How do you know all this stuff?
I spent six years, (not so) patiently waiting for my fiancé to decide that he was also ready to have children. During those years I prepared myself for the day he said those magic words, "Let’s make a baby!" I scoured the internet, read many books, and quizzed my friends who were already on their journey into parenthood. What I found was a vast amount of information and a lot of confusing and conflicting information. So with you, I will share the basics of what I have found to get you started on your own journey.
OPK, POAS, HPT, WTF?!
If you have perused the internet at all, in an attempt to find information on conception, you've no doubt come across the overwhelming amount of acronyms and terms related to all things conception. Here is a rundown of some of the more common terms, to help you on your information hunt.
OPK/OPS: Ovulation Predictor Kit, or Ovulation Predictor Stick. These are sticks, or test strips, used in the middle of a woman's menstrual cycle to detect Luteinizing Hormone in the urine, which predicts ovulation. You can get digital or dye tests. Most tests predict ovulation in 12-24 hours after a positive test is received, but always read the instructions and details first as there is some variation.
HPT: Home pregnancy test. Pregnancy tests bought over the counter to detect pregnancy hormones in the urine. These also come in sticks, or strips, and digital or dye. Some are sensitive enough to test up to 5 days before a missed period, others with a lower sensitivity are best used after a period has been missed.
HCG: Human Choriondric Gonadotropin. This is the hormone measured to test for pregnancy. It's found in the urine and blood.
LH: Luteinizing Hormone. The hormone released by the body into the urine as the body prepares for ovulation.
LP: Luteal Phase. The length of days between ovulation and the onset of menstruation. A short Luteal Phase may impede implantation and successful pregnancy.
Implantation: When the pregnancy and eventual fetus implants in the uterus. Only after implantation does the body realize it's pregnant, and pregnancy can be tested for. In general it happens 7-12 days after ovulation occurs.
POAS/PIAC: Pee on a stick, or pee in a cup. The act of taking a pregnancy test or ovulation test.
AF: Aunt flow. Menstruation.
FRER: First Response Early Response. A brand of pregnancy test that has been shown to be the most sensitive and most accurate when testing early. It's also often recommended by other women to confirm a positive result recieived with other brands.
Pink Dye/Blue Dye: The color of dye used in a pregnancy test to indicate the control and test lines. Pink dye is more often used, and less likely to give false results.
Evap: Evaporation Line. A line seen on a pregnancy test either by faulty dye, or by reading the results after the time indicated in the instructions with the test.
Digi: A digital ovulation or pregnancy test.
NTNP: Not trying, not preventing. This is when couples have unprotected sex without actively trying to conceive.
Charting: Tracking your menstrual cycle, basal body temperature, symptoms, and cervical fluids in order to pin point ovulation and fertility.
CM: Cervical mucous. The mucous or "discharge" a woman experiences. It changes throughout a woman’s cycle and can be an indicator of ovulation.
EWCM: Egg White Cervical Mucous. Fertile mucous released just before and during ovulation. It's often slightly white, cloudy or clear and very viscous and stretchy, resembling egg whites. This is when fertility is at its highest.
BBT: Basal Body Temperature. A very precise measurement of body temperature taken daily to determine ovulation.
The Biology of conception
Now, we all know someone who has gotten pregnant from having un-protected sex just once, but the reality is that a healthy couple with no known fertility issues have only approximately a 20% chance of conceiving each month.
A woman ovulates once a month, generally somewhere around the middle of her cycle. The average is stated as day 14 of a 28 day cycle, but depending on each individual and cycle length it can be a few days earlier, or a few days later.
This is where the previously mentioned ovulation predictor kits come in handy. They can be used from the beginning of a cycle, taken twice a day usually. Once the strip turns positive, ovulation will likely occur sometime soon, within the next day or so.
Once a woman has ovulated, there is approximately a 24 hour window to fertilize the egg with sperm. Having sex the days leading up to ovulation, and the day of, can help guarantee that there will be some sperm available to fertilize the egg. Sperm can live up to 7 days inside a woman if the conditions are right, so having sex each day or every other day will improve the chances of some sperm making it in time to meet the egg.
After that it is up to chance. The sperm may make it, or they may not. If one does, they need to penetrate the egg quickly in order for conception to take place. If an egg has fertilized it will attempt to implant into the lining of the woman’s uterus and the pregnancy may take hold or a “chemical” pregnancy may result, where the pregnancy is aborted very early, usually before a woman would have even missed her period.
What if you have trouble conceiving?
Some couples try and try, and do everything right, so why can’t they get pregnant? There are many factors that can cause fertility issues. It’s generally recommended to seek medical help if you have tried to conceive for at least a year with no results.
Certain hormonal imbalances, or reproductive disorders and diseases can make conception very difficult. Many of these often are not found until a couple has trouble having a baby, and testing is done. It’s important that both partners are tested for fertility because often male infertility can be a factor and it’s not always a problem with the female in the relationship. Men can have issues with the shape, size or speed of their sperm that can affect their ability to make it to the egg in time to fertilize, if they even make it there at all. Women can have issues with ovulating or the lining of their uterus, or short Luteal Phases which don’t give the egg enough time to implant into the uterus. Sometimes a couple has no problem becoming pregnant, but certain disorders or imbalances like low progesterone make it difficult or impossible for a woman to carry a pregnancy for more than a few weeks.
For most of these there is help available after testing is done. Unfortunately sometimes everything has been tried, and at that point reproductive assistance may need to be considered.
My friend said if I stand on my head after sex, I’ll get pregnant quicker!
There are many myths and anecdotal methods to improving the chances of conceiving, and even on how to conceive a certain gender. Most of them probably don’t help, but they probably won’t hurt, either.
Having the woman raise her legs and back end after sex is supposed to keep the sperm closer to the cervix instead of allowing it to all run out. The more sperm closer to the cervix, the more are likely to make it inside, in theory.
Some women use menstrual cups after sex to keep the sperm close to the cervix so they can get up and move about. Or they will keep them in over night so none of the little swimmers escape in night.
It is rumored that “boy” sperm are faster than “girl” sperm, but they are not as strong. To conceive a boy it’s best to have sex closer to ovulation and the day of ovulation. Conversely, if you’re trying for a girl, you’d want to have sex a few day away from ovulation to give the “boy” sperm time to die off, and the “girl” sperm time to make it to the egg. I can’t speak to the truth of this, but the month we conceived my daughter we had sex 4 days before I ovulated, and not once after - so there may be some truth to it after all!
In line with the previous theory, positions can make a difference too. Because “boy” sperm supposedly have shorter life span, positions such as doggy style that deposit the sperm right at the cervix increase the chances of survival. Again, the opposite is to be said of “girl” sperm, and positions that deposit the sperm further away from the cervix such as missionary, are said to raise the likely hood of those sperm outliving the “boy” sperm.
There are also diets and supplements that are said to help fertility and gender swaying, but I would not recommend either be explored until you have run them past a doctor first.
Okay, okay...I can hear you screaming at me through your computer! So many people, who have trouble conceiving or even just take the normal amount of time to conceive, are told to relax; and they hate it. I was one of them. But, it’s true. Relaxing may not increase or help you get pregnant, but stress is not good for anyone. Trying to conceive can be a stressful situation if it does not happen easily, or as quickly as you like. It can put a damper on your relationship and sex life, which is not at all helpful to the process. Outside stresses such as work problems, family problems and the like can affect menstrual cycles and just over all affect your body in a negative way. Stress is also not good for your unborn baby or pregnant body if you do happen to conceive at the time. So I won’t tell you “Relax and it will happen.” Because I know those words can be hurtful and annoying, but, “Relax, in case it does happen!”
Try to make it fun. While it can sound like a lot of fun to have to have sex day in and day out, it can get old very fast. We struggled for a bit to enjoy ourselves each and every time. It can be difficult to find sex appealing when it becomes a job and a necessity. Make sure you keep the lines of communication open during the process and find new ways to spice things up so sex is still an enjoyable experience for both people, even when the main goal goes from pleasure to conception.
We tried for six months, to conceive our daughter. I became very obsessed with the entire process of trying to conceive. I charted my cycles, demanded sex for days and days (it sounds fun, but it isn’t when you HAVE to have sex!) and imagined pregnancy symptoms like it was my job. Speaking of jobs, I was working a job I hated and it was wearing me right down. After 5 months of no success, we decided to let things happen on their own for a few months. I had in those 5 months quit my job, and pursued other dreams of mine. On that 6th month, and much to our surprise, we finally conceived. I don’t know if you’d call it coincidence, or if relaxing really did help, but whatever happened - it worked!