Natural Fertility - How to maximise your chances of falling pregnant naturally
It's an exciting time when a couple decides that they would like to ‘try for a baby’!
Most of us spend years trying not to fall pregnant, and then hope that a pregnancy will happen immediately once off contraception.
We all know that many babies are conceived ‘unknowingly’, and in most instances, couples will be able to achieve pregnancy naturally. However, sometimes making a baby can be a little trickier than anticipated.
To maximise the chances of falling pregnant, it is important to be aware of what happens during a menstrual cycle, and when the ideal time is to conceive. This blog aims to provide you with that information, in the hope that you will be able to start the family you dreamed of.
Know your fertile window
The days in a woman’s menstrual cycle when pregnancy is possible is known as the ‘fertile window’.
The fertile window is the day an egg is released from the ovary (ovulation) and the five days beforehand.
Most women have a regular menstrual cycle, with ovulation occurring around 14 days prior to the next period. Once the egg is released from the ovary, it has a life-span of about 12-24 hours. Although sperm can last for up to five days in the female reproductive system, it’s important to have sex prior to ovulation, to ensure availability of the sperm when the egg is released.
Your most fertile days are the three days leading up to and including the day of ovulation, therefore your chances of conception are highest if you have sex in the three days prior to ovulation, and on the day of ovulation.
- If your average menstrual cycle is 28 days, you ovulate around day 14, and your most fertile days are days 12, 13 and 14.
- If your average menstrual cycle is 35 days, ovulation happens around day 21, and your most fertile days are days 19, 20 and 21.
- If you have shorter cycles, say 21 days, ovulation happens around day 7, and your most fertile days are days 5, 6 and 7.
Day 1 of your menstrual cycle is the first day of your period.
The key factor in allowing you to determine your fertile window is regular menstrual cycles. There are many fertility tracker apps available to assist you with this, or you can simply keep track using a calendar/diary. Melbourne IVF's ovulation calculator is another tool.
Keeping track of the days of your cycle is not the only thing to consider when trying to conceive. Your body will also be giving you some subtle hints. A few days before ovulation, vaginal mucus usually becomes clear and slippery, and looks and feels a bit like egg white. This is a sign that ovulation is about to happen and is the best time to have sex, as sperm travel more easily in this kind of mucus.
There are also multiple ovulation kits available from the supermarket, a pharmacy, or online. These tests are designed to determine the hormonal changes before ovulation and can assist in timing of sexual intercourse. If you start testing your urine a few days before when you expect to ovulate, a positive result indicates you are going to ovulate within the next 1-2 days.
However, having sex on the day of ovulation, or the two days before, does not absolutely guarantee you will conceive. Women younger than 30 have about a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant naturally each month. By age 40, the chance of pregnancy decreases to about five percent each month (Fertility Coalition, 2018). Understanding your fertile window can certainly increase your chances.
Lifestyle factors are important too
Lifestyle factors also play a significant role in optimising fertility and helping a couple get pregnant. It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle leading up to conception. This includes a balanced diet including vegetables, fruits and whole grains, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight (Body Mass Index of between 20–25), reducing or ceasing alcohol intake, and avoiding smoking and recreational substances. It is important to highlight that excessive exercise and severe dieting can interfere with your hormonal balance, affecting your chance of conceiving. This applies to both men and women equally.
It is recommended that women who are trying to get pregnant take folate supplements (which can be bought from a chemist or supermarket). Folate helps to support the growth of a healthy baby.
Folate should be taken:
- At least one month before getting pregnant
- During the first 12 weeks of pregnancy
When to seek professional help
A small percentage of couples (approximately 1 in 6) may have difficulty falling pregnant naturally despite maintaining a healthy lifestyle and being aware of their fertile period. If your menstrual cycles are irregular, or you suffer significant painful periods or pain during sex, you should seek professional advice. If you have been trying unsuccessfully to fall pregnant for 12 months and you are under the age of 35, or for six months if you are over 35, then you should also seek medical advice as there may be other causes that can be rectified to help you to achieve pregnancy naturally.
Good luck in achieving a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.
The Fertility Society of Australia. (2018). Your Fertility: Getting the timing right. (accessed 10/4/19 https://www.yourfertility.org.au/everyone/timing)