October 2, 2014
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Pregnancy

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Babymaking basics

Maximizing your chances of conceiving naturally

The adage "timing is everything" applies to many things in life, including trying for a baby. A woman's age is known to affect fertility, which is about 50% lower for women in their late 30s and early 40s compared with women in their early 20s. Men also experience an age-related fertility drop, but this usually doesn't happen until the age of 50.

But beyond age, there is another kind of timing that's important: the dates when you have intercourse. A woman is most fertile during a 6-day window ending on the day of ovulation. This is called the "fertile window." Although frequent intercourse (every 1 to 2 days) gives the highest pregnancy rates, it is most likely that conception happened during the fertile window. Therefore, knowing the time of ovulation to predict the fertile window may be useful for couples who want to conceive but have barriers to frequent intercourse.

If a couple knows they have been having intercourse during the fertile window for a long time without conceiving (6 months or more if the woman is 35 or older, or 12 months or more for women under 35), they may have fertility issues. If this is the case for you, your doctor may refer you to a reproduction specialist.

There are many home-based methods and devices available to predict time of ovulation and the fertile window to help increase your chances of conceiving naturally. Basal body temperature is one method, where the woman charts her morning body temperature each day for a few months to get a sense of when she's ovulating. However, body temperature usually rises after ovulation, which makes it impossible to predict the fertile window within that cycle. Basal body temperature can be useful when combined with calendar calculations used to predict the fertile window based on several previous regular cycles.

Another method is to track the quality and abundance of vaginal secretions, which can identify the complete fertile window. However, you'll need training in this technique to use it properly.

Home-based urine ovulation tests and fertility monitors can be purchased over the counter at most pharmacies. These products can detect specific hormones that are released prior to ovulation, such as luteinizing hormone (LH) and estrogen. Ovulation kits that detect LH identify a "peak fertility period" from around 24 to 36 hours before ovulation. Fertility monitors detect both LH and estrogen in the urine. They can identify the complete 6-day fertile window and provide the best chance of timing intercourse for conception.

Other things you can do to increase your fertility chances are:

  • reach a healthy weight
  • ask your doctor whether your lubricant could be affecting your chances of conceiving
  • if you drink alcohol, use it only in moderation (2 drinks a day or less for women)
  • quit smoking

Good luck, and happy baby-making!


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