Getting pregnant should be easy...right? Why else did you spend all of your twenties religiously taking the Pill while searching for 'Mr Right'? Of course you believed your red-faced Biology teacher in that single 'Sex-Education' class, when she embarrassingly explained the anatomy of the reproductive system and warned you that even if you as much as see a naked man you might get pregnant! Why would she lie?
 
Fast forward a few years, and you and Mr Right have decided that it's time to create a cute little bundle of joy. The butterflies and excitement of that first month were amazing...you were even tempted to buy those cute little baby Ugg boots you saw in town. But since then, the months have passed and the excitement has gradually turned to worry. 'Dr Google' has diagnosed you with so many conditions at this stage that it's amazing that you are even alive. Why did no one tell you that you need a PhD in Biology in order to get pregnant? The mere sight of a pregnant woman now brings a tear to your eye.
 
Well, now it's time to take back control.
 
 
Your body is unique, so your number one priority is to figure out what your body is telling you about your fertility. Take a deep breath, relax and carefully follow these five ways to increase your chances of natural conception:
 
1. Take a break
Trying to get pregnant can quickly turn a fun and happy relationship into one that schedules intercourse with military precision. You can easily get so overwhelmed by dates and schedules that you begin to forget about what's important - each other. Why not book a weekend away or a mid-week break, and have fun!
 
Remember; even if you are young, fit and healthy it can take time to get pregnant. Statistics show that of every 100 couples trying to conceive, 85 per cent will achieve a positive result in the first 12 months.
 
 
2. Take a look at your diet and lifestyle
Start with the easy things: are you both eating well and getting some exercise? Simply ignoring your diet can have catastrophic effects on the health of eggs and sperm. Being overweight or underweight can also reduce your chances of getting pregnant and increase your chances of miscarriage. Women trying to conceive should take a mulivitamin supplement containing Folic Acid daily. Men should also take a male fertility supplement to ensure good sperm quality.
 
Research has shown that vitamin D boosts levels of progesterone and oestrogen; hormones which are essential for getting pregnant. Vitamin D deficiency in Ireland is extremely common, as it is produced by the body in response to exposure to sunshine. Unless you work outdoors most of the time, there is a good chance that you are low in vitamin D. Symptoms include tiredness, low mood, muscle weakness or difficulty thinking clearly. Vitamin D deficiency is diagniosed by taking a blood test. If you are deficient in vitamin D, you will need to take a high-dose vitamin D supplement until your levels return to normal.
 
 
3. Check your cervical mucus
This is not a joke! This one simple (and completely free) technique has been proven to increase natural pregnancy rates faster than any other method. So, how do you do this? It's very easy when you know what to look for. When ovulation is close, the change in hormone levels causes a change in the amount and consistency of cervical mucus. You need to watch out for an increase in volume, and the consistency should resemble raw egg white. This type of mucus helps the sperm to swim up to the fallopian tubes and can keep them alive for longer.
 
4. Check your temperature
Tracking your basal body temperature over the course of your cycle is so accurate at confirming ovulation that it has been used since the 1930's as a form of contraception!
 
What you need to do is take your temperature first thing every morning as soon as you wake up, using a special thermometer (a Basal Body Temperature Thermometer). When you plot your readings on a graph, you should notice a pattern. Your temperature will be lower during the first phase of your cycle. Just before ovulation there should be a dip in temperature, followed by a significant rise which will be maintained until the start of your next cycle. The increased temperature will stay at this high level if you are pregnant. Your basal body temperature graph can reveal irregularities with your cycle that you may not even be aware of. If you can clearly identify from your graph that ovulation has occured, you can be confident that you have a great chance of getting pregnant.
 
 
5. Time intercourse during your 'fertile window'
Your 'fertile window' is the time leading up to ovulation and the day of ovulation. Sperm can live in the fallopian tubes for up to five days, so you have a higher chance of getting pregnant if you time intercourse during these days as the sperm will be there waiting for the egg when it is released.
The egg only survives for around 24 hours after it is released from the ovary, so it is vital that you are able to identify when you ovulate.
 
An online Ovulation Calculator can predict your most fertile days based on your previous cycles. You can use this as a guideline, but to increase your chances of getting pregnant you should confirm ovulation using a combination of Cervical Mucus Monitoring, Basal Body Temperature Charting and Ovulation Predictor Kits.
 
 
The path to pregnancy is individual and, unfortunately, there is no user manual that we can follow. What works for one couple may not work for another. The most important thing is to identify what works for you. A recent study in the UK revealed that almost 50 per cent of people struggling to conceive did not seek any form of medical advice. Don't suffer alone. I set up my website (www.simplyconceive.ie) to make basic fertility information more accessible to everyone.
 
Misconceptions in relation to fertility treatments are a serious problem in Ireland. You can increase your chances of getting pregnant by learning to understand your own body and knowing how to identify subtle clues it can reveal about your fertility.
Natural Fertility Expert

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