Top tips for getting pregnant

For every 100 couples having regular sex, about 30 will conceive within one month, 60 within six months and 85 within one year. Falling pregnant doesn’t always happen instantly. But these top tips, from the scientific to the merely superstitious, could help...

Top tips for getting pregnant

Understand your cycle

One of the most important factors for falling pregnant is to understand your cycle and when you are most fertile. Women don't all ovulate at the same time, so you need to check for signs, such as changes in your cervical fluid. When cervical mucus is produced in greater quantities and when it is stretchy in texture, it means you are ovulating and therefore are at your most fertile.

However, only having sex around ovulation can put too much pressure on your relationship. "If you can aim to have sex at least three times a week, you'll be making sure that you are covering your fertile time," says fertility expert Zita West.

"The sperm, if it is healthy, will last three to five days inside a woman and the egg will only last for 12 to 24 hours, so you will therefore be ensuring there is a constant sperm supply in the fallopian tube for when the egg is released."

Have a massage

To be in tip top condition and increase your chances of conceiving, your body needs to feel nurtured and relaxed.

According to pregnancy massage therapist Lisa Barnwell, massage can help you feel more cared for and you are therefore likely to more loving to your partner, more relaxed about the end goal and physically and emotionally stronger and healthier.

"Massage is generally accepted as helping to boost your immunity, improve blood flow and circulation to all your vital organs and release tensions in the body," says Lisa.

"In my experience taking time out to stop and look after yourself always has positive results. With my clients who are trying to conceive, some sessions can also involve quite a lot of talking which allows mental blocks and fears to be resolved as well as some positive visualization; seeing yourself and your partner with your baby, being the family you dream of."

Cut out booze

Advice from NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) says women should avoid alcohol in the first three months of pregnancy, because of the increased risk of miscarriage.

Also, your partner should drink no more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day as drinking alcohol excessively can affect the quality of his sperm. There's also a link between smoking and poorer quality sperm, although the effect on male fertility is not certain. However, stopping smoking will improve your partner’s general health.

Get in the right position

There's no medical evidence to suggest that different sexual positions can increase your chances of falling pregnant, but there are Old Wives tales that swear it makes a difference.

Having sex 'doggy' style, or propping your hips on a cushion during the missionary position is said to encourage conception, because the sperm reaches the cervix more quickly and so has less chance of leaking out of your vagina.

However, with millions of sperm released at each ejaculation, there's a pretty good chance one will make it whether you're standing on your head or swinging from the chandelier. But, there's no harm in trying, is there?

Eat healthily

Eating a varied healthy diet is incredibly important when trying to conceive. The best place to start is by making sure both partners consume a regular supply of the key food groups of protein, complex carbohydrates and essential fats which are all crucial for the healthy development of the foetus. In addition to eating healthily, top nutritionist Shirley Ward believes that supplements can be helpful.

"Although I always recommend dietary sources for obtaining vitamins and minerals, when trying to get pregnant, there are factors that can reduce levels and inhibit absorption, such as stress and poor diet. Supplementation is therefore recommended for both mum and dad at least three months prior to conception. Taking folic acid is particularly important for mum, to reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida once you do conceive."

Keep fit

The chances of you conceiving are significantly reduced if you are overweight or obese. "The one thing that I tell all my patients is that pregnancy is like running a marathon," says Dr Lucy Mackillop, Consultant Obstetric Physician at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

"So to be able to enjoy your pregnancy as much as possible, the single most important thing is to be fit at the point that you conceive." Obviously you don't need to be a marathon runner, but someone who has a normal BMI and does regular cardiovascular exercise will tolerate and enjoy her pregnancy much more than someone who is sedentary."

Cut down on coffee

Though there's no clear evidence, some studies have suggested a link between high doses of caffeine and problems with conceiving. The government suggests cutting down your caffeine intake once pregnant and medical experts think it's worth limiting when trying to conceive.

"As well as cutting out cigarettes and excessive alcohol," says Consultant Gynaecologist Gidon Lieberman of Fertily MOT, "keep your caffeine intake down. Watching what you eat is important too, avoiding raw or undercooked meat, raw eggs and soft cheeses."

Try acupuncture

A complementary medicine, acupuncture has massive support in the east and western worlds. Many studies show that acupuncture at certain key points during your cycle may help enhance the chances of conception.

"It is important to prepare as much as possible before conceiving and it tends to be recommended to have acupuncture treatment for 3-6 months before trying to conceive to ensure an optimal start to pregnancy," says practitioner Elaine Gibbons of the Natural Fertility Centre.

"However, acupuncture can be used at any point in the conception journey. Some women only come to acupuncture once they have started IVF treatment and there is research that suggests that acupuncture at this time can increase conception rates."

Lie down

A conception myth that has been debunked by medical science, but might still be worth a go, is the benefit of lying down for 15 minutes after sex, instead of getting up straight away. Lying down is supposed to keep more sperm in your body for longer, giving the sperm a helping hand to travel to the fallopian tubes. Why not go the whole hog and lift your bottom and legs in the air too to help them swim downstream? If nothing else, it’ll give you and your partner a giggle.

Orgasm

Another Old Wives tale - but one you could consider telling your partner is medical fact - is that if the woman has an orgasm during sex, particularly after or while her partner ejaculates, she is more likely to conceive.

The basis for this tale is that the uterine contractions that happen during orgasm help push the sperm toward the fallopian tube, but actually the body already does this involuntarily around ovulation. It might not work, but it's a thumbs up to the old wife who thought this one up!