Women who are actively trying to conceive seem to rack their brains looking for signs of fertility and, ultimately, pregnancy. LoveToKnow Pregnancy spoke with Donnica L. Moore, M.D., a leading women's health expert who has appeared on Oprah, The View, and Good Morning America, about the best time to plan intercourse and how to increase your chances of conceiving.
A Physician's Advice About Fertility and Conception
Ovulation and Conception Advice
LTK: I know a lot of women who chart their ovulation want to know the exact day and time that they ovulate. Can you tell me what causes ovulation to occur later or earlier than the standard 14 day?
Dr. Donnica: Bodies don't come with a manual and there are many things that can change a woman's cycle. I recommend that people who are trying to conceive use a fertility monitor, which can identify the four to six days that you are most likely to conceive. These are relatively accurate and very helpful, especially for women who do not have a regular cycle. But they should not be used by women who have a cycle longer than 45 days.
LTK: Some women look for bleeding as a sign of ovulation, but that's not too common in many women is it?
Dr. Donnica: It's very uncommon. In fact, one of the most common things that can influence when a woman ovulates is stress. That includes the stress of trying to conceive.
LTK: Once a woman does ovulate, how long is that egg viable for conception?
Dr. Donnica: Typically, for about 24 hours. Since sperm can live for up to 72 hours, a woman could conceive shortly after ovulation if she had intercourse earlier.
LTK: For women who have been trying to get pregnant, it seems like the stars have to line up just right to conceive. If a woman knows when she ovulates and times intercourse for right around ovulation, what else could impact her not getting pregnant?
Dr. Donnica: Couples who have been trying to conceive for a while should probably go to see their doctor. One of the questions they should ask is "If there are no identifiable female factors for infertility, should I ask my partner to get checked?" Many males are reluctant to go, but 30-40 percent of the time, infertility is based on male factors.
There is a difference between infertility associated with having a diagnosed reason for not getting pregnant or just not being able to get pregnant after one year of well-timed intercourse. Most couples think they have infertility if they haven't conceived within a year, but timing is extremely important. The best time for conception is when intercourse occurs within 24 hours of ovulation or shortly thereafter (ideally, less than 12 hrs).
Advice for Conceiving
LTK: What can a woman do to increase her chances of getting pregnant?
Dr. Donnica: First, she needs to cut out behaviors that can impair fertility like smoking and drinking alcohol. She should also reduce stress, maintain a healthy weight, and develop good sleeping habits. I'm a huge believer in taking prenatal vitamins when you start trying to conceive so you'll be healthier at the time of conception. It's also extremely important for women to take folic acid and omega-3 DHA the moment she plans to become pregnant. Most prenatal vitamins now contain folic acid, but not all have the omega 3, which can be purchased over-the-counter at most pharmacies.
Using a fertility monitor can also help increase a woman's chances of conceiving.
LTK: How soon do most women experience symptoms of pregnancy?
Dr. Donnica: The first symptom is generally the missed period. Most women won't notice other symptoms of pregnancy until six weeks after conception, which is four weeks after the missed period.
Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy
LTK: Once a woman knows she's pregnant, what's the first thing she should do?
Dr. Donnica: If she hasn't already done so, this is the time to stop smoking and drinking and start taking prenatal vitamins. She should call for her first prenatal appointment and discuss with her doctor any other medications she is taking and any other healthy behaviors she needs to practice.
Talk to Your OB/GYN
Getting pregnant is easier for some women than others, and there are many variables involved. If you're thinking about getting pregnant, talk to your obstetrician/gynocologist as soon as possible so you can start out right and increase your chances of having a healthy pregnancy.