10 Facts You Should Know If You Are Trying to Get Pregnant

Robin Elise Weiss, Ph.D. | Oct 13, 2017

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Have you decided you want to have a baby? Congratulations! You may be surprised by how much work goes into a well-planned pregnancy. Understanding your fertility is an important part of timing conception and having a healthy pregnancy. Here are the basic facts you should know when you are trying to conceive.

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Female reproductive system

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When it comes to the female anatomy, many people don’t think beyond what we consider the sexual organs. However, while they don’t play a big part in sex for the average person, the ovaries and fallopian tubes are very important to your fertility. Your health and health history will impact your anatomy in ways you may not have expected. For example, a history of pelvic infections can cause a blockage in your tubes. Routine checkups can help protect your fertility.

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Male reproductive system

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The sperm and fluids that constitute semen come from a variety of different locations in the male body. These are deposited into the vagina during the process of intercourse and ejaculation. Hernias, a history of some childhood diseases, and other issues can affect male fertility. Something as simple as your choice of underwear can alter how likely you are to get someone pregnant. A checkup and annual exams can help maintain male fertility too.

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Menstrual cycle

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The average length of a woman’s menstrual cycle is 28 days. It’s important to know what a normal cycle looks like for you because it can impact when you are able to conceive. Tracking your menstrual cycle will also help to determine your due date. It is also possible to diagnose some forms of infertility based on the length of your cycle and other related factors.

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Ovulation

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In simple terms, ovulation is the release of an egg from the ovary. This process is a delicate balance of a variety of hormones working in conjunction to mature the follicle and prepare for the release of the egg, at which point the pregnancy can occur. Once released, the egg travels down the fallopian tube. If it meets with sperm, the egg can be fertilized and will continue its way to the uterus, leading to pregnancy.

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Why track fertility?

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Fertility tracking consists of monitoring the signs of ovulation and timing intercourse to try to become pregnant. To some extent, this allows you to schedule your pregnancy; you may even be able to make it coincide with vacation time or other events. Fertility tracking is also a tool that can help you determine the best days to have sex because conception is not possible on every day of your cycle.

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Ovulation prediction

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For years, predicting ovulation has been mostly based on the timing of your period and the average length of your menstrual cycle. In an average menstrual cycle of 28 days, you will typically ovulate two weeks before your next period begins. However, scientific advances have made it much easier to pinpoint your own ovulation. You can now do it yourself with at-home urine tests.

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Basal body temperature (BBT)

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The basal body temperature (BBT) is the temperature of your body at rest, measured to a 10th of a degree. BBT is best taken before you get up and move around in the morning. One of the first ovulation prediction methods was based on slight changes in the BBT. The BBT will drop and then spike around ovulation. It drops again once the period starts or, in the case of pregnancy, stays elevated. You can keep track of your BBT simply with a pencil and paper or with an app on your phone.

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Planning intercourse

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Knowing when you ovulate can help you get pregnant more quickly and easily. However, the egg is really only viable for about 24 hours. This means that it needs to be exposed to sperm within this timeframe. It takes a while for the sperm to move through the female’s reproductive tract, and conception usually takes place in the outer third of the fallopian tube. By planning sex around when you anticipate ovulation, you increase your chances of conceiving during this narrow window.

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Health history

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The health history of both partners is key. You will want to consider a preconceptional health visit and think about potential problems like sexually transmitted disease history and other medical conditions. Prior health issues can alter your fertility, even if you have fully recovered. Physical exams prior to pregnancy can help you identify potential problems. Talk to your practitioner about any concerns you may have.

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Infertility

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Infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant after trying for 1 year with no birth control and well-timed intercourse (with ovulation prediction). If you’re over 35, see your doctor after just six months. About one in eight people deal with infertility. About one third of cases involve the man, and one third involve the woman. In other cases, either both partners are a factor or the cause is unknown. There are techniques your team can try to treat infertility depending on the cause.