When you’re trying to conceive and are having some difficulty, it’s normal for doubt, fear, and even stress to rear their ugly heads. On top of that, you may be receiving all kinds of (unsolicited) advice from friends and family that isn’t always medically-evidence based.

Out of all the things I discuss with my patients, the area where there seems to be the most confusion is around how a couple can optimize their attempts to conceive naturally. When a couple is trying to conceive, getting the right medically-sound information can mean the difference between success and failure.

What do you need to do to or be aware of to achieve pregnancy naturally?

The most important factor for natural conception is for a woman to have regular menstrual intervals. Regular menstruation usually means that a woman is ovulating, but not always. How can we tell for sure if a woman is ovulating? The obvious answer is if you conceive.

The other ways to confirm ovulation are cervical mucus, which gets very watery right before ovulation. After ovulation, cervical mucus becomes thicker to prevent other sperm from entering the uterine cavity and reduces the risk of infection. Moreover, abdominal cramping usually precedes ovulation. Basal body temperature charts can also be used to gauge ovulation in the past.

The best prospective way to determine when you’re ovulating is to use an over-the-counter ovulation predictor kit. The kit tests the urine for a pituitary hormone called LH which surges about 24-36 hours before ovulation. If you check your urine every morning and it gets darker and darker eventually matching the test kit, you’ll be ovulating within a day and a half.

How does that affect your ability to conceive?

Many people don’t realize that the most optimal times to try and conceive are the days leading up to ovulation. If you notice a change in the color of your urine today, it means you’ll be ovulating tomorrow or the day after. Therefore, count backward six days from the following day, and those six days preceding ovulation represent the optimal times to have frequent intercourse. You and your partner should aim to have intercourse every day to every other day. The more sperm in the reproductive tract, the better!

One way to optimize fertility from the man’s side is to gauge sperm count. However, sperm kits are not very accurate. The best way for a man to determine his sperm count is to go to a reproductive biology center for testing.

Open fallopian tubes are the third key element for getting pregnant. Women who are concerned about blocked tubes can undergo a hysterosalpingogram (HG); it’s a simple procedure we do right here in the office under x-ray, with minimal radiation exposure.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, 85-90% of couples where the woman has regular menstrual cycles, who use an ovulation predictor kit and have intercourse during the six days surrounding ovulation should be successful.

Questions or comments? Feel free to reach out to me. I’ll be happy to help you answer any questions or address any of your concerns.

Mark P. Trolice, M.D.