While the process of getting pregnant may seem straightforward, it can sometimes take longer than anticipated. On a positive note, approximately 85 percent of couples will conceive within a year of trying. But for those couples where things are taking a little longer, here are some tips that may help the process along.

Make an appointment with your doctor before trying to conceive

If you and your partner are ready to start or expand your family, scheduling a pre-pregnancy appointment with your OBGYN is a crucial step. This consultation allows you to:

  • Receive a comprehensive pre-pregnancy health check-up.
  • Address any concerns related to conception or pregnancy.
  • Discuss the discontinuation of birth control, if applicable.
  • Undergo necessary blood tests.
  • Learn about essential pre-pregnancy supplements, such as folic acid.

A pre-pregnancy visit is especially important for individuals with pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes, epilepsy, or high blood pressure. This proactive approach ensures that you are in optimal health before attempting to conceive, laying a strong foundation for a healthy pregnancy.

Minimize the guesswork around when you’re ovulating

Ovulation usually occurs 12-16 days before your period. A few days before ovulation is when a woman is most fertile and the time when sex is most likely to lead to conception. If your period is regular, it can be fairly easy to determine when you are ovulating. If your cycle is not regular, this can be tricky to figure out.

We’re lucky enough to live in a time when quick, easy to use, ovulation predictor kits are available. Most drug stores now carry home ovulation predictor kits which range from about $15 to $40. Using a urine sample, the ovulation predictor kit measures the level of luteinizing hormone (LH) in a woman’s body. This hormone increases significantly before ovulation. Having this information gives couples about a day or two’s notice of a woman’s most fertile period and maximizes the chances of conception.

However, a note of caution: Don’t get too obsessive when using predictor kits. These should be used as a guide. Predictor kits are not 100% accurate all the time.

Monitor your body weight

Research has shown that women who are overweight can take twice as long to become pregnant as women whose body-mass index (BMI) is considered normal weight. According to a Cleveland Clinic study, having too much body fat produces excess estrogen, which can interfere with ovulation.

It is recommended that women maintain a healthy BMI, between 18.5–25.

Use an online BMI calculator to find out if your BMI is too low or too high. If you fall on either end of the spectrum, speak to your doctor about what an ideal pregnancy weight would be for you.

Lifestyle habits to watch

When trying for a baby, it is both mom and dad’s health that matters. Just as some factors can affect a woman’s ovulation cycle, others can affect a man’s sperm quality and quantity. You should both be more mindful of your diet (ie. eating healthy food and drink), alcohol consumption and smoking. As women are advised to stop smoking and reduce alcohol intake, men should as well.

Be realistic about timing

The average time it takes to conceive is about six months. This means six months of regular sex. Most people believe that as soon as birth control is gone, pregnancy happens immediately after. In some cases this may be true but it usually takes a few months. If you and your partner have been trying for a short period of time, be patient and try not to put too much pressure on yourself.

If you find that it’s taking longer than one year or six months (if you’re over the age of 35) to become pregnant, then seek medical advice sooner rather than later.

A few tips about your menstrual cycle, sex and general health

  • Get enough sleep. Erratic sleep and wake cycles can throw off the menstrual cycle.
  • A moderate amount of exercise is good. Extreme amounts of exercise are not. Extreme exercise can also affect the menstrual cycle.
  • Cut back on caffeine, try to limit yourself to 2 cups a day.
  • Do not douche or use lubricants while having intercourse. Both can make the environment within the vagina more hostile to sperm.
  • If using lubrication during sex, use sperm-friendly lubricant -make sure any lubricant you use isn’t ‘spermicidal’ or toxic to sperm.
  • Your partner should wear loose underwear and avoid hot baths. Some research shows that consistent or prolonged ‘heating’ of the testes can reduce sperm quality.
  • Ask your partner to also make sure that they’re keeping as healthy as possible (see tips above).

As you try to become pregnant in the next few weeks or months, be sure not to put too much pressure on yourself. Use some of the tips above to keep healthy, stay positive and make the journey as fun and pleasant as possible.