Melissa O’Brien, Allcare’s Pharmacy Regulation & Health Services Coordinator, discusses fertility when trying to conceive.
How long should we keep trying to conceive naturally?
One of the most commonly asked questions by couples who are trying to conceive is: ‘How long should we keep trying naturally?’
There are many different opinions on how long you should try to conceive naturally before seeking help but the commonly accepted timeframe among medical professionals is that you should seek help if you haven't conceived after 12 months of regular, unprotected sex. If you are over 35, you should talk to a fertility specialist after six months of trying (regular, unprotected sex).
There are a lot of different factors involved when trying to conceive naturally so it's a good idea to give yourself the best chance possible by having sex at the right time.
When’s the best time to try to conceive?
To make sure you are having sex at the right time you need to work out when the female is ovulating. There are a couple of ways this can be done.
- You can use an ovulation calculator which will give you a good guide
- You can use the more precise method of blood tests to pinpoint your exact day of ovulation and be advised when to have sex.
Sperm can survive inside a woman for three or four days after ejaculation. So, if you plan to have regular sex (two to three times a week) around ovulation there is a good chance that there will be some sperm there to meet your egg when it arrives (it takes the egg between 12 and 24 hours to make its way through the fallopian tube after ovulation). The best chance of conception comes when a couple have sex one to two days before ovulation and one day after.
When do women ovulate?
Most women typically ovulate 14 days before their next period starts. If you have a regular cycle length of 28 days, you will ovulate mid-cycle or 14 days after day one of your previous period. If your cycle is usually longer, say 34 days, ovulation occurs around 20 days after day one of a period - not mid-cycle.
Some women know when they are ovulating from changes in their body and the way they feel. Typical signs include breast soreness, heavier vaginal discharge and a feeling of tightness in your abdomen. However, many women experience no noticeable symptoms.
Should I get a pre-conception check-up?
One of the challenges with conception is that you can be doing everything that has been recommended to you and you still don’t become pregnant. There are other issues that could be stopping you from conceiving. As you can probably imagine spending 12 months trying naturally only to discover that you weren't actually ovulating or that your partner’s sperm isn't working to the best of its ability, and it was never going to happen without some sort of help would be extremely frustrating. The solution is to get a pre-conception check-up. Speak to your GP to make sure that everything is okay and that you are both ready to conceive. These checks are simple and painless and can give you the peace of mind that you're on the right track.
If you or your partner have an existing medical condition that might interfere with conception, it's a good idea to speak to a fertility specialist sooner rather than later. Perhaps you have struggled with endometriosis or maybe your partner already knows that there are some issues with his sperm. If that's the case, then the best course of action is to make an