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Quick Guide – the basics of trying to conceive

The basics of trying to conceive

If you are trying to become pregnant there are some things that you should know: facts, terms and times that will help you to conceive.

What is ovulation?

Ovulation is the part of a woman’s menstrual cycle where a mature ovary follicle releases an egg. It occurs because of the sudden and dramatic increase in the Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle-Stimulation Hormone (FSH).
The egg released during ovulation will survive as little as 6 hours, and anywhere up to 24 hours. This is the only time throughout your cycle where you can successfully fertilise an egg and fall pregnant.

What is a menstrual cycle?

A woman’s menstrual cycle is the phase from the first day of her period until the beginning of her next period. An average cycle is approximately 28 days, however each woman is different and your cycle may be shorter or longer.
The menstrual cycle is generally divided into three phases: the follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase.

The stages of the menstrual cycle

Follicular phase

The first stage of the menstrual cycle is the follicular phase, which lasts approximately 14 days, from the first day of your period until ovulation. During this phase the body produces follicles on the ovaries. These follicles continue to grow until one or two become the dominate follicle. From these an egg is released during the ovulation phase.

Ovulation phase

The ovulation phase is the shortest phase of a menstrual cycle and can last up to 24-36 hours. During ovulation the hormones LH and FSH peak, and this causes the dominate follicle to release an egg (also known as ovum). Without fertilisation the egg will only survive up to approximately 24 hours.

Luteal phase

The final phase of the menstrual cycle is the luteal phase. The luteal phase will end in either pregnancy or a new menstrual cycle. The luteal phase will generally last for approximately 14 days.

When does the menstrual cycle begin?

It is important when trying to conceive to remember your menstrual cycle begins on the first day of your period. This is often referred to as Cycle Day (CD) 1.

What methods can be used to detect ovulation?

Ovulation can be detected many ways. The symptoms of ovulation are often small and require careful monitoring.
Some methods used to detect ovulation include:
Ovulation Tests
– Cervical Mucus
Basal Body Temperature
– Ovulation Pains.
Check out our page dedicated to ovulation symptoms and how to track them.

When to have sex?

Successfully and accurately determining when you ovulate will dramatically increase your chances of conceiving, and help you determine when to have sex.
It is important to remember that you have the best chance of conceiving by having sex before ovulation and not after. Sperm can survive in a woman’s body for up to 5 days in the right environment, however an egg only has a short window of approximately 6-24 hours to be fertilised.
In general try to have sex every other day, or at least 3 times a week, and use methods to try and successfully pinpoint ovulation.

See your doctor and try to get your health in check before trying to conceive

Before trying to conceive it is important to try and get your health in check, and importantly if you smoke try and give up this habit. It is worth visiting your doctor to have a preconception check-up. Your doctor will check for and treat any issues that may be an issue during pregnancy and ensure your vaccinations are up to date.

Start taking pre-conception vitamins

To get you in shape for pregnancy, you should begin taking pre-pregnancy vitamins for approximately 3months prior to falling pregnant. It is important to take a vitamin which contains iron and folic acid. Folic Acid reduces the risk of your baby being born with a serious birth defect involving the brain and spinal cord.

Some quick statistics on conception

– Only 25% of couples actively trying to conceive will fall pregnant within their first cycle
– 60% of couples will fall pregnant within six months of actively trying to conceive
– 75% of couples will fall pregnant within 9 months of actively trying to conceive
– 90% of couples will fall pregnant within 18 months

When to seek help

If you have not fallen pregnant within 12 months of actively trying to conceive, or you do not have a regular cycle within 3 months of coming off contraception, please see your doctor.