Trying to conceive

You can prepare for a healthy pregnancy
April 6, 2016

Thinking about having a baby? Wonderful! If you’re still in the considering or trying phase, you’ve got time to prepare for a healthy pregnancy.

“We want mom to be as healthy as possible before she conceives,” said Dr. Natalie Rochester, an OB/GYN at UCHealth OB/GYN who delivers babies at Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland. “That means eating a healthy diet and exercising at least 30 minutes a day and having all of your medical problems under excellent control before trying to conceive.”

Prenatal vitamins are also “super-duper important,” said Rochester. “Starting a couple of months before you begin trying to get pregnant, women should be taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid. The vitamins lower the risk of birth defects.” You can buy prenatal vitamins over-the-counter, or you can get a prescription from your doctor.

Finally, know what to expect when you do start trying to get pregnant. “Many women think they’ll get pregnant quickly and are surprised when they don’t,” said Rochester. “It often takes a number of months. In fact, only 85 percent of women with no infertility issues will be pregnant within a year, even if they’ve been having timed and frequent sex.”

If you’ve been trying to conceive for a while without success, Rochester suggests keeping an ovulation calendar. “A lot of people don’t understand their menstrual cycles and when they can get pregnant,” said Rochester. “Keep track of your periods and have sex at the most opportune times.”

Your ovaries release an egg about 12 to 14 days before your period starts. If you have a 28-day cycle, you’ll usually ovulate sometime between day 12 and day 16 of your cycle (with day one of your cycle being the day your period starts). To conceive, your egg needs to be fertilized within 12 to 24 hours of ovulation. Sperm live for two or three days, so if you want to get pregnant, you need to have sex a few days before you ovulate through the day of ovulation.

After six months of regular and timed sex without a pregnancy, if you’re frustrated about your results, talk to your doctor. Remember, you’re still well within that one-year, 85-percent window, pointed out Rochester. But there are also simple tests and treatments your doctor can use without going the full-blown infertility route.

“People don’t always seek care when they’ve been trying unsuccessfully because they’re afraid of the costs and protocols of infertility treatment,” said Rochester. “But the truth is, there are a number of simple next steps.”

A blood test can reveal whether or not you’re ovulating each month, for example. Medications that stimulate egg production are also relatively easy to take and manage, said Rochester.

The prospective mom’s age is also a fertility factor, of course. Women ages 20 to 35 have the highest chances of conceiving quickly and delivering a healthy baby without complications. “But I have many patients who are in the late thirties and early forties,” said Rochester.

Finally, Rochester advised women to remember that each pregnancy is different. If you conceived quickly with your first baby but are having trouble conceiving your second, you’re not alone. It’s not uncommon for conception to take many months. And during those months, it’s essential that moms don’t neglect their own health.

“After they have one child, women tend to be so busy that they don’t take care of themselves,” said Rochester. “But it’s so important for them to be in good health before they get pregnant again.”

About the author

UCHealth is an innovative, nonprofit health system that delivers the highest quality medical care with an excellent patient experience. With 24,000 employees, UCHealth includes 12 acute-care full-service hospitals and hundreds of physicians across Colorado, southern Wyoming and western Nebraska. With University of Colorado Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus as its academic anchor and the only adult academic medical center in the region, UCHealth pushes the boundaries of medicine, providing advanced treatments and clinical trials and improving health through innovation.