What to Expect: When You’re Expecting to Expect

They're not always so great.

When I got married a little over two years ago, I never expected that I would be here–a veritable science experiment of a woman, working my little fingers to the bone trying to get pregnant, and burdening the world with my tragic woes via the internet.

I also had no idea that I’d probably been trying unsuccessfully for too long, armed with conflicting information before getting help.

It may not have changed anything, but these are some things that I wish the “still potentially fertile” me had known before I became the infertile shell of a woman that I am now.

How to Get Pregnant:

Have sex. I know it sounds basic, but regular, unprotected sex is the best way to get pregnant.  80% of couples who try to get pregnant, and have sex at least ten times per month are successful within six months; 90% are successful within a year.  Some things can hinder all of your baby-making efforts, however.

  • Do not use lubricants, because they can kill the swimmers and throw off your vaginal PH.  If you must use a lubricant, find one that is safe for TTC, like PreSeed.
  • Saliva is not a lubricant, and can also be detrimental to sperm-life.
  • Use of douche is not recommended whether you are TTC or not.  Just don’t.
  • Recent use of birth control can sometimes cause your cycle to have trouble returning to normal.
  • If your hubby wears tighty-whities, he could be restricting his boys, which could be restricting their boys.  Boxers are best.
  • Over-consumption of alcohol and/or smoking are damaging to your body, especially when TTC.  This goes for both the woman and the man.
  • Don’t get up right away after Sexy Time.  Give the boys a chance to get to where they need to be before you run off to clean up.  Elevating the hips is always a nice touch.  Standing on your head is not recommended, as it may lead to more injuries than pregnancies.
  • Being overweight or underweight can sometimes cause issues with fertility.  If you feel you are more or less than the average volume for your height, discuss it with your doctor.

Chart your cycle. Regardless whether you put little red stickers on your kitchen calendar to mark the days of your period, or if you use a sophisticated online charting program like FertilityFriend (which I highly recommend, by the way), you should keep track of your cycles month-to-month.  Having this data will not only help you determine how long your cycles are, and when to expect your next ovulation and period, but can also be very helpful to your doctor, should you have to see one for fertility issues.

  • Don’t even try to tell me that charting is too much work; my smartphone has an app for that.  I bet yours does too.

Know when/if you ovulate. In high school health class, we learn from a gym teacher in sweatpants that women have a 28 day cycle, and ovulate on day 14.  Simple enough, right?  Uhh… no.  This is the type of bullshit generalization that has fueled the entire ovulation predictor kit business.  If you’re TTC, your best bet is to go out and buy a 20-day ovulation predictor kit.  The digital ones are the easiest to use, though not the least expensive; however, they are worth every penny.

  • Pee on a new OPK stick every day, starting on the day your period ends until you get a positive result.  The hormonal surge triggered by your impending ovulation will cause the positive result, and you’ll be able to presume that ovulation will take place within 48 hours.
  • If you don’t get a positive result at all during 20 days of testing, then contact your Ob-Gyn.  Don’t wait.

For me, this was an enlightening experience.  I had been TTC for well over six months before I gave the OPK a shot.  I tried a 7-day kit for two months on CD13 to CD19, and after getting negative result after negative result, I was sure that I wasn’t ovulating.  A friend turned me on to the idea of trying a 20-day kit, and that month I learned that I wasn’t ovulating till CD23 of a 31 day cycle!

The days between your ovulation and when AF shows her ugly mug are called your Luteal Phase.  The LP doesn’t change much from cycle to cycle, so if your LP is shorter than 12 days, it may be something to talk to your Ob-Gyn about.  Some doctors argue that LP’s shorter than 12 days have a lower chance of successfully supporting a pregnancy; others aren’t worried unless it’s less than 10 days.  Monitor yourself with OPK’s for at least two months to be sure.  If your LP is too short, contact your Ob-Gyn, regardless of how long you’ve been TTC.

Have more sex around ovulation. Most doctors say that, ideally, a couple should have sex every other day from the time AF is out of the picture, until a few days after ovulation has occurred.  Once you know that you are in fact ovulating, and when said ovulation is due to take place, you can plan your encounters accordingly.

  • For example, if you know that your fertile period is due to take place around CD16, then the EOD method is fine until about CD15.  At that point, ramping up your efforts is recommended.  Maybe try having Sexy Time once per day for two to three days, instead of every other day.  Most docs don’t recommend doing the dirty more than once per 24-hour period, however, because doing so can deplete the man’s supply, if ya know what I mean.
  • Your best bet is to have sex the day before ovulation, the day of ovulation, and the day after, just for good measure.  Fertilization has a better chance of taking place if the little swimmers are already present and accounted for.  No more than once per day, though; you want the future Olympians to take the lead… Not the B Team.

Advanced Technique 1:  Chart your BBT. OPK’s can help you predict ovulation, but aside from blood tests, only charting your basal body temperature can tell you if you actually have ovulated.  Your basal body temperature is the internal temp of your body when it’s at rest.  Charting it can be a valuable tool in the TTC journey, and while it might be the bane of an Ob-Gyn’s existence, BBT charts can be very helpful should you have to see the fertility specialist.  Charting your BBT might sound complicated, but I assure you, it’s really quite simple.

  • Go to the drugstore.  Buy a digital BBT thermometer.  They’re usually pink or purple, and the label will say “Basal Body Thermometer”.
  • Place said thermometer next to your bed.
  • Choose a time when you know you’ll have been in bed for at least 6 hours; set your alarm for that time every day.
  • When your alarm goes off, wake your ass up, grab your thermometer, turn it on, and stick it way under your tongue.  Like way far in there, and maybe off to the side a bit.
  • Do not talk, grab a sip of water, or get out of bed to pee before taking your temp.  This will throw things off!
  • When it has determined your BBT, the thermometer will beep.
  • Check out what your temp reading is, and chart it.  If you are Amish and want to do things the old-fashioned way, then write it down on a BBT chart (which you can download here); otherwise, enter the numbers into your smartphone app and go back to sleep.  Or get up.  Whatever you do when your alarm goes off…
  • Do this daily, and eventually you’ll be able to see a pattern emerge.  Temps are usually lower in the days before ovulation, typically dip on the day of ovulation, and are generally higher after ovulation.  They will remain high if you end up preggers, or you’ll see the dreaded temp dip when AF is on her way.

Advanced Technique 2:  Chart your cervical mucus changes. Like poo and farts and dandruff, cervical mucus is a gross part of life that happens, so just deal with it.  Different types of cervical mucus are produced during different parts of your monthly cycle.  Some types of cervical mucus act as a barrier to sperm, and some types act as a transport medium.  Observing the qualities of your CM throughout your cycle can be a big clue as to when ovulation is approaching.  There are generally four types of CM, and corresponding times at which they are produced:

  • After your period, there won’t be much CM at all.  If there is, it will be thick and sticky in texture.
  • Closer to ovulation, CM will increase and become creamier, resembling hand lotion.
  • During your most fertile time, the days leading up to and including ovulation, CM will be clearer and watery, or feel thin and stretchy like eggwhites.  This is your most fertile CM, and the little swimmers’ best chance at reaching their lofty goal.
  • After ovulation, CM returns to a creamy state, and may be whitish in color.

Charting these changes can also help you to predict ovulation and know when your fertile period has ended.  When used along with OPK’s and BBT, charting your CM changes can help you to really understand just exactly what is going on with your reproductive system.

There are some things that can affect the production of cervical mucus.  Fertility medications like Clomid can sometimes dry up CM, and infections can have a negative effect on both its production and quality.  Smoking and drinking can also affect CM.  Staying very well-hydrated is the best way to ensure good CM production throughout your entire cycle.

Talk to your doctor. If you’re thinking of, or in the process of trying to get pregnant, let your Ob-Gyn know.  She will talk to you about your cycle, and if she’s worth her salt, give you a fraction of the advice in this article.

  • She will probably offer you a prescription for prenatal vitamins, which are good to take before conception as well as during the entirety of your pregnancy.
  • She will also likely talk to you about how structurally sound your reproductive areas are.  If she has seen anything off from normal while performing your annual exam, she will let you know if you can expect these abnormalities to cause you any trouble in conceiving.
  • She should also ask you about any medications or prescription drugs you are taking.  Be honest about these.  Even some OTC meds can cause issues with TTC, or birth defects if you do fall pregnant.
  • She should also discuss STD’s with you.  If you haven’t owned up at previous appointments, now is the time to confess your past sins.  Many STD’s can hamper conception and cause miscarriage and birth defects.
  • If you have any suspicious symptoms, make sure to air them at this time.  Some things that seem routine, like severe menstrual cramps, bleeding between periods, spotting before AF, and pain with sex, can actually be more serious than you may think.  Don’t let your doc make you feel like a hypochondriac.  Your hesitation could cause you to waste months on your TTC journey.
  • By all means, do talk to the doc if there’s been a persistent problem that could interfere with conception.  However, don’t self-diagnose yourself with horrifying diseases on the internet, and then bring up your suspicions with your doctor.  They really hate that.

Know when to move on. If you’ve been doing all, or even most of these things, and your doctor tells you (as one of mine did) that you should have a crapload of sex and to come back and see her if you don’t get pregnant within a year–it may be time to ask for a referral to a fertility specialist.

Not all Ob-Gyn’s are equipped to deal with fertility issues, and most just operate by the old standby definition of infertility:  trying to conceive for over one year without success.  That little mantra was created for people who may not know what is going on with their bodies or cycles.

For we women in the know, this is the new standard:

  • If you’re trying to get pregnant, you’re ovulating, you have a regular cycle in which you are aware of when ovulation takes place, and you’ve been having regular, unprotected sex with your partner for over six months with no pregnancies, then it’s time to seek additional help.
  • If you’re over 30, then this is especially important.  Do not wait.

I feel that I am an educated and intelligent person, and yet, there was so much about conception that I didn’t know.  Like most women these days, I spent years working my tail off trying not to get pregnant, and assuming that when I was ready it would just happen.  When I finally was ready and nothing happened right away, I panicked.

Two years later, and that panic has not really completely subsided.

It may be cliché, but knowledge is power.  The key to success in any endeavor is knowing what you’re dealing with, and knowing the smartest way to attain your goal.  Success in conception is no different, and utilizing the tips in this article can definitely increase your odds for birthing a little progeny.

Don’t let old wives’ tales be your guide for conception, and don’t let your doctor bully you out of getting the help you may need.  Don’t let embarrassment or shame or feelings of failure keep you from seeking assistance.  Don’t waste your time, or your tears, on months of stabbing into the dark.

If you go into the TTC journey blind, you might get lucky.  You might also get heartache and depression, insecurity and isolation, and feelings of inadequacy.  But if you start trying to get pregnant with information on your side, you’ll have a much better grip on how to take advantage of your fertility, and have a better idea of when it may be time to call in the pros.

Take it from a 30-year-old someone whose pride caused her to put off getting help for so long that she now has to bitch and moan about it all over the internet.

Clearly, this is not how you want to end up, now is it?

Advertisements

3 comments on “What to Expect: When You’re Expecting to Expect

  1. Julibean
    April 7, 2011 at 6:25 pm #

    Funny and smart–I knew I liked you. Was this your first article for the other website?? My favorite: “Take it from a 30-year-old someone whose pride caused her to put off getting help for so long that she now has to bitch and moan about it all over the internet.”

    🙂

    Like

    • Tracy
      April 7, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

      Thanks, Julie! So far, I only have one column posting at The Fertility Blogs, but there will be more soon!

      And I’m glad that you find some entertainment value in my bitching and moaning. I will have the husband take a page from your book. 😉

      Like

  2. MissT
    April 7, 2011 at 10:03 pm #

    You did a FANTASTIC job explaining everything! It’s amazing how much we are required to learn in school and yet so many myths surround a woman’s cycle because it is taught so poorly by people who don’t really know. Even doctors! I was astonished when I took my chart, that I had been plotting for 4 years into my OBs office she wouldn’t even look at it. Didn’t even know what it showed. This happened 3 separate occasions with different doctors and nurses. When I say “NFP” to educated people they have to stop themselves from rolling their eyes. It works! And when it doesn’t, you know and know pretty fast.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Nuala Reilly: A Writer's Journey

I'm just a girl, standing in front of chocolate, asking it to love her.

Whole Milk and Half-Crazy

Excerpts from an exceptional(ly ridiculous) life.

Motherhood & Everything Else

pregnancy, motherhood, marriage, and life after miscarriage

adultyish

hello, please advise

Are You There, Stork?

It's me, Katie.

Summertime Sadness

A safe space where I discuss the racing thoughts in my head, personal struggles, and day-to-day activities while struggling with mental health and mood disorder issues. My personal goal is to reduce the stigma that comes with mental health and mood disorders, by talking more about it.

Something Out of Nothing

From 0 sperm to a family of three

A Little Bit More

Life, Laughter, Love and Everything Inbetween!

Project Tiny Human

Two lesbians walk into a fertility center.....

The Ritz Saga

Tongue tied and twisted just an earth bound misfit I

She Patiently Waits

My Journey Through IVF

%d bloggers like this: