Conceiving or becoming pregnant is the most natural thing in the world. For some, it is. For others it can mean months (possibly years) of stress and anxiety, just waiting for a blue line to appear on a pregnancy test.

Two main criteria for helping the process of becoming pregnant are:

  • Keeping our bodies in good health
  • Knowing the times in your cycle that you may become pregnant.

Women are all different, we look different and feel different. Your cycle is no exception. Some women have what doctors call a ‘normal’ pattern of periods of 28 days. Others have slightly less; some have longer – as long as 40 days. There is no difference at all when it comes to trying to conceive; we all stand the same chances as each other.

How to discover how long your cycle is

Before you can begin to chart your fertility, you need to know how long your average cycle lasts.
It is important to make a note of (at least) the last two dates that your period started.
The first day of your period is the day bleeding starts. Mark this down in your calendar.
The next date to markdown is the date of your next period. Now count the days between the two dates and minus one. This is your cycle length.

Example:

  • Bleeding starts: 29th March
  • Next period starts (bleeding): 30th April
  • Number of days between: 33
  • Minus one: 32
  • 32 is the cycle length.

Women with an average 28-day menstrual cycle are normally fertile 14-17 days after their first period starts. This is the ovulation time, when changes in the body encourage an egg from the ovaries.

The egg than stays in one of the fallopian tubes for around 48-72 hours, waiting to be fertilized by the male sperm. If it isn’t, it’s expelled with the womb lining as your next period.

So really, there is only a short window of approximately two-three days in which it is possible to become pregnant. This is why timing is crucial.

It is a relatively easy process for your body to cope with, and yet it causes much upset if for any reason it just isn’t happening for you.

I’ve charted my fertility and it isn’t working, what can I do?

  • Be patient. I realize it is stressful, and when you desperately want a baby it is hard to understand why it isn’t working for you.
  • Try not to stress yourself. Thinking about it all the time won’t help you. It will just make you more anxious. It is a well-known fact that couples trying for their first baby often have a few hurdles. Their second happens quickly and without fuss. The reason for this is the loss of stress and pressure.
  • Are you healthy? Often conceiving is made more difficult for those with dietary problems such as obesity.

If you feel you have been trying to conceive for more than one year, using the available methods for charting your fertility, consult your doctor for referral to a fertility clinic.

What can I do to help it along?

If you think you may have calculated your dates wrongly, and are therefore making love at the wrong times, there are ovulation-testing kits available from most chemists.

These consist of approximately five test sticks (very similar to a pregnancy test). When you think you may be ovulating, urinate on the stick. The kit tests for signs of luteinizing hormone (LH) in your body – a hormone that is needed for the ovulation process. If two blue lines appear and the appropriate line is stronger than the other, you will be ovulating within 72 hours, and you should make plans with your partner to make love at this time.

To make sure the test is accurate you need to:

  • Ensure you test at the same time every day. There’s no need to take the test at the same time every day, just collect a sample at the same time and test later is this is more convenient.
  • Collect between the hours of 10 am – 8 pm – Do NOT use your first-morning sample.
  • Medicines containing hCG or LH (and other hormone medications) can affect the test.

Having a rough idea when you may be ovulating is a good idea before using an ovulation testing kit. You only get 5 or so tests in a kit (they are not re-usable) and the kit costs approximately £20.

Another way of charting your fertility are by talking about your temperature. Your body temperature rises significantly when you are about to conceive. This isn’t as easy as it sounds as you’ll need to keep a steady chart of your temperature over many months. You’ll also need to ensure that you take it at the same time every day.

Watch for signs from your body the next time you know you are ovulating, such as:

  • rise in temperature
  • possible giddiness as you climb high stairs
  • slight headaches
  • tender breasts
  • change in your cervical mucus (from a clear to cloudy)

If you can detect these signs with a little practice, you can easily predict when you are ovulating without the need for charting.

In most cases where couples are trying for their first baby, eliminating some of the stress and pressure can only help. Relax and enjoy your time together, you’ll probably find that it’ll happen sooner than you think – if you’re not thinking about it!

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