Baby Steps- A 5-point Plan to Help You Conceive

Preconception – Trying to Conceive | Be Proactive to Get Pregnant

There are a few things you should consider before jumping into bed – and into pregnancy. Women should take the time to evaluate their overall physical health, their birth control method, learn a little bit about their cycle and educate themselves on reproductive sex. These 5 “baby” steps will help.

Making an appointment with your doctor is a good starting point for those looking to conceive.

Step 1: Assess Your Current Birth Control.

When 36-year-old Joanna Strong-Millsap of Redlands, Calif., chose to start her family she was concerned about her age and the synthetic hormones she had been taking as birth control.

“I had been told by my doctor that it could easily take six months for all of the residual effects of the synthetic hormones to work their way out of my system and for my period to become ‘normal,'” Millsap says. “I quit taking birth control pills in February and didn’t have a period in March. I had a period in April and then two weeks later, I had one day of cramps and spotting.”

The up and down of her periods confused Millsap and her husband, but persistence paid off and she was soon able to conceive their first child.

There is conflicting information regarding how long you should wait to conceive after birth control pills are stopped. Dr. Kenneth Burry, the vice-chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Oregon Health & Sciences University in Portland, Ore., believes the commonsense approach is best.

“There is some concern that the miscarriage rate may be higher the first cycle after stopping the birth control pill, but you should not be overly concerned if pregnancy occurs immediately since most will continue without problems,” Dr. Burry says.

Depo-Provera, on the other hand, is long-acting and may disrupt normal cycles for more than six months. Dr. Burry says there is a concern of an increased incidence of birth defects if exposed to this progestin during early pregnancy. He suggests that women should seek medical advice if menstrual cycles have not returned to normal within two months after ceasing birth control pills or six months from the last Depo-Provera shot.

“All women trying to conceive should be taking a multiple vitamins with 400 micrograms of folic acid,” Dr. Burry says. “This will reduce the incidence of birth defects in half. She should also be immunized against rubella and be current on pap smears.”

Making an appointment with your doctor is a good starting point for those looking to conceive. General health can be checked, supplements can be discussed and any questions concerning fertility cycles can be addressed.

Step 2: Know Your Cycle

Normal cycles can vary; they can be as short as 24 days and as long as 35 days. However, according to Dr. Burry, an individual’s cycle length should be consistent, either always short or always long.

Baby Steps Cycle length is calculated by counting from the first day of bleeding to the next first day of bleeding. Ovulation can occur at any point in the cycle.

Tracking your fertility signs is the only way to know for sure when – and if – you are ovulating. That can be done by taking your temperature every morning before leaving the bed (basal body temperature or BBT) and physically examining the consistency of cervical mucus. A slippery and stretchy, raw egg consistency is exactly what you are looking for. After that, a rise in the BBT signals that ovulation has indeed occurred.

While ovulation predictor kits are available, the tests are not always accurate; you can have false positives. But for those who have been having difficulty conceiving, those tests and kits may just be a lifesaver.

Krissi Danielsson of Marina, Calif., thought that having a baby was going to be a breeze, but after several miscarriages, she realized she would have to get more aggressive.

“Just thinking back, I guess I was naive,” she says. “I thought it was as simple as hopping in the sack, having a late period, taking a pregnancy test and voila! – nine months later there’s a baby.”

Danielsson began tracking her cycles and found that knowing exactly where she was in the cycle helped to calm her. “I used temperature charting in all the cycles I was trying to conceive,” she says. “I also used a fertility monitor for about four of those cycles. I found it to be a major stress reducer since I knew exactly when I ovulated and when to expect my period or take a pregnancy test.”

Step 3: Do the Deed

“As far as sex is concerned, more is better,” says Dr. Burry. “Sperm can live for a few days inside a woman’s cervix; therefore, if couples have sex three or more times a week, there is little concern that the timing of sex is an issue.”

If couples have sex less than two times a week during the time they are trying to conceive, they will need to pay more attention to when the female partner is ovulating.

Krissi Danielsson of Marina, Calif., thought that having a baby was going to be a breeze, but after several miscarriages, she realized she would have to get more aggressive.

“Just thinking back, I guess I was naive,” she says. “I thought it was as simple as hopping in the sack, having a late period, taking a pregnancy test and voila! – nine months later there’s a baby.”

Danielsson began tracking her cycles and found that knowing exactly where she was in the cycle helped to calm her. “I used temperature charting in all the cycles I was trying to conceive,” she says. “I also used a fertility monitor for about four of those cycles. I found it to be a major stress reducer since I knew exactly when I ovulated and when to expect my period or take a pregnancy test.”

If you get a positive result, the first thing on your to-do list should be to make an appointment with your healthcare provider. If negative, wait a week or so for your period to start, and if it doesn’t start, contact your doctor.

Step 5: Do It Again

It can take many months for everything to fall into place. Just because you don’t become pregnant right away doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to run to a specialist. According to Dr. Gell, when a couple seeks expert advice is dependent on the age of the woman.

“Women under 35 can probably try for one year before seeking help,” says Dr. Gell. “Women 35 and older should try for six months and then initiate an evaluation.”

Remember that planning to have a child should be a joyful, expectant time. With a little planning, most women welcome a child close to the time they wanted one. Educate yourself, take care of yourself and above all enjoy yourself … it’s supposed to be fun!

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