Jennifer Aldoretta wrote this on February 13, 2015
If you’re trying to get pregnant and it’s taking a little longer than expected, you’ve likely heard your fair share of “just be patient and it’ll happen” and “your time will come.” And you probably have to fight the urge deliver a swift kick to the shin every. damn. time.
If you’re in this situation, infertility treatment probably isn’t far from your mind, but of course you’d rather avoid it. Before you throw your hands up in defeat (or frustration at unsolicited “advice” from every person you’ve ever met, ever), there are several easy things you can do that will not only increase your chances of conceiving naturally, but will also transform you into a total expert when it comes to getting pregnant. Sadly, infertility treatment is inevitable for some, but with the insanely high cost of treatment, you really can’t afford not to do these 5 simple things.
When I say this, I’m not suggesting that you obsessively use ovulation predictor kits (OPKs). OPKs measure your levels of luteinizing hormone, which surges as your body is ramping up to ovulate. Unfortunately, OPKs won’t give you any indication of whether ovulation is actually happening. And if you’re not ovulating, you’re definitely not getting pregnant.
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A super easy way to confirm that you’re ovulating is to measure your body temperature each morning as soon as you wake up. This is called your basal body temperature (BBT), and it helps you confirm that you are, in fact, ovulating. Your BBT will be low before ovulation, and you’ll notice a sustained rise in your BBT—called a temperature shift—after ovulation due to an increase in progesterone that occurs as a result of ovulation. So if you notice a temperature shift each month, you can rule out anovulation.
Since ovulation typically occurs the day before your temperature shift, ovulation occurred on cycle day 16 in the above chart.
Your luteal phase is the number of days between ovulation and the first day of your period, and in order for you to successfully get pregnant (and stay pregnant), the length of your luteal phase needs to fall within a certain range. An ideal luteal phase is between 12 and 16 days long. If your luteal phase is less than 12 days long, that’s when problems start to arise (though not everyone with a shorter luteal phase will experience issues).
You can easily calculate your luteal phase length by measuring your basal body temperature each morning and watching for a temperature shift. Ovulation typically occurs the day before your temperature shift, so your luteal phase length is the number of days between ovulation and the start of your next period.
Your luteal phase needs to be long enough for a fertilized embryo to implant and properly establish itself in your uterine lining. So if your luteal phase is 11 days or shorter, there may not be enough time for that to happen. Knowing your luteal phase length will help you rule out issues with implantation and early-stage miscarriage.
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Similar to the way that a high body temperature is often a symptom of a cold or the flu, a consistently low basal body temperature may be a sign that your body’s endocrine system isn’t functioning properly.
Preovulatory temperatures that are lower than 97.0 °F may be indicative of low thyroid function that can lead to a plethora of hormone issues. Knowing your unique temperature range will help you rule out thyroid issues that can make it more difficult to get pregnant.
Cervical fluid is what helps (or hinders) the travel of sperm to your egg after you ovulate, so ensuring that you’re producing slippery, fertile cervical fluid is important when you’re trying to conceive. Wet, slippery cervical fluid is ideal for sperm survival and motility, and is typically produced right around the time of ovulation. If you’re trying to conceive, you should be checking your cervical fluid several times each day. You may want to check both internally and externally (explained below) to help you correctly identify slippery, fertile fluid.
Checking externally is ideal for those who produce wet, slippery cervical fluid that travels all the way from the cervix to the vaginal opening. External checks can be performed either using bath tissue or a clean finger and gathering fluid from the vaginal opening. Checking internally is perfect for those who produce a thick, slippery fluid that may stick to the surface of the cervix rather than traveling down to the vaginal opening. I’d recommend performing both internal and external checks throughout the day until you can identify your most fertile days. You can read more about how to check your cervical fluid here.
Familiarizing yourself with your cervical fluid pattern can help you rule out hormone imbalance, PCOS, and other issues that may hinder a pregnancy.
As simple as this may sound, dietary changes can have a huge impact on your body’s ability to maintain healthy hormone levels. If you’ve gone through each of the 4 above steps and notice a problem, a diet overhaul can do wonders.
When I say “diet,” I don’t want you to think about some short-lived thing that prevents you from eating the foods you love. Instead, I want you to think of “diet” as the foods your body needs to thrive (not just survive). Yes, your body will survive on processed foods, carbs, and sugars, but your body will thrive if you up your intake of colorful fruits and vegetables (dark, leafy greens are especially good). My advice: cut out processed foods and eat as many fruits and veggies as you can possibly stomach!
This won’t be a quick fix if your hormones are out of whack, but having healthy hormone levels will be beneficial for both you and baby. If you’re interested in learning more about how diet changes can improve your hormone health (and help you get pregnant), I recommend checking out Nicole Jardim and Alisa Vitti.