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Becoming pregnant
 
Many women have concerns about whether their fertility is affected by using contraception but, for most, getting pregnant after stopping is not a problem. Also, there are ways to calculate the best time to try and conceive although they vary in their reliability.

Becoming pregnant
Stopping contraception does not normally affect your chances of conceiving, although it is generally recommended that you allow at least three cycles to pass before you start trying in earnest. However, if timing is all-important there are ways to calculate the best time to try and conceive although, none of which are 100% reliable.

Contraceptive pill
Research has shown that 80% of all women who have never had a baby and 90% of those who have will conceive within one year of stopping the pill. This is the same proportion as those who have never used contraception. Also, the length of time you are on the pill has no effect on your fertility. A mere 1% of women do not restart periods after coming off the pill and have difficulty in conceiving. Again, this percentage is the same as in women who have not taken the pill.

For some women ovulation occurs immediately after stopping the pill whereas for others several weeks may go by before the normal menstrual cycle restarts. If you are one of the rare percentage of women (1%) whose periods do not return within three months it is necessary to visit your doctor. Treatment is usually very simple, requiring a 'fertility pill'. Fewer women still, may require stronger drugs to stimulate their ovaries.

However, some women seem to be more fertile after stopping the pill and can fall pregnant straight away, but it is normally recommended that you wait at least three clear months before trying to conceive. It seems that the only reason for this is that it makes it easier to calculate the expected delivery date, but with the very precise ways of measuring the early progress of pregnancy using ultrasound, it doesn't really matter.

The coil (IUD)
There is no reason why you should not start trying for a baby as soon as the coil is removed. The number of women getting pregnant afterwards is no different to those who have never used this form of contraception.

Injectable hormones
This method of contraception is considered to be very safe and convenient, in that it only has to be repeated once every three months. However, whilst it is being used there is the possibility of weight gain and irregular periods. Some women even stop menstruating altogether while it is being used. Also, it can take anything up to a year to return to normal fertility after stopping the injections.

The fertile period
The fertile period is the time in the menstrual cycle when conception is most likely to occur. There are two main indicators of fertility, a change of body temperature, and a change in cervical mucus.

Basal body temperature (BBT)
Basal body temperature is the temperature of your body at rest. After ovulation there is small but distinct increase in basal body temperature, only a couple of degrees, which remains raised for the rest of the cycle. Charting your BBT over two or three cycles can indicate whether or not you are ovulating and when, in your cycle, this is occurring. It does not tell you, however, when you are about to ovulate.

Temperature charting
Fertility temperature charts and clinical thermometers are easily obtained from a chemist. A digital thermometer is just as effective an often easier to read. The important thing to remember about temperature charting is to ensure that you take your temperature at the same time each day, before getting out of bed. You should not have anything to eat or drink prior to taking your temperature as this can affect the results. You should place the thermometer under your tongue for at least one minute. Once your temperature has been measured, it should be recorded on the chart. If there have been any changes to your routine or if you have got a cold or something else that could affect the results, this should also be noted on the chart.

What temperature charting will not tell you is when you are about to ovulate, although some women do experience an apparent fall in temperature just before. The best time to conceive is by making love 12-48 hours before ovulation, which is, of course, before the temperature starts rising. If your cycle is regular, over a couple of months, you should be able to get a good idea through temperature charting, when you are likely to be at your most fertile.

Cervical mucus
One of the clearest indications that ovulation is about to occur is the change in cervical mucus. Most women are aware that their body secretes more cervical mucus some times than at others, however, are not always aware of its relevance to fertility. The cervix has cells that produce mucus, which has a twofold purpose. Firstly, it helps keep the vagina lubricated and secondly, it helps to carry to a waiting egg.

Just before ovulation the body is producing oestrogen, which causes cervical mucus to become more watery and slippery, with the consistency rather like egg white. Sperm can swim quite freely through this type of cervical mucus and can survive for a comparatively long time. After ovulation the body produces progesterone and becomes slight, thick and tacky. As a result, sperm cannot move freely and die very quickly.

In order to check your fertility through your cervical mucus you should examine the amount, clearness and flexibility each time you go to the bathroom. This can be tested either by inserting a finger into the vagina and observing the dryness or wetness of the tissues, or alternatively, examine the mucus by wiping toilet tissue across the vulva.

Urine tests for LH (Luteinising hormone)
Ovulation is when the egg leaves the ovary, roughly halfway between two menstrual periods. This process is controlled by the hormones from the pituitary gland: LH and FSH (Follicle stimulating gland). FSH stimulates the follicle to grow to its maximum, before ovulation. LH then stimulates the follicle to open and release the egg.

Ovulation predictor kits are available from chemists and can be helpful in assessing approaching ovulation, however, they are quite expensive. They include five urine dipsticks, which can detect the presence of LH in the urine. A surge in LH occurs just prior to ovulation and once this is detected, you can expect to ovulate within the next few days. By timing intercourse for these days you can improve the chances for conception.

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