts with day one, the first day of menstrual flow). In a 35-day cycle, ovulation would occur on day 21. In a 21-day cycle, ovulation would occur on day 7, and so on. "If you want to use this method, chart your period for three months," he says. "Add on five days before and three days after the approximate date of ovulation in your longest cycle. If you have sex every 48 hours within this period, you're likely to hit it."
The second method of ovulation prediction is the basal body-temperature method. This is a little more complex than the calendar method, since it requires you to take and keep track of your basal body temperature every day for a few months (basal body temperature is your body temperature before you get out of bed in the morning). The theory is simple: Your body temperature rises slightly around the time of ovulation. By keeping track for a few months, you will soon be able to predict the days of your cycle when you'll be most fertile, Paulson says. A rise of one degree Fahrenheit means that ovulation is near. You'll be most likely to conceive if you have intercourse every 48 hours for a few days on either side of the expected date of ovulation. Basal thermometers, which have more markings and are easier to read than standard thermometers, are available at most pharmacies.
The third method is the mucus method of ovulation prediction. This involves studying the vaginal secretions throughout the month (some women may feel a little squeamish about this). The idea is that the vaginal mucus becomes more slippery, profuse, and stretchy right before ovulation occurs. When this mucus appears, it's time to begin having intercourse every 48 hours, Paulson says. Continue until about three days after the slippery-mucus phase has ended
The last way to predict ovulation is to buy an ovulation-prediction test kit at your local pharmacy or drugstore. While these are relatively effective, they are also expensive (some run as high as $25 per kit, and you may need more than one kit per cycle).

When and Why to Seek Help
The definition of infertility is a couple who, with proper frequency of adequate sexual intercourse, does not conceive after a year of trying After that time, it's best to seek medical help.
However, there are certain exceptions. Women who are over 40 should probably get a doctor's advice before trying to conceive, according to Richard J. Paulson, MD. And women over 35 should see a physician if they haven't conceived after six months of trying, he says. You should also see a doctor before the year is up if you have reason to believe that you may have had some damage to your reproductive tract as a result of an infection, if you have irregular periods or no periods at all, if you notice milk coming from your breasts but are not nursing a child, or if you have had an operation on your reproductive tract (the latter goes for men, too), Paulson says.
"Waiting too long before seeing a physician is dangerous," says Edmond Confino, M.D., an associate professor and
director of gynecology in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mount Sinai Hospital Medical Center in Chicago. "The biological clock is ticking time is important.