So you've decided to have a baby. Congratulations! This is a very exciting time of your life. All of the excitement often makes many of us want to speed up the process. But that means it's even more essential to remember the power of patience: making a baby can take time, and trying to rush things will only ramp up anxiety (especially when your friends seem to be sharing their good news constantly, and the in-laws are asking, "Are you pregnant yet?" every time they see you).
Often, after years of painstaking birth control, it can be a tough realization that getting pregnant when you finally want to isn't as easy as you thought it would be. To ease the anxiety a bit, here are six guiding questions to ask your doctor once you decide you are ready to conceive:
1. How long will it take for me to get pregnant?
This depends on a great number of factors. So it can be helpful, regardless of specific circumstances, to realize that making a baby takes time, often up to 12 months. If you've been trying for longer than a year, it may be time to see your doctor to begin an infertility evaluation. If you're older than 35, remember that trying to conceive can take longer because of the impact on your eggs; if this is the case, and you have been trying to conceive for at least six months, you may consider starting your evaluation early (e.g. after six months, rather than a year). In any of these cases, don't panic. Try to be patient and have fun in the process. After all, stress will only exacerbate the challenge.
2. How much will my age really affect my chances?
As far as numbers go, the chances of a woman naturally having a baby after age 35 decline by about 50%, and they decline by about 90% after age 40. As mentioned, if you're under 35, see an infertility expert after one year of trying without success. If you're 35 or older, see an infertility expert if you don't conceive naturally within six months. If you're over 38, be seen after three months of unsuccessful trying. And remember that going to see an infertility specialist doesn't necessarily mean you are infertile. Rather, you are taking an empowering step in your path to parenthood, regardless of the outcome. Though conceiving after 40 may be difficult, it's not impossible, so ask your doctor what else you can do to increase your chances.
3. Should I take prenatal vitamins? If so, what kind?
Yes! Of course, eating whole, unprocessed foods is even more essential for trying to raise your chances of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy. But prenatal vitamins can help fill in any holes in the mother's diet. Ask your doctor to recommend a good prenatal vitamin with calcium and lots of B6 when you first start thinking about having a baby. Also, it can be helpful to add an Omega-3 supplement to your daily routine. Look for those with a greater amount of DHA and EPA.
4. Does timing matter?
You're best bet is try to conceive just before and during ovulation, which happens anywhere from 13 to 20 days before your period. I recommend using an ovulation predictor kit to time intercourse. Then, have sex a few days leading up to and on the day of ovulation.
Remember that sperm can live up to six days in your body, but your egg can only survive 12 to 24 hours. For this reason, the timing I suggest gives you the best odds of the sperm and egg meeting. To be sure you're getting the timing right, pick up a fertility monitor to help you map your fertility calendar. Use a digital thermometer, which is much faster and easier to use than a standard one for basal temperature measurements. And to keep you on track, use a journal to keep track as a personal conception and pregnancy organizer.
5. Can I use a lubricant?
If having timed relations is affecting your ability to be intimate, a lubricant is a great option. But many lubricants may actually negatively affect sperm motility. Try Pre-Seed: it's the only FDA-cleared, clinically shown "Fertility-Friendly" lubricant developed by doctors and used by fertility clinics. Use the applicator to apply it near the cervix. Its pH balanced to match fertile cervical mucus as well as the pH of sperm, so it won't harm your chances of conceiving. The package recommends seeing a doctor if you're not pregnant within six months of use.
6. When should I take a pregnancy test? And which one should I use?
Home pregnancy tests work by detecting levels of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) that is produced during pregnancy. These tests can only detect hCG after implantation occurs, which is generally 10 days post-ovulation (dpo). But don't freak out if a test comes up negative at 10 dpo, since it's not an exact science and you may still get pregnant up to 15 dpo. 15 dpo is when a woman who is not pregnant will typically get her period, so it's the "first day of a missed period."
Having babies is a journey, and one that requires questioning and patience. So start with these questions, and you'll be at a great starting place to begin your path to parenthood.