Waiting for a big fat positive pregnancy test each month can be torturous. We work so hard most of our adult life to not get pregnant, many of us are surprised and frustrated to learn that it’s not as easy to get pregnant as we thought. Another frustrating point is that most women were not taught about fertility signs and how to listen to our bodies to learn when we are fertile and when we are not. Here we talk about 3 big and common mistakes when trying to get pregnant.
If you are using a period tracking app or a doctor recommended using the Calendar Method, you may be missing your fertile window entirely or parts of the fertile window. The Calendar Method involves timing intercourse based on the average day of ovulation (10). But variation in the menstrual cycle is totally normal and common, therefore using calculations to estimate the best time to conceive can result in missing the fertile window (11). Especially if you are told to aim for intercourse assuming ovulation will occur on cycle day 14 or 15 (14). A large data study showed that only 24% of ovulations occurred on cycle day 14 or 15 (12). In fact, even women with regular cycles can ovulate on different days each month (Wilcox 2000).
What should you do? Keep reading and we will share solutions that work.
Ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) detect the surge of luteinizing hormone (LH) that is present in urine associated with ovulation (13). OPKs work for many women, however, not for all. They may actually be misleading for a variety of reasons.
On average, the LH surge the OPKs detect occurs about 24 hours before ovulation, but the timing of the surge may vary from about 16 to up to 48 hours (15). Because the most fertile days of a woman's cycle are actually a day or two before ovulation (16), timing intercourse according to the results of an OPK may actually cause couples to miss the most fertile days of the cycle (14). For many women, the time of highest probability of conception may have already passed by the time the LH surge is detected (14).
Additionally, some women's LH levels may peak below the threshold that the kits test for, while others (particularly those who are approaching menopause) may have high enough levels of the hormone to cause false positives (8). Many women also experience false peaks of the LH hormone days before ovulation actually occurs, which may also result in false positives (8). Depending only on OPKs is not the most reliable way to increase your odds of getting pregnant.
Check out our post on how you might be missing your fertile window with OPKs for more information.
Clomiphene citrate (brand name: Clomid) is one of the most commonly prescribed fertility drugs. Clomiphene citrate works by stimulating egg development in the ovaries to encourage ovulation (17). Among other side effects, this drug, however, has an extremely counterproductive side effect that can drastically reduce the likelihood of getting pregnant: drying up the cervical mucus necessary for sperm to reach the egg (18).
Clomiphene citrate is one of several drugs used to stimulate ovulation (19), but because of its drying effect on cervical mucus (18), it may not be the best choice for couples who are still trying to get pregnant using intercourse since cervical mucus plays a crucial role in helping the sperm reach the egg (20).
To find your fertile window, track biological clues to determine when YOUR body is fertile, not when the average female body is fertile. Biological clues include ovulation predictor kits, cervical mucus, and temperature tracking.
Infertility can take a hefty emotional and financial toll on couples (5), and the longer it takes to conceive, the bigger the impact. Before an infertility diagnosis or spending money on treatments, be sure get a semen analysis and chart the woman’s fertility signs to rule out the possibility that simple mistimed intercourse is standing in the way of conception (8).
Fertility awareness is a simple and inexpensive daily practice that involves monitoring your fertility signs to detect when ovulation is approaching. These fertility signs include basal body temperature, which is your waking temperature throughout your cycle, and cervical mucus, the secretion from your cervix.
Simply having sex while your body is producing fertile cervical mucus may double your chance of conceiving that cycle (21). Fertile couples using cervical mucus monitoring to achieve pregnancy have a 90% chance of conceiving after 3 months (22), while couples who do not use fertility awareness to conceive have only a 54.5% chance of conception in the same timeframe (23).
Charting your cycle gives you more data that could help your healthcare provider diagnose certain reproductive issues and allows you to have more informed conversations with your doctors and make more educated decisions.
We want you to have the best information available so you can maximize your chances of conceiving. Visit our blog to learn more about getting pregnant and how fertility awareness can help.