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How can I increase my chances of getting pregnant?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

What's the best sex position for fertilization? Missionary? Reverse cowgirl? While the data is inconclusive that any sex position is better than another, it does seem that your odds go up with the missionary position and with the woman remaining on her back for 15 minutes after the man ejaculates, which will increase the chance that the sperm will make it upstream.

YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

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YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

Can I get a cavity filled while pregnant? Will avoiding spicy foods make my kid a picky eater? Can I really increase my baby's IQ while she's in utero? Whether you're pregnant for the first time, are trying to start your family, or already have enough children to start your own basketball team, you're bound to have questions about what it means to be pregnant -- and how you can increase your odds of having a healthy and happy pregnancy. But no matter how much you've read, watched, studied, or talked about this amazing biological journey, you have never read anything like this. In this groundbreaking book, Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz act as mythbusters for the hundreds of questions surrounding pregnancy in the same scientific, informative, and entertaining ways that have made them America's Doctors. In these pages, you'll learn everything you need to know about the miracles of fetal development, your health throughout the pregnancy, and providing the best possible environment for your growing child. Pregnancy is a complicated balancing act, but it doesn't have to be frightening. The doctors will help you de-stress as they describe accurately and rationally what happens during a thrilling nine months of life. While every pregnant body is different, odds are you'll experience some of the cravings, crying, and discomfort that almost all women go through. Your best tactic? Learn why these things are happening -- and what you should do about them. YOU: Having a Baby will teach you everything you need to know about what to eat (should I be eating for two?), how much to exercise, and what guilty pleasures will actually make pregnancy easier on you (and the loved ones who get to be around you for the whole thing). Each phase of pregnancy has different challenges, but the right information will prepare you for what's ahead. The interactive week-by-week calendar inside provides an even more detailed guideline for how and what you should feel through every step of the process. Exciting, cutting-edge scientific research in the fi eld of epigenetics has changed the way the medical profession looks at pregnancy, and now it can change your perspective, too. Epigenetics explores what makes us develop in certain ways -- why some people thrive at math while others are prone to chronic diseases. It turns out that there are easy things you can do that will not just help your baby's development in utero but will actually improve his or her chances of living a healthy, fulfi lling adult life. Filled with recipes for nutritious, satisfying snacks and meals even Pop can cook (yes, he can!), safe exercises for staying fit, and tons of YOU tips that will help you stay comfortable, YOU: Having a Baby is the ultimate guidebook for what to do from the moment of conception to the weeks after your child has arrived home. From morning sickness and food cravings to choosing a doctor and changing a diaper, YOU: Having a Baby will give you the real scoop about what's in store for you during this amazing time in your life.

In most situations two people achieve pregnancy, and both should optimize their health prior to attempting conception. Many studies indicate that the following advice will improve a couple's chance of conceiving:

  1. The greatest chance of conception follows intercourse during the fertile time of a woman's cycle. For most women, the fertile time typically includes the day of ovulation and a few days preceding ovulation. This portion of the cycle can be prospectively identified at home using urine LH testing. Urine LH test kits, also called "ovulation predictor kits" are available over-the-counter in pharmacies. Urine LH increases one to two days before ovulation.
  2. Women and men attempting conception should try to get their body mass index (a measure of height and weight) into the healthy range, typically regarded as 20 to 25 kg/m2. For men and women, being too thin or too heavy reduces the chance of conception.
  3. Women and men should stop smoking prior to attempting conception. Cigarette smoke contains toxins that interfere with the development of the egg, sperm and the process of conception.
  4. Women should reduce their caffeine intake to no more than two cups of coffee daily, or no more than 250 mg of caffeine daily. Caffeine intake greater than five cups daily can increase the risk of miscarriage.
  5. Women with depression or significant anxiety may want to address these symptoms before attempting conception. Studies suggest that optimal mental health improves fertility.
  6. Women should reduce their alcohol intake to no more than four standardized drinks per week (a standardized drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1 ounce of spirits).
  7. Women planning conception should start taking folic acid, approximately 800 micrograms daily. This reduces the risk of a specific birth defect of the nervous system—neural tube defect.

There are many steps you can take to help increase your chances of getting pregnant.

  • Ensure that you're a healthy weight. Doing so will help keep your reproductive cycle in balance.
  • Watch what you eat. Eating unhealthfully is a contributing factor to infertility.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink enough water so that your urine is yellow.
  • Cut caffeine. High caffeine levels interfere with conception.
  • Visit your dentist. Gum disease is linked to underweight and premature babies.
  • Meet with your ob-gyn: Speak with your doctor about your health status. She or he can suggest any lifestyle changes you need to make that can help you get pregnant.
  • Manage stress. Since trying to conceive can be stressful, aim to manage and reduce tension and anxiety.
  • Stop drinking and smoking. Ditch both habits for the sake of your health and your baby's health, too.
  • Chart your basal body temperature. The day after you ovulate, your basal body temperature (BBT) will rise 0.4 to 1.0 degree and will stay elevated until your next period.
  • Assess your cervical mucus. You're most fertile when your mucus resembles egg whites, looking and feeling stretchy and clear.
  • Use an ovulation calendar. A fertility calculator or calendar can help you figure out the length of your cycle and the day of the month when you're most fertile.
  • Try an ovulation kit. An over-the-counter ovulation test can determine when you're ovulating.
  • Exercise within reason. It's fine to get in some moderate activity. However, engaging in strenuous, vigorous and extreme exercise might impact your menstrual cycle, leading to infertility.
  • Inspect your medicine cabinet. Some prescription medications may be unsafe during pregnancy or make it more difficult to get pregnant.
  • Ditch the lube. Some lubricants can make sperm more likely to die before they reach the egg. Try a lubricant that is sperm-friendly or use canola oil.
  • Load up on vitamins. Ask your ob-gyn which over-the-counter prenatal vitamin you need or if you should take a prescription prenatal vitamin.
  • Have a lot of sex. Some experts say that when you're trying to conceive, you should have sex once a day, every other day, especially when you're most fertile right before and after ovulation.
  • Beware of what you do after sex. A few things to avoid after sex include saunas, long runs, hot tubs or other activities that raise your body temperature.

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

Dr. Robert W. Chalmers, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Patients will often ask me, "What should I do when I'm trying to get pregnant, when I'm trying to start a family?" "How do I maximize my chances of conceiving?" I usually recommend to them that they take a multivitamin that contains folic acid. That helps give them all the nutrients that they need in order to be healthy and also to help support a developing baby.

I also recommend that the patients keep a calendar of their menstrual cycle, so if they do have trouble conceiving, we can take a look at that calendar and figure out where the problems may be occurring.

I usually also recommend that if patients have other medical conditions, they make sure that those are under control. So if they have diabetes, they should see their primary-care manager and make sure that is well controlled.

The other issue that comes up frequently with fertility is related to weight. There is definitely an ideal weight for women when it comes to conceiving. If they're underweight, oftentimes their menstrual cycles will cease—they're usually not fertile during that time. If they're overweight, similar things can occur with irregular menstrual cycles and inability to conceive. Often, all that many women need is appropriate counseling about nutrition and exercise therapy in order to help them start their family.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.