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When couples decide they’re ready for a baby, pregnancy can’t come quickly enough. But for some, getting pregnant takes longer than expected. Whether you’re trying for your first child or your fifth, here are six ways to increase your child-bearing chances.

1. Study Your Cycle

Ovulation can be tricky to pin down. The average menstrual cycle lasts 28 to 32 days, with ovulation typically occurring on day 14 of a 28-day menstrual cycle according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. But many women have longer, shorter, or irregular cycles. Your best time to try and conceive is during the week before you ovulate. Tracking your cycle using a journal, app, or home ovulation prediction kit can remove some of the guesswork and help get the timing just right.

Pay attention to ovulation signs too. Women may experience pelvic pain on one side as an egg is released from the ovary. They may also have breast tenderness, spotting, or an increased sex drive. There are also some indications that ovulation is about to occur, such as a woman’s cervical mucus getting more clear, stretchy, and slippery (like egg whites). Basal or resting body temperature can help a woman determine when she’s ovulating. Temperature tends to decrease before ovulation and spike just afterward. Basal thermometers measure to the hundredth of a degree and can detect slight temperature shifts. Don’t be surprised if basal body temperatures are difficult to follow. Everybody is different and multiple factors can affect temperature. If your basal body temperatures do not follow a pattern, consider an app or ovulation prediction kit for better home monitoring.

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2. Make Sleep a Priority

Sex isn’t the only thing that should be happening in the bedroom when couples are trying to conceive. Sleep has loads of benefits, including helping to maintain a healthy body weight, lowering the risk of many diseases, and squashing stress — all important when getting the body ready for a baby.

Research also suggests a link between fertility and melatonin, which regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle and protects eggs from free radicals. Too much light at night (especially blue light from phones and other devices) disrupts melatonin production. To bring on the zzz’s, the National Sleep Foundation recommends declaring the bedroom a screen-free zone and turning off electronics at least one hour before bedtime.

3. Watch Your Diet — and Your Weight

Research suggests a link between a healthy pre-pregnancy diet and a healthy pregnancy.

Body weight matters too. Women who are considered underweight (body mass index of 18.5 or lower) may not ovulate regularly. Research has shown that obesity (body mass index of 30 or higher) may have a negative impact on fertility. For women trying to get pregnant, reaching a healthy weight can help regulate ovulation and periods.

4. Quit Smoking and Drinking

It’s common knowledge pregnant women shouldn’t drink or smoke, but both partners should consider abstaining when trying to conceive. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women stop drinking when trying to get pregnant.

Smoking can affect the quality and number of both sperm and eggs, leading to miscarriage, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. And this goes for all smoking. Research suggests that marijuana may affect male fertility.

5. Use “Sperm-Friendly” Lubricants

Trying to get pregnant and having sex on a schedule can sometimes ramp up stress and tamp down romance. An unpleasant but common result is vaginal dryness. Using a lubricant can make intercourse more enjoyable.

Research suggests certain lubricants can affect sperm motility. Avoid any that contain spermicide, which kills sperm. Consider trying a lubricant that’s specially formulated for couples who are trying to get pregnant.

6. Visit Your Doctor

Lots of factors can affect fertility, including age and the presence of certain medical conditions, like polycystic ovary syndrome, celiac disease, or endometriosis. Before you start trying to get pregnant — or if you’ve been trying for several months without success— schedule an appointment with your ob-gyn to determine if any underlying conditions exist and plan the best course of action.

To learn more about fertility issues or schedule an appointment with the Center for Fertility and Reproductive Endocrinology at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, call 412-641-1000, option 1.

Sources

20th World Congress on In Vitro Fertilization. The effect of water-, oil-, and silicone-based personal lubricants on sperm motility and kinematics. Link

American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists. Alcohol and Pregnancy (Infographic). Link

American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists. Having a Baby After 35: How Aging Affects Fertility FAQ. Link

American Heart Association. Monounsaturated Fat. Link

American Heart Association. Polyunsaturated Fat. Link

American Institute of Stress. Stress and Sleep—How to Master Stress and Enjoy Restful Sleep Instantly. Link

American Pregnancy Association. Female Infertility. Link

American Pregnancy Association. Fertility Charting Basics. Link

American Pregnancy Association. Fertility Friendly Lubricants. Link

American Pregnancy Association. Male Infertility. Link

American Pregnancy Association. Signs of Ovulation. Link

American Pregnancy Association. Understanding Ovulation. Link

American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Fertility and Sterility. Male marijuana use and spontaneous abortion. Link

American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Smoking. Link

American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Weight. Link

Antioxidants: Impact of Melatonin Supplementation in Women With Unexplained Infertility Undergoing Fertility Treatment. Link

BJOG: An International Journal on Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Lubricant use during intercourse and time to pregnancy: a prospective cohort study. Link

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Defining Adult Overweight and Obesity. Link

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep and Chronic Disease. Link

Frontiers in Public Health. The influence of Diet on Fertility and the Implications for Public Health Nutrition in the United States. Link

Medical Sciences. The Mechanism of Androgen Actions in PCOS Etiology. Link

National Sleep Foundation. A Good Night's Sleep Can Help You Maintain a Healthy Weight. Link

National Sleep Foundation. Can Sleep Affect Conception? Link

Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology. Obesity as disruptor of the female fertility. Link

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office on Women's Health. Celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Link

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office on Women's Health. Infertility. Link

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office on Women's Health. Polycystic ovarian syndrome. Link

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office on Women's Health. Weight, fertility, and pregnancy. Link

About UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital

For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. UPMC Magee is long renowned for its services to women and babies, but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and the hospital’s NICU is one of the largest in the country. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.