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Everything you need to know about how to get pregnant

You may have been led to believe in Sex Ed that pregnancy (or chlamydia) is almost guaranteed to occur the moment you get busy without a condom. For some lucky unicorns, perhaps, but for most of us, now that you’re actually trying to get pregnant, there’s a surprising amount of work involved in facilitating the miracle of life. 

Having sex is just one itty bitty part of the pregnancy puzzle. You also need to know how your body works, how your lifestyle habits and health can help – or hinder! – your chances of conceiving, and when to get a fertility specialist on speed dial. Here’s everything you need to know about how to get pregnant. Buckle up.

Before trying to conceive

Before any sperm goes near that little egg, you’ll want to check in on your health, wellbeing, and lifestyle choices, as these can impact your ability to conceive. Here’s how you may go about it.

 

Chat to your doctor about your health

You and your partner’s health can contribute to your ability to get pregnant (side note: while women do the lion’s share of pregnancy, the getting pregnant part isn’t all on you, girl!). A preconception health check with your primary care doctor can help identify any red flags or lifestyle changes you both might need to make before you start trying for a baby. Topics to discuss include: 

  • Pre-existing medical conditions – we’ve all got something going on with our bodies. But some conditions, like sexually transmitted diseases, diabetes, thyroid issues, and high blood pressure, can affect your ability to get pregnant and even cause complications during pregnancy. Your doctor can review any conditions you might have, help you understand how they could affect your goal of having a baby, and assist with treatment. 
  • The medications, herbs, and vitamins you’re taking – certain medications, herbs, and vitamins can be harmful during pregnancy. Speak with your doctor about what you’re taking to determine what you can and can’t continue to consume and in what doses or to find alternatives if you need to. 
  • Family health history – it’s essential to understand both you and your partners’ family health history because certain conditions, like developmental disability or genetic disease, can be passed on to your little one. If there is anything of note, your doctor can help with a path forward, including a referral to a genetic counselor who can run tests and provide recommendations

Stop using your birth control

If you use birth control, it has, until now, been preventing you from getting pregnant (even if you’ve been using it for another purpose, like to manage period pain or balance your hormones). So you’ll need to stop using it if you want to have a baby. 

Speak to your doctor about your plan to come off your birth control so you can do so safely and while managing any side effects that might occur – some women report symptoms like breast tenderness, fluid retention, mood changes, and changes to appetite and food cravings after coming off contraception.

Once you stop using your birth control, your body should re-establish its natural menstrual cycle. While this can take up to three months, it’s essential to know you can get pregnant as soon as you stop using birth control. So if you aren’t quite ready to conceive, be sure to use other methods of contraception (like condoms) if you’re getting it on. 


Start tracking your ovulation

Ovulation is a crucial part of trying to conceive. It’s a phase in your menstrual cycle where an egg drops from your ovary into your fallopian tube, ready to be fertilized by sperm to make a baby. So tracking your ovulation can help you predict the best time to have sex to get pregnant. 

How do you track ovulation? You can:

  • Use a period tracking app with an ovulation calculator – it uses the first and last dates of your period to predict when you might be ovulating. Note that you will need to wait until your natural menstrual cycle has returned after coming off birth control to ensure what you’re tracking is as accurate as possible. 
  • Use an at-home ovulation test kit – these test the levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) in your pee, which can indicate ovulation.
  • Chart your basal body temperature – your basal body temperature is your body’s resting temperature. It changes throughout your menstrual cycle, dipping just before ovulation and rising again afterward. So if you chart it, you might recognize when you’re ovulating. 
  • Monitor changes in your body – our bodies are clever old things that give off signs of ovulation. Right before that egg drops, you might be hornier than usual, have more vaginal discharge, or have tender boobs and mild tummy cramps (isn’t being a woman fun?).
 

Assess your lifestyle

If you are looking to get pregnant, it’s important to be aware that certain lifestyle choices like smoking, taking drugs, and drinking alcohol are linked to decreased fertility in women and men and are associated with birth defects, premature birth, and infant death. Your doctor, as part of any preconception health discussion, will likely recommend you kiss these habits goodbye. Doing so before trying to conceive means you’ve got time to seek professional help if you need it and that you’re not trying to wean yourself off anything while battling through the first trimester and the nausea, fatigue, and general blah-ness that can come with it.

 

Get your body to an optimal weight

Being overweight or underweight can affect your chances of getting pregnant and even cause complications during pregnancy (not ideal, to say the least). 

Being overweight can:

  • Prevent you from ovulating and inhibit fertility treatments from working
  • Increase your risk for developing health complications during pregnancy, like gestational diabetes
  • Increase your need for a cesarean
  • Put your baby at risk of developing health issues like heart defects and diabetes.

 

While being underweight can:

  • Cause your body to stop making estrogen, which can lead to irregular periods and ovulation issues
  • Increase your risk for premature delivery and for having a low-weight baby.

 

Your doctor can help assess your weight and advise how to drop or gain a few pounds if you need. But this can take time, so reviewing your weight, wherever it’s at, before trying to conceive means you’re set when it’s ‘go’ time.

 

Make sure your nutrition is in order

Nutrients are essential for your health. Up to now, you’ve probably done a great job at getting what you need through food (#crushingit). But during pregnancy, certain nutrients help your baby grow and develop, meaning you may need to increase your intake. And doing so before trying to conceive can help ensure your body is teeming with nutrients when you do get pregnant. 

Those key nutrients? Well, there are four:

  • Folic acid (or its naturally occurring form: folate) – helps reduce your baby’s risk of brain and spine defects. This nutrient is especially crucial to take before and while trying to conceive because the neural tube (which eventually becomes your baby’s brain and spine) starts to develop in the first four weeks when you likely don’t even know you’re pregnant.
  • Iron – helps your body to make red blood cells, prevents anemia during pregnancy, and helps your baby to build up their blood supply. 
  • Calcium – helps your baby’s bones to grow. 
  • Vitamin D – works with calcium to help your baby develop strong bones and teeth. It’s also essential for skin and eyes. 

 

You can up your intake of these nutrients by eating particular foods. For example, folate, iron, protein, and calcium are found in leafy greens, meat, salmon and tuna, dairy products, citrus fruits, nuts, and eggs. And, you could take prenatal vitamins. They provide the recommended doses of each of these nutrients in one pill, meaning you’re getting what you need without having to overthink it (a win in our books). 

Experts recommend you begin taking a prenatal vitamin at least one month before you start trying to conceive. So if you know you’re going to start trying soon, hit up the vitamin aisle at your nearest pharmacy or head online.

 

Engage a fertility doctor to discuss your options

Not everyone needs the help of a fertility doctor. But a lot of people do because fertility roadblocks happen! There are several instances in which you’d likely need to see a fertility doctor during your journey to motherhood, including:

 

  • You have a health condition that affects your ovulation (like PCOS), or you have irregular periods
  • You’re over the age of 40 – age can affect fertility, plus it can put you into the high-risk pregnancy category (where you’re likely to need extra medical care and attention)
  • Your partner has a known fertility issue (like erectile dysfunction)
  • You’re a single mom or in a same-sex relationship and using an egg or sperm donor (or both)

 

 

If you fall into any of these categories, see a fertility doctor straight up before trying to conceive. They can help you understand the different ways you can get pregnant and determine the best course of treatment for you (so hopefully, you’ll be sending out a pregnancy announcement in no time). 

While trying to conceive

You’re starting to try for a baby – wow! However, as exciting as it can be, the ‘trying’ part of trying to conceive can become frustrating, especially if you do not see success. So knowing how to have sex to get pregnant, how to help your wellbeing during this period, and when to seek professional help can be crucial.

 

Understand how and when to have sex 

Ask any couple trying to conceive, and you’d think having sex to get pregnant is some sort of competitive sport. The timing! The quality! What happened when! 

While it all sounds a little intense, having sex in a certain way and at a specific time can help your chances of conceiving. So here’s how to have sex to get pregnant:  

  • Check your accessories – lubricant is a fabulous invention, but some lubes can affect the sperm’s ability to move through your lady bits. Not helpful! So if lube is a part of your sexy time routine, make sure it’s ‘sperm friendly’ – First Response’s ‘Pre-Seed’ lube is said to be top-notch.
  • Get into position – just to be clear, there’s no evidence confirming that one sex position is better than another when it comes to getting pregnant. But if the aim is to get the sperm where it needs to go, a position – like missionary or doggy-style – that allows for deeper penetration makes sense to us!
  • Make sure you both orgasm (if you can, because we’re all different!) – your partner’s orgasm is vital because that’s how the sperm are gonna get where they gotta go. But make sure you have ‘fun’ too, girl! While there’s no relationship between orgasm and fertility, it is thought to help promote sperm transportation (and every little bit counts, right?).
  • Get it on at the right time – remember that ovulation tracking we mentioned? Here’s where it comes into play. The best time to have sex is when you think you’re ovulating. Not when the egg itself has dropped, but when it’s about to happen. This is your fertile window (it’s about six days long and is essentially the lead-up to that egg being released). You want sperm lying in wait for that little egg during this time because the poor thing only lives for 24 hours once it’s out of your ovary. Make sense? 
  • Have sex as frequently as you like – how often you have sex during your fertile window is really up to you. You might have sex twice a day or twice in total. The last thing you want is for sex to become a chore. But do know that having sex daily increases your chances of conceiving (compared to having sex less frequently). 


One final point: you might have heard that you should lay with your legs in the air for 15 minutes after having sex if you want to get pregnant. This is a myth! It doesn’t help those sperm to get to where they need to go because they’re likely already there – sperm is thought to travel to the fallopian tube (where your egg is waiting) in as quickly as two minutes. Talk about fast…

Manage your stress levels 

Trying to conceive can be stressful. But you know what doesn’t pair well with stress? Pregnancy. Research has shown that stress can interfere with your ability to get pregnant – geez. So now, more than ever, you’ll want to keep yourself feeling chill. According to the brains trust at Psychology Today, some tips for keeping your stress levels low while trying to conceive include: 

  • Accept what you’re feeling – whether that’s stress, frustration, disappointment, trying to push it away can only make you feel it more.
  • Limit the amount of conception and pregnancy blog or forum scrolling you might be doing – you don’t need that hectic juju in your life.
  • Make plans for the two-week wait between ovulation and your next expected period – distraction is the name of the game.
  • Don’t make trying to conceive your whole life – have other activities or hobbies going on, so it doesn’t become all-consuming.

 

Before starting to try for a baby, you might also talk with your partner or your support network about how you’ll cope if things don’t go to plan or become challenging. You might also discuss how you’re going to make the whole ‘having a baby’ thing work because those little things ain’t cheap or easy to look after (even if they are adorable as hell).

 

Seek professional help if things aren’t working

Despite your best intentions, sometimes things just don’t go to plan. You might have been trying for months, holding out hope for the two blue lines of a positive pregnancy test and looking for any of the first signs of pregnancy. But to no avail. So it’s time to call in the big guns. 

If you’re under 35 and have been trying for a year with no success, or if you’re 35 or older and have been trying for six months with no result, find yourself a fertility doctor or a fertility clinic. Your reproductive system might need a little nudge with some fertility medication. You might require a little help getting the sperm where they need to go, with IVF or artificial insemination. Or you might discuss options like egg donation or surrogacy. Whatever the case, know there are specialists that can help and that there are many options for having a baby (don’t you just love modern medicine?). 

There you have it: how to get pregnant. We hope this is helpful on your journey, mama. But please remember that everyone’s path to pregnancy is different. It might be easy; it might be challenging. It might be everything in between. Know you’re not alone. 

For more information on how to get pregnant, view our collection on the Mumli App. And when you do find yourself pregnant, check out our collection on Pregnancy – it’s got all the details you need on what to expect during those nine months. 

 

The information in this article does not replace medical advice. Speak to your doctor if you have any concerns about your health.

  

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Overview: Preconception Health

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Planning for Pregnancy

American Pregnancy Association, Medication and Pregnancy

American Pregnancy Association, Herbs and Pregnancy 

American Pregnancy Association, Vitamin Overdose During Pregnancy

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Family Health History During Pregnancy 

Nemours Children’s Health, Prenatal Genetic Counseling

University of Michigan Health, Basal Body Temperature (BBT) Charting

Verywell Family, What is Ovulation?

Verywell Family, Nutrition During Pregnancy

de Angelis C, Nardone A, Garifalos F, et al. Smoke, alcohol and drug addiction and female fertility. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2020;18(1):21. Published 2020 Mar 12. doi:10.1186/s12958-020-0567-7

Mueller BA, Daling JR, Weiss NS, Moore DE. Recreational drug use and the risk of primary infertility. Epidemiology. 1990 May;1(3):195-200. 

Van Heertum K, Rossi B. Alcohol and fertility: how much is too much?. Fertil Res Pract. 2017;3:10. Published 2017 Jul 10. 

Sansone, A., Di Dato, C., de Angelis, C. et al. Smoke, alcohol and drug addiction and male fertility. Reprod Biol Endocrinol 16, 3 (2018). 

Office on Women’s Health, Weight, Fertility and Pregnancy

Planned Parenthood, What are prenatal vitamins?

Verywell Family, Top Sperm-Friendly and Natural Lubricants for Fertility

Fert Start, Optimizing natural fertility: a committee opinion

Lynch CD, Sundaram R, Maisog JM, Sweeney AM, Buck Louis GM. Preconception stress increases the risk of infertility: results from a couple-based prospective cohort study–the LIFE study. Hum Reprod. 2014;29(5):1067-1075. doi:10.1093/humrep/deu032

Psychology Today, 8 Tips for Coping with the Stress of Trying to Conceive

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