It takes more than just making love to make a baby. If you are planning on having a baby in this brand new year, here are a few things you need to know.
Figure out when you are most fertile. Normally, a woman’s fertile period lasts six days: the five days leading to, and the day of ovulation – the time of the month, about midway between menstrual cycles, when an egg is released from a woman’s ovaries. So conceiving can be as simple as good timing if there are no underlying medical conditions.
In most cases, the likelihood of pregnancy is about 36 percent if intercourse occurs two days before or on the day of ovulation and decreases to 10 percent if it occurs four to six days before.
Since sperm can live up to five days, even ‘old’ sperm can fertilize an egg, although it is not so likely. Every month, you have a fertile window, which covers about six days. The best time to make love for conception is one or two days before you ovulate and timing your lovemaking to the exact point of ovulation is not necessary.
There are a few ways to time sex to correspond with when you ovulate. One method is to have sexual intercourse every other day between days 10 and 18 of your cycle (counting the first day of your period as day one), since this is when ovulation typically occurs.
You can also detect ovulation by looking out for changes in your cervical mucus, the fluid normally released from your vagina. At the start of the menstrual cycle, this mucus is sparse and dense, but around the time of ovulation it becomes increasingly plentiful and slippery, with qualities very similar to the white raw of an egg. This increase in vaginal discharge is a good sign that you could be ovulating.
Some women are able to tell when they are ovulating by physical symptoms that may include breast tenderness, abdominal discomfort or slight cramping and changes in the position of the cervix.
Home ovulation kits, which involve taking your temperature every morning, are much more precise than the old basal body temperature (BBT) method. And unlike the BBT method, your temperature predictor kit gives you advance notice of roughly a day to a day and a half. During ovulation, your temperature will be higher than normal. However, many experts feel couples should not rush out to buy these kits.
Another telltale sign that you could be ovulating is a greater urge to have sex. If you are conscious of your body, this also could alert you that baby making time is ripe.
Do not get anxious. It is often better to simply make love slightly before the time you think you might be ovulating and let the whole project be relaxed for the first months. If you have got to the point where you are anxious about your ability to conceive, it is time to see a doctor, who will tell you if, when, and how you need to begin testing for ovulation.
It has been long believed that a man should abstain from sex for several days prior to his wife’s fertile take time to ‘build up’ his sperm count. Part of this presumption is true as studies have shown that the more frequently a man ejaculates over a period of several days, the lower his sperm count. Although your partner’s sperm count may drop the more often he has intercourse, it is still high enough to achieve fertilisation.
In fact, some studies show that the more sex you have, the greater your chances of conceiving. However, couples that make love weekly reduce their chances of conception to 10 percent per cycle, since they are more likely to miss the key baby-making window.
As a general caution, if planning your sex life around the calendar is causing you stress, which can decrease fertility and take the fun out of lovemaking, do away with it and have sex regularly. Having sex two to three times every week, and once a day around ovulation, is the most effective way to maximise your chances of conceiving.
Published in the January 2012 issue of Parents Magazine