When you Google “Am I ready,” the first suggestion is “Am I ready for a baby?” followed by “for a dog,” “to date,” and “to buy a house.” All are valid questions, but can Google give you the answer? Well, Parents thinks they can answer, “when can I get pregnant?” in eight simple questions. Take the quiz here.
Sure, the quiz covers the big questions for you and your partner: emotional readiness, financial stability, religion, but what about your health?
My Physical Health
So, what’s the best time to get pregnant? The actual physical time? Women experience a gradual decline in fertility in their 30s with a harsh decline starting at 37. After 40, there’s a pretty steep drop in chances of getting pregnant, but don’t panic! There are plenty of options, and it’s still very possible to have the family of your dreams.
Doctors suggest seeking fertility treatment if you’re over 40 and decide it’s time to have a baby. If you’re over 35 and have been unsuccessful at naturally conceiving for six months, it might be time to see a fertility specialist. If you’re under 35, you can try for up to a year before having to see a specialist. Don’t worry; even healthy, fertile couples can spend up to a year trying to get pregnant. This is a marathon, not a sprint (just like parenting).
Make sure you maintain a healthy lifestyle so your body is ready. Get yourself to a healthy weight, limit your alcohol consumption and quit smoking. You should take pre-natal vitamins and multi-vitamins.
The Ins and Outs
How do you know when to conceive? You have to get the timing just right. Once you’re ovulating, the egg only stays alive in the uterus for about 24 hours, and the sperm can live in the female reproductive system for about 72 hours (or longer).
The first step is to track your ovulation cycle. Ovulation typically begins 14 days after the first day of your period. At this time, your temperature will usually rise ½-1 degree when at rest, so take your temperature every morning before getting out of bed to keep track of it. This slight temperature increase means ovulation is happening, and you want to prepare before. Keeping track of your ovulation cycle means you can anticipate your ovulation date in the future; it’s not a green light to conceive now.
If you don’t see any changes in temperature, consult your doctor. You may not be ovulating, even though you’re getting your period. If your period is irregular, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s harder to get pregnant; it simply means it’s more difficult to track these cycles. You can either have sex regularly throughout the cycle or track the following physical changes.
Your body has it’s own way of telling you it’s ovulating. In addition to the slight increase in temperature, you may experience “fertile mucus,” which is increased vaginal discharge. It’s wetter than usual and feels like egg whites. If you notice this for two days in a row, it may be ovulation. You could also experience slight cramping in your stomach, typically on one side. This is your egg readying to leave the ovary. You may also experience an increased libido.
So you decided you’re ready, and that’s great! Doctors recommend having sex every other day during your ovulation cycle. Everyday certainly couldn’t hurt, but it might lead to decreased sperm count per ejaculation.
The best time to have sex is at night because you should lie down after. If you lie down for about 20 minutes, it should prevent the semen from leaking into the vagina.
If it’s been awhile, it’s a good idea to ejaculate once before the ovulation cycle begins. If there’s been a long wait before releasing, there can be a build up of dead sperm, and we want the agile, fertile guys.
The ladies aren’t alone on maintaining their physical health. Men too should cut back on alcohol and tobacco, maintain a healthy weight, and try to implement key nutrients in their diet (nutrients like vitamins D and C, calcium, zinc, and even men can take folic acid). Lastly, avoid excessive heat (hot tubs, warm laptops, etc.), which can kill sperm.
Keep in mind that it takes about three months for new sperm to mature, so all these healthy tips should be considered long term for the men.
My Mental Health
The last (and possible most important) thing to consider when trying to conceive is the status of your mental health. Have you ever heard the phrase, “If you can’t be happy on your own, you won’t be happy in a relationship?” The same goes for the relationship with your child. Children depend on you for everything, so you need to be self-sufficient before you can provide for a little one. If you have any extreme insecurities (whether it be about work, your partner, or yourself), you need to come to terms with them to ensure you don’t project those onto your child.
Take a good look at your history. Your parents can be a great case study. What did they do well and where could they improve? Did they provide? Did they support your dreams? Did they make fun of you when you were feeling vulnerable? Avoid the petty teenage scuffles in this reflection – it happens to the best of us.
If you had any experience with child abuse growing up, remember that parenting could trigger some of those feelings. It’s an ongoing process, so make sure you’re taking care of yourself.
Finally, ask yourself why you want to have a baby. If it’s because you think you’re supposed to or because your partner wants one, maybe it’s time to reevaluate.
Having a child isn’t easy, and it’s a huge decision to make. Being ready isn’t just about knowing the how’s and the why’s of conception, it’s also about evaluating the who’s and determining whether you and your partner are in the right stage of life to bring a child into the world. It’s one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make, and it’s important to evaluate every side of it!
Written by: Joanna Hynes