Sometimes making a baby is as simple as one, two, three. But often it isn't. Here is your road map to conception.
Talk to your partner
Having a baby is a couple’s decision. If your baby is planned, you need to discuss things like affordability, timing and the spacing of future siblings, childcare and work options.
If this is your first baby you should also discuss your parenting beliefs and possible support systems. You should both go for a medical check-up so that problems can be detected (and treated) early to avoid unnecessary stress and disappointment.
Get your body ready
Your fertility depends on your age, health, emotional state, menstrual cycle, the type of contraceptive you use and how long you have used it for.
Young women often get pregnant very easily because their ova (eggs) are younger and the cervix (mouth of the womb) stays open for longer during ovulation (the fertile days of the cycle). Women who are overweight may have hormonal imbalances because fat cells store oestrogen and sugar surges confuse insulin regulation.
On the other hand, being too thin won’t help either. Underweight women often stop ovulating. The sooner you and your partner get your diets right, the sooner you are likely to fall pregnant – and you can add feeling great to the mix.
Once you decide to have a baby, you should both eat a variety of low fat, nutrient-rich foods from all food groups. Eating an array of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, lean meat and dairy products every day will help ensure that you get the recommended daily allowance of all the vitamins and minerals necessary for optimal reproductive functioning.
Women who are severely stressed may also have delayed ovulation (sometimes for months), which means longer cycles and fewer opportunities to conceive. When the menstrual cycle is topsy-turvy, natural conception may be difficult, frustrating and takes the fun out of having sex.
Time it right
A woman’s fertility is fragile and depends on a complex network of hormones that connects the pituitary gland in her brain to her ovaries, womb, cervix and breasts. These organs have receptor cells that are sensitive to the concentration of hormones in your blood. This concentration fluctuates daily depending on whether you are fertile, infertile, pregnant, breastfeeding or menopausal.
Men may be fertile 24/7, but a woman is only fertile for about five days in her cycle (a cycle is from the first day of one period to the first day of her next period). During this time you have a 24-hour window period in which to conceive. Mid-cycle is usually your fertile phase and this is called ovulation.
This is when an egg is prepared for conception and released from the ovary into the Fallopian tube. Fertilisation (where the egg and sperm meet) must happen within 24 hours. Recognising this 24-hour conception period is the key to baby making.
To get pregnant, a couple must have sex when the woman’s body is receptive to sperm. This happens during ovulation when the vagina becomes a sperm-friendly zone thanks to a special mucus made by the cervix. This slippery mucus is released into the vagina where it helps sperm to swim. Once sperm reach the safety of the cervix, this mucus can keep them nourished for up to five days while they wait for the egg.
Men must also be able to produce one teaspoonful of semen containing 300 to 500 million sperm. During sex most of these will be lost in the vagina and less than a third will reach the cervix. Here imperfect sperm are filtered out and only perfect sperm will be nurtured in the safety ports of the cervix.
Signs of fertility:
- Swollen labia (lips covering the vagina).
- Stringy, slippery mucus - like raw egg white.
- A drop in body temperature.
- Sexual arousal.
Make a baby
Let's get it on! If only it were that simple... But making a baby can take time, patience and calculations.
1. You should try to abstain from sex during your period.
2. During the next four days, you can have sex on alternate evenings. Although sperm cannot get into the womb at this stage (because the cervix is blocking them), frequent sex ensures a constant, fresh supply of sperm.
3. When the ovary becomes active, the cervix produces a sticky mucus at first and it's best to abstain from having sex for a few days because it will help to increase sperm count and mobility.
4. When your vaginal mucus becomes slippery like raw egg white and the vulva feels swollen/sensitive, have as much sex as you want to.
5. After this, you may be sexually active, but the window to conception is unfortunately closed.
6. Wait for your period to be a week late before buying a pregnancy test kit. If conception happens it will take about ten days for the fertilised egg to make its way through the tube towards the womb. During this time it will be mass of multiplying cells called the blastocyst, but the cells that will become the placenta have already been identified.
These will attach themselves to the endometrium or lining of the womb (this lining would normally come away and form a period). This produces a hormone called HCG that is excreted in the urine and makes a pregnancy test positive.