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Top 3 Biggest Mistakes To Avoid When Trying to Conceive

Top 3 Biggest Mistakes To Avoid When Trying to Conceive

Dr. Wade Webster, MD | June 15, 2021 | trying to conceive
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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 it’s not as easy to get pregnant as we thought. 

Another source of frustration is that most women were not taught about fertility signs and how to listen to our bodies to learn when we’re fertile and when we’re not. Here we talk about 3 major common mistakes when trying to get pregnant.


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Mistake #1: Using calendar methods

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 it. The Calendar Method involves timing intercourse based on the average day of ovulation. The idea here is that ovulation occurs on cycle days 14 or 15, but just 24% of ovulations occur on these cycle days (1,2).

Variation in the menstrual cycle is entirely normal and common. Therefore using calculations to estimate the best time to conceive can result in missing the fertile window (2,3). 

In reality, most women ovulate sometime between days 11 and 21 — a big window of time. In fact, even women with regular cycles can ovulate on different days each month (4,5).

Given the variability of ovulation, it’s important to be on the lookout for physical clues to help you determine when ovulation is approaching for the best chance of timing sex for pregnancy. The latest science shows that self-tracking the menstrual cycle and fertility-related body signs is a reliable method to get pregnant faster, potentially increasing the likelihood of pregnancy by 12–20% per cycle (2).

What should you do? Keep reading and we’ll share solutions that work.

Mistake #2: Relying solely on ovulation predictor kits

Ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) detect the surge of luteinizing hormone (LH) that is present in urine associated with ovulation. Although OPKs work for many women, the results can be misleading. You may have an LH surge and NOT ovulate, or your test kit may miss your surge even if you did ovulate (6).

These problems can be chalked up to the variability of the surge and simple timing. 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. Because the most fertile days of a woman's cycle are actually a day or two before ovulation, timing sex according to the results of an OPK may cause couples to miss the most fertile days of the cycle (7,8). 

In fact, one study showed that OPKs detected the LH surge too late for a "significant proportion of women" to conceive. What's more, an LH surge may last fewer than 10 hours, so you may miss the surge entirely if you're testing for it only once a day (7,8). 

(Pro tip: Test morning and night if you’re worried about missing the surge.) 

There's also a problem with false results. Some women's LH levels may peak below the testing threshold, resulting in false negatives, while women over the age of 40, who typically maintain a high level of LH throughout a cycle, may get false positives. Certain conditions, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), may also produce a false uptick of LH before the actual surge (9). 

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.

Mistake #3: Skipping out on healthy lifestyle changes

The combination of moderate exercise and a healthy diet provides a not-to-be-missed opportunity to supercharge your fertility and your partner’s too.

Moderate is the key word when it comes to exercise. Going overboard with workouts may lead to irregular or missed periods, or an energy deficit. An energy deficit (which is something of a throwback to our caveperson days) happens when your workout saps your body of much-needed energy. To conserve fuel, your body shifts energy away from reproduction (10,11,12).

At the same time, too little exercise can also mess with your cycles, especially if you’re noticing weight gain or are more stressed out. That’s why you want to strike the right balance with exercise (13).

Consider workout options, like yoga, that provide the added benefit of relieving stress. One small study found that pregnancy rates following in vitro fertilization were almost 3 times higher among women who attended yoga classes compared to those who didn’t. And although the link between exercise and sperm quality is still up for debate, if your partner is something of a couch potato, recent research showed that exercises like moderate cardio and weight lifting may improve his sperm quality, possibly by helping with weight loss and reducing inflammation (14, 15). 

Also, take a hard look at the foods you put in your body. A Harvard-led research review found healthy diets were consistently related to greater fertility and higher live birth rates, while unhealthy diets produced the opposite result. Although the studies involved couples undergoing fertility assistance, they still offer a host of helpful dos and don’ts when it comes to diet (16).

For starters, make sure you both are eating diets rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, fish, and monounsaturated or polyunsaturated oils. These types of foods have been linked to higher sperm quality and improved female fertility. Another science-backed option is the Mediterranean diet, which has a similar focus on vegetables, fish, and polyunsaturated oils. Women and men who followed this eating plan typically needed less medical help to get pregnant, had higher rates of healthy pregnancies, and better sperm quality (17,18,19, 20). 

Check our post on the top foods to eat for fertility, along with supplements to help you get pregnant.

A Solution That Works

Fertility awareness is a simple and inexpensive daily practice that involves monitoring your fertility signs to detect when ovulation is approaching. Fertility awareness involves tracking biological clues to determine when YOUR body is fertile, not when the average female body is fertile. These fertility signs include basal body temperature, which is your waking temperature throughout your cycle, and cervical mucus, the secretion from your cervix (4).

Waking up every morning not working out?
Check out the new Priya Fertility System that uses continuous core body temperature to effortlessly and precisely give you more fertile days, confirms ovulation and provides valuable cycle insights. 

Learn About The Priya Fertility Monitor

Simply having sex while your body is producing fertile cervical mucus may nearly double your chance of conceiving that cycle. Fertile couples using cervical mucus monitoring to achieve pregnancy have a 90% chance of conceiving after 3 months, while couples who do not use fertility awareness to conceive have only a 54.5% chance of conception in the same timeframe (21,22,23).

Charting your cycle also 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.

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How Not to Waste Another Month When Trying to Conceive
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