8 Things You Didn't Know About How to Get Pregnant

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Ashley Festa

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When you’re ready to conceive, you want to get pregnant quickly and easily. Unfortunately, it’s not always as simple as having regular, unprotected sex, or even using an ovulation calendar or fertility monitor. Many women don’t realize how many factors affect their ability to conceive. Here’s a look at some lesser-known tips to try when you’re “trying."


1. Start trying to conceive before you ovulate.

If you’re tracking your ovulation cycle, you may know the days when you’re most fertile. But don’t delay intercourse until the day you expect to ovulate. Sperm can live inside a woman’s reproductive system for up to three days, waiting for the egg to arrive. After an egg is released, though, it must be fertilized within 12 to 24 hours before it dissolves. Instead of waiting, have sex several times in the six days prior to ovulation. That way, the sperm will be ready when the egg shows up.

2. Drink a dose of cough syrup.

Some evidence suggests that taking an expectorant for a few days before you ovulate could make it easier to get pregnant. Expectorants that contain the active ingredient guaifenesin relieve congestion by loosening up mucus in your chest—and in the rest of your body, including your cervical mucus. Wet, slippery cervical fluid makes it easier for sperm to pass through and fertilize your egg. Just make sure the cough medicine you take doesn’t contain antihistamines and decongestants, which will dry up the mucus and make it more difficult for sperm to reach the egg.

3. Trade a glass of skim milk for a serving of ice cream.

Calcium is important to a healthy pregnancy, and some research has shown that occasionally opting for full-fat dairy products aids in fertility. In a study of more than 17,000 healthy nurses, those who stuck with low-fat and nonfat dairy products had higher risk of anovulatory infertility—in which the ovaries don’t release eggs for three months or more—than those who chose high-fat dairy foods. But be careful: A little goes a long way. You need only one serving of full-fat dairy each day to reap the benefits, or choose a half-cup serving of ice cream a couple times a week. Overdoing it can lead to excessive weight gain, which is known to cause infertility.

4. Take folic acid before trying to conceive.

If you’re of childbearing age, pregnant or not, you should be taking at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. Having plenty of folic acid in your body before and during pregnancy can prevent major birth defects, such as spina bifida. Even if you aren’t trying to conceive, it’s still important to take folic acid. Up to 50% of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and women need folic acid very early in the pregnancy, often before they even realize they’re expecting. The developmental benefits and protection to the fetus provided by folic acid typically peak before a woman knows she is pregnant. With some health conditions and medications, you might need a higher dose—up to 10 times the typical amount—so talk to your doctor if you’re trying to conceive.

5. Stop smoking before you get pregnant. 

You’ll have better success when you try to conceive if you stop smoking ahead of time. Research has shown smoking can increase infertility compared with nonsmokers. So don’t wait until you’re pregnant to ditch the cigarettes.

6. Avoid lubricants.

Although extra lubrication can make sexual intercourse more enjoyable, it can negatively affect fertility. Most over-the-counter lubricants and even saliva can impair sperm’s motility, which decreases its ability to fertilize an egg. So it’s better to do without it while you’re trying to get pregnant.

7. Make sure you’re ovulating.

A regular, predictable cycle of between 24 and 32 days usually means you’re ovulating normally. Irregular or abnormal periods probably indicate you aren’t ovulating, making it impossible to get pregnant. If you suffer from excessive stress, hormonal imbalance or another condition that disrupts your regular periods, contact your doctor to discuss your options.

8. Don’t worry if it takes longer than you expected.

Your biological clock is real, and if you’re older than 35, you might have difficulty getting pregnant. But even for a younger woman, it could take several months of trying to conceive before she gets pregnant. So don’t worry if you’ve been unsuccessful for a few months. If you’ve been having carefully timed, unprotected sex for a year without success, or if you’re older than 35 and haven’t conceived after six months’ effort, it’s time to contact your doctor to discuss infertility.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 24, 2015

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Medical References

  1. Allen J. Wilcox, Clarice R. Weinberg, and Donna D. Baird. “Timing of Sexual Intercourse in Relation to Ovulation — Effects on the Probability of Conception, Survival of the Pregnancy, and Sex of the Baby.” The New England Journal of Medicine. 1995; 333:1517-1521. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199512073332301#t=articleDiscussion
  2. “Using Robitussin/Guaifenesin to Improve Cervical Mucus.” Fertility Plus. http://www.fertilityplus.com/faq/cm.html
  3. J.E. Chavarro, J.W. Rich-Edwards, B. Rosner, and W.C. Willett. “A prospective study of dairy foods intake and anovulatory infertility.” Oxford Journals. Human Reproduction. 2007; 22 (5): 1340-1347. http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/content/22/5/1340.full
  4. Who needs folic acid? Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/folic-acid.html#b
  5. What causes infertility in women? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/infertility/#d 
  6. C. Augood, K. Duckitt, and A.A. Templeton. “Smoking and female infertility: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Oxford Journals. Human Reproduction. 1998; 13 (6): 1532–1539. http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/content/13/6/1532.full.pdf
  7. L. Anderson S.E. Lewis, and N. McClure. “The effects of coital lubricants on sperm motility in vitro.” Human Reproduction. 1998; Dec. (12):3351-6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9886513

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