Preconception

According to the American Pregnancy Association, there are more than 4 million births a year in the United States. But having a baby isn’t just about the nine months of pregnancy. It takes planning and a healthy body to successfully conceive. Understanding ovulation and making healthy lifestyle changes can greatly increase your chances of getting pregnant.

Ovulation

Ovulation is a part of the process in the female’s menstrual cycle and occurs when the mature egg is released from the ovary and is available to be fertilized. The lining of the uterus thickens each month to prepare for a fertilized egg. If conception does not occur, the uterine lining and the unfertilized egg will be shed at the time of menstruation.

There’s a small window of opportunity each month for the egg to be fertilized. This is about five days before ovulation and extending through the day of ovulation. Ovulation normally occurs about halfway through a woman’s menstrual cycle, counting from the first day of a period. If periods are irregular, there are other signs to look out for which may indicate ovulation is taking place.

Signs of Ovulation

  •     Cramps in the lower abdominal area.
  •     Basal body temperature increases dramatically as soon as ovulation occurs.
  •     Cervical mucus will increase and become clearer in appearance.
  •     The cervix changes position.

Preparing for Pregnancy

You can increase your chances for conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy and delivery by making positive lifestyle choices and planning ahead.

Nutrition

A well-balanced and varied diet will help to provide couples with all of the nutrients they need to prepare the body for conception. The digestive system in pregnant women changes and becomes more efficient at absorbing certain nutrients, and most of the additional nutrients needed during pregnancy can be met by eating a well-balanced diet, although attention is needed for a few key nutrients that are especially important for a developing baby.

Folic Acid

It is important for women to get an adequate intake of folic acid. Studies have shown that folic acid in a woman’s diet before she conceives and in early pregnancy can significantly reduce the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in her developing baby. Folic acid is found naturally in whole grains and green leafy vegetables, and is also available as a supplement.

Body Weight

Both men and women who are trying to conceive should work to maintain a healthy body weight. Women who are severely overweight or underweight reduce the chances of conception, and can increase the risk of serious complications during pregnancy.

Other ways to increase chances of conception include:

  •     Quit smoking.
  •     Stop drinking alcohol.
  •     Watch caffeine intake.
  •     Lower stress levels.
  •     Avoid exposure to hazardous chemicals.
  •     Get some rest.
  •     See a dentist to make sure your gums are healthy.
  •     Check the safety of prescription drugs.
  •     Have sex regularly.

Infertility Problems 

According to The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, more than 10 percent of couples in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant. If you’ve been having unprotected sex for a year, or for six months if you are over 35, without conceiving, it’s possible that you or your partner have infertility problems. The good news is that 90 percent of couples experiencing infertility problems can be successfully treated.

Causes of infertility may include:

For Men:

  •  Sperm disorders, such as a low sperm count, not swimming correctly (motility problems), or abnormal shapes.
  •   A blockage of the man’s ejaculatory duct.

For Women:

  • blocked fallopian tubes
  • ovulation problems
  • endometriosis

There are many options for infertility treatment and the right option will depend on the cause(s) of infertility. Talk to your doctor to devise a plan. Some of the most common treatments available include:

  •     fertility drugs
  •     artificial insemination
  •     surgery
  •     in vitro fertilization (IVF)