Making the decision to 'try' for a baby is an exciting time in a couple's relationship. Sadly, for some people having a baby isn't as simple as just having sex and then falling pregnant quickly. While many people have a smooth route to pregnancy, other couples struggle to conceive, with 1 in 7 couples experiencing fertility issues.
Sometimes people 'over plan' pregnancy sex and can succumb to avoidable mistakes that can affect conception goals. Having helped patients with fertility problems for over 20 years, here are my top tips on what mistakes to avoid and how to try and correct them.
1. Only having sex during the ovulation period - Some couple's try to 'save up' sperm for the ovulation period, and then barely have any sex at all through the month. Whilst it's true that you're most fertile during this time, you can still try to conceive every two or three days regularly throughout the month to maximise your chances.
2. Mistiming ovulation - If you have an ovulation predictor kit, or if you're charting your basal body temperature or using the calendar method to try to identify ovulation, you may think it makes sense to get physical the day of ovulation -- but that may be too late. After ovulation, the egg can be fertilized for only about 24 hours. If you're wrong about ovulation, you'll have to wait to try again the next month. Also, as sperm has the potential to survive for up to 24-48 hours, it is highly recommended for you to have sex on alternate days 4 to 6 days prior to ovulation and continue doing so for another 4 to 6 days after it.
3. Having too much sex - Some couples assume that conceiving is a simple formula: the more sex you have, the easier and sooner you'll conceive. But more isn't always better. Although having sex frequently won't decrease the potency of a man's sperm, as many believe, it too often can potentially cause problems. If it's for reproductive purposes alone, having sex multiple times a day or even every single day could cause 'burnout,' and the couple may begin to view sex as little more than a pre-ovulatory chore.
4. Neglecting your own health & wellbeing - To maximise your fertility, it's important to make nutritional and lifestyle assessments of your diet, work-life balance, your relationship, and also your knowledge and awareness of your own fertility. I believe that the best way to conceive is to start by looking at five key areas in your life - medical, nutrition, relationship, mindset and lifestyle. So, mind, body, emotional and psychological factors such as stress levels or poor diet and how you are managing them can all adversely affect your chances of conception.
5. Not getting help soon enough - No one wants to admit they may have a problem, but if you are aged 30 or over and have been trying to conceive for more than a year, then it's best to seek medical advice. Many couples also wrongly assume that the woman may have a problem, when in fact, in 15 % of couples it will be solely a male fertility problem and in around 25% there will be a problem with both partners.
Zita West is speaking at The Fertility Show (fertilityshow.co.uk) on 'Preparing for IVF' and 'How to get pregnant and have the best possible pregnancy'.