You carefully avoided getting pregnant for so long, and now you’re ready to get pregnant. However, going from trying to avoid pregnancy (TTA) to trying to conceive (TTC) can feel a little strange at first after spending so much time trying to avoid. Preparing for pregnancy is no small task, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. To make the transition as seamless as possible, we put together this handy guide to switching from TTA to TTC.
Deciding to raise a child with someone is a huge emotional and financial commitment, especially if it’s your first. Communication with your partner is key to make sure that you’re on the same page during every step of your transition from TTA to TTC. You’re on this journey together, and mutual support and understanding is everything.
One of the first things to discuss with your partner is timing. There’s probably never going to be a time when you feel 100% prepared to welcome a baby into the world, but it can help to talk about whether you have the time, money, energy, and stability to raise your child in a healthy, loving home. Now is the time to discuss each other’s ideas about what it means to be a good parent, and how you’ll share the responsibilities once the new baby joins your family (1).
Also, after actively avoiding pregnancy, most people assume that they’ll be able to conceive as soon as they start trying. However, about 11% of women and 9% of men experience some form of infertility (2). If you and your partner fall into that group, will you consider fertility treatments? If so, which types of fertility treatments are you open to trying and which can you afford, including fertility medications, intrauterine insemination, in vitro fertilization? Of course, you don’t have to decide anything immediately, but it’s good to know what your options are so you’re not blindsided by these choices down the line.
If you used a fertility awareness-based method when you were trying to avoid getting pregnant naturally, you’re probably already familiar with the different ways that your body tells you that it’s ovulating. If you didn’t, and you’re trying to conceive after stopping hormonal birth control, this is a great time to start learning how to chart your cycle.
There are three main changes to look for when you’re tracking your ovulation. Your cervical mucus (CM) gets more watery as you get closer to ovulating (3). (Read more about what your cervical mucus can tell you about your fertility.) While that’s happening, your cervix becomes softer and rises higher in your vagina, and its opening, called the “cervical os,” opens up to allow sperm through. Your temperature also shifts around the time of ovulation (3).
Your basal body temperature (your temperature when you’re fully at rest) increases by about 0.5° to 1° Fahrenheit when you ovulate, so your most fertile days are 2 to 3 days before your temperature increases (4). If you were tracking your BBT when you were TTA, you could confirm your ovulation and help identify the end of your fertile window (5). However, when you’re TTC, tracking your continuous core body temperature (your body’s internal temperature) can actually be much more useful because it shifts before you ovulate. That way, you’ll know in advance when you and your partner should have sex to conceive.
If you used hormonal birth control to avoid pregnancy, it might take a few menstrual cycles for your body to regain its natural rhythm, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get pregnant during this time (5). For more information on what to expect when you stop hormonal birth control, check out our series on transitioning from the pill.
You can start setting yourself up for a healthy pregnancy before you even conceive. When you transition to TTC, it’s a good idea to have a chat with your doctor to discuss any lifestyle or medication changes that you’ll need in preparation for getting pregnant. They can also give you a preconception checkup to determine whether you have any health conditions that might affect your pregnancy or chances of getting pregnant (8).
Don’t wait until you have a confirmed pregnancy to stop smoking, drinking, or taking drugs (recreational or prescription) that may harm your baby.
But some nutritional supplements may even help you get pregnant. When you’re pregnant, your body needs a different set of nutrients to support the growth of a new life. The American Pregnancy Association recommends getting the same vitamins and nutrients while you’re TTC that you’ll need while pregnant. This includes folic acid, calcium, iron, protein, zinc, and vitamins A, B12, C, E, and D (6). Folic acid is one of the most important nutritional supplements for a healthy pregnancy. If possible, you should start taking it at least one month before you start trying to get pregnant (7).
Prenatal vitamins can help ensure that you get the nutrition that you need for a healthy pregnancy, but they should be a complement to a healthy diet, not a substitute. Your doctor can help the balance of dietary changes and supplements that’s right for you.
When you spend so long actively TTA and feeling like the tiniest misstep could result in an unwanted pregnancy, it seems logical that you’d be able to conceive pretty quickly after discontinuing your birth control methods. However, that’s not always the case. Prepare yourself for the TTC journey to be just that — a journey.
Find creative ways to keep the romance alive while trying to conceive. Let yourself fall even deeper in love with your partner when you picture them as an amazing parent. Try new adventures together (after all, you’re about to embark on the biggest adventure of all). If you still haven’t gotten pregnant after a year of frequent, unprotected sex (or six months, if you’re over 35), then it’s time to talk to your doctor about your fertility (9). Until then, keep having lots of sex during your fertile window.
Transitioning from TTA to TTC is exciting and scary and a whole mix of other emotions that are hard to put into words. Every little decision can feel like it’s make-or-break when you’re going through one of the biggest changes of your life. Prioritize your health and your relationship, and try to remember; your journey is just beginning.
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