Trying to conceive can be an exciting time – after all, you're attempting to make an entirely new human! – but it can also bring its fair share of frustration and emotions.
While you can't always control how or when you fall pregnant, there are many ways you can increase your chances of conceiving.
What you can do to help fall pregnant
There are many things that women and men can do for your health to help improve your chances of conception, including:
• If you're a smoker, it's time to quit, because smokers of both genders are more likely to have fertility problems. The good news is that the negative effects of smoking on fertility are shown to be reversed a year after you quit.
• Cut down the amount of alcohol you drink, as alcohol has been shown to increase the length of time it takes to get pregnant. Check the National Health and Medical Research Council's alcohol guidelines for more information.
• The weight of both partners has been shown to affect fertility, so if you're carrying more than you'd like around the middle it could be worth looking at weight loss options to increase your chances of conceiving.
• While solid evidence linking caffeine to conception troubles hasn't been gained, many experts say it's wise to cut down your caffeine intake while trying to conceive.
• Take supplements that support conception and pregnancy. Women are encouraged to take folate to help stave off neural tube defects, and iodine to help development.
• Men should keep cool down there by avoiding tight clothing and underwear so they don't overheat the testicles. This is because sperm is produced at slightly below body temperature, and heat can impact on sperm quality.
• A generally healthy lifestyle that includes nutritious foods and regular exercise will be beneficial as you try to conceive. This will also serve you well as you move through pregnancy and into parenthood.
Tracking your cycle
This is the time to get up close and personal with your cycle. You'll want to know when you're ovulating and when your period is due. Here are some tips to help you keep track of your cycle:
• the first day of your period is called Day One of your cycle
• you ovulate about 14 days before the start of your period (whether you have a standard 28-day cycle or a shorter or longer cycle)
• you're at your most fertile from two to three days before ovulation, through to the day you actually ovulate
• you might notice more wetness and cervical mucous around the time of ovulation; this is one of the clues your body will give you to help conceive
• write your cycle down in a diary, along with clues you're noticing such as dryness or wetness. You could also use an app like My Cycles Period and Ovulation Tracker.
• some experts suggest only having sex during ovulation, while others advise having sex as often as possible right throughout your cycle for as long as you're trying to conceive. The latter idea is particularly helpful if your cycle isn't regular or you aren't able to track it.
When to take a pregnancy test
You'll probably be keen to know when you're pregnant, as soon as possible. It isn't just because of curiosity that you want this information, though – early detection is important to help you make choices that are best for this vital stage of your tiny baby's development.
You might take a pregnancy test when your period is late, or when you suspect you feel symptoms of pregnancy (such as morning sickness, tender breasts, fatigue or food cravings or aversions). A pregnancy test allows you to check for pregnancy even before your period is due, to give you the earliest possible answer.
Which positions are best for conception?
Conception sex can easily become more like a routine than an enjoyable time together. So while there is no evidence to suggest that having sex in any specific position is more likely to help you conceive, it's certainly fun to try some new things to spice up your efforts. Some theories suggest that doggie style sex (and other positions with similarly deep penetration) gets the sperm closer to the uterus; another theory is that good old missionary style (with him on top) works best, due to gravity.
When to seek help in conceiving
If you're having trouble conceiving, you are among the 9 per cent of Australian couples who experience this frustrating and emotional rollercoaster. So when is it time to ask for help?
It's advised that if you've been trying for a year without success, it's time to see your GP or visit a fertility centre. If you're over 35, you should take action after six months of trying to conceive.
Often there can be simple solutions or advice that can make all the difference. There are common conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis that can affect fertility. If you're diagnosed with these, your GP can refer you to a specialist who can assist your conception efforts.