Not Having Enough Sex
Has anyone told you that cutting down on sex to "save" your guy's sperm will make getting pregnant easier? Or has it turned out that the only times you two get busy is when you're ovulating? Many days of not having sex may be throwing off conception. "It's easy to miss the fertile period if sex is limited only to when you think you're ovulating because many women believe they're ovulating when they actually aren't," says Samuel Wood, M.D., medical director at The Reproductive Sciences Center in La Jolla, CA. Rather than trying to have sex just around "the right time," experts suggest couples have sex as often as they like, paying special attention to the few days before ovulation.
Having Too Much Sex?
Some couples think they have conception all figured out: The more sex you have, the easier and sooner you'll conceive. But more isn't always better. Although having sex frequently won't decrease the potency of a man's sperm, as many believe, it too often can potentially cause problems, says Dr. Wood. "If it's for reproductive purposes alone, having sex multiple times a day or even every single day could cause 'burnout,' and the couple may begin to view sex as little more than a pre-ovulatory chore," he explains. Then, when that window of fertility is open, one or both of the partners may not be interested, resulting in a missed opportunity.
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Sticking with the Same Position
You may have heard that missionary is the best position to get pregnant, or that you should keep your hips elevated after sex. Wrong. Whether you're on top, your guy is on top, or you're doing a crazy new position you read about, the result is the same. "When a man ejaculates, sperm swims out, goes directly into the cervical mucus and into the fallopian tubes," says Serena Chen, M.D., director of the division of reproductive endocrine and infertility at the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Pennsylvania. "This happens in a matter of seconds, regardless of the position during intercourse," Dr. Chen says. So, instead of sticking with one particular thing, mix it up and have fun!
Assuming the Woman is the Problem
When a couple has a difficult time getting pregnant, many people (couples included) automatically think it means something is physically wrong with the woman. "Men are less likely to believe or to want to believe something is wrong with them," says Machelle Seibel, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. "Because fluids will come out, whether there's sperm there or not, they assume it means they're fertile," he adds. But that's not necessarily the case.
"From day one, couples need to think it could be the woman, the man, both, or simply unexplained infertility," says Dr. Chen. "About half of infertility issues have to do with the woman, 40 percent with the man, and the other 10 percent is both or neither." The best thing, she adds, is for both partners to be assessed from the beginning to know for sure.
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Knowing exactly when you ovulate can be tricky. Many women follow the textbook rule, believing they ovulate 14 days after the first day of their period, but cycle lengths vary, and ovulation doesn't always occur at the same time each month, Dr. Seibel says.
Many women also think they can pinpoint ovulation because of symptoms. "If you're in tune with your body, you may notice that you have an increased clear egg-white-like vaginal discharge a few days before ovulation," says Yvonne Bohn, M.D., an ob-gyn and co-author of The Mommy Docs Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and Birth. But many women miss this, and some mistakenly think their normal discharge is a sign of ovulation. Instead of guessing (possibly wrong), Dr. Seibel says that using an ovulation predictor kit can give a more accurate answer.
Having Sex the Day of Ovulation
If you have an ovulation predictor kit, or if you're charting your basal body temperature or using the calendar method to try to identify ovulation, you may think it makes sense to get physical the day of ovulation -- but that may be too late. After ovulation, the egg can be fertilized for only about 24 hours. If you're wrong about ovulation, you'll have to wait to try again the next month. Because sperm can live for three to five days, having sex in the few days leading up to ovulation will increase your chances of getting pregnant, experts say.
Think twice next time you reach for the lube. Commercial lubricants negatively affect sperm motility, making it harder for the sperm to reach the egg. If you must use a lube, try Pre-Seed, a sperm-friendly lubricant. Or if you prefer a more natural lube, olive oil, vegetable oil, baby oil, and even egg whites are safe and effective.
Rushing to a Specialist
After two or three months of trying, it's easy to get frustrated. That doesn't mean an immediate appointment with a fertility specialist is in order. "Even under ideal conditions, perfectly fertile couples can take several months to become pregnant," Dr. Wood assures. If you're under 35, with regular menstrual cycles and no underlying health issues that might affect fertility, Dr. Wood advises waiting it out for one year.
Not Getting Help Soon Enough
In some instances, seeing a fertility doc sooner rather than later is the best move. "If you're 35 or older, you should see a fertility specialist after six months of trying without success," Dr. Chen says. And if you're younger and have irregular periods or a history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), or other health issues that may affect fertility or pregnancy, Dr. Chen says it's a good idea to seek out a specialist right away.
Neglecting Your General Health
Often, when couples are trying to conceive, they focus so intensely on their reproductive health, they neglect their overall health. It becomes all about cervical mucus, sperm count, and doing the do. But it's important to pay attention to your health in general because issues like weight, smoking, stress, and medications can affect fertility too, Dr. Chen says. Before trying to conceive, it's a good idea for both you and your guy to have a medical checkup to discuss any issues that may affect fertility or pregnancy.
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