By the time I was ready to start a family, I also realized that after spending my life avoiding getting pregnant I had almost no knowledge about the actual conception process or how to prepare for it.
Although my mama friends had been sharing their wisdom with me for years, my stubborn self didn’t listen to their sage advice:
“Get off birth control early and just use protection”
“Get a tracking app and start to learn about your cycle”
“It could take months or years to get pregnant”
“You don’t want to rush it. Start earlier than you planned so you don’t get stressed”
“It’s different for everyone and you can’t control it”
Having now lived through the conception journey, I know their words were pure gold.
If I had actually listened to them I would have avoided some of my frustration, but alas, I’m a learner-by-doing meaning I need to experience things myself and make mistakes in order to have a deep understanding of something.
Before sharing recommendations based on my own experience, please note that the most important thing I learned from this journey is to be mindful that so many people are experiencing conception struggles - and you likely don’t know about it or the depth of the hard things they’re dealing with.
Please read more about that realization here, before reading the recommendations below.
Since sharing our pregnancy announcement many women have asked me how they should prepare for trying to conceive. I had already been keeping notes and was eager to turn them into a shareable format that could help others.
I’m a learner, so when starting something new I read A LOT about it from trusted sources with varying perspectives, and I make sure to talk with people who have gone through it. Then I distill that information down into what feels right for me and makes the most logical sense to me.
My recommendations are based on:
My own research
Advice from women who have been pregnant and given birth
My own experience
I am not a medical professional nor pretending to be and you should 100% consult with your doctor, nurse, or midwife to determine what is best for you and your body.
Here are my recommendations based on my own information gathering and experience:
Get off birth control earlier than you planned to. Yes, you could get pregnant earlier than you hoped but it could also take much longer than you anticipate. I was afraid of getting pregnant too early and wanted to be in control of the exact time we got pregnant, so by time we started trying I was too far along in the “I’m ready for pregnancy now mindset” and that added unnecessary worry and impatience to our journey. Because remember, you only have a few days per month to get pregnant and if it doesn’t work, you need to wait a whole month to try again. So why not get all your ducks in a row ahead of time meaning tracking your ovulation and taking prenatal vitamins. Looking back, a 3 month head start is what I wish I started with.
Get in good health now. This isn’t something that can be done overnight so start now. Can someone that’s overweight or not in great health get pregnant? Absolutely! And can someone who is very active and healthy struggle to get pregnant? Absolutely! Regardless, getting in shape and good health is about increasing your fertility because medical studies show that good health increases fertility in both sexes, and it will make your pregnancy journey easier on you from day one. Start now.
Get an app that is used for menstrual tracking, ovulation tracking, and will also provide resources throughout your pregnancy. I use the Flo app and I loved it for the conception journey and also throughout pregnancy.
Start tracking your menstruation at least 3-6 months before you want to start trying to conceive so you have data on how long your cycle is and the variations between cycles. The more data you have the better when it comes to in the future being able to most accurately estimate your ovulation window.
Start reading about fertility and the conception process early on, before you’re ready to start trying. I spent my whole life trying not to get pregnant and I realized in doing so I ignored everything that had to do with preparing for trying to get pregnant. Once I started reading about conception I was amazed at how little I knew. The information you learn takes time to understand and then put into practice, so it’s better to start early. As always: read and rely on trusted medical advice from doctors, nurses, and midwives, and be very cautious with bloggers, influencers, and other non-medical/non-accredited contributors.
Start taking prenatal vitamins at least 3 months before you want to start trying because it takes time for your body to absorb and adjust to the vitamins. I used Thorne Basic Prenatal all throughout the conception process and during pregnancy and was very happy with them (along with all other Thorne vitamins).
I also took Gaia Fertility Herbs for the last 3 months of our 5 month conception process and Tom and I both took CoQ10 daily for the last 2 months.
I’ve been taking Thorne B6 Complex every morning for almost 2 years. I take it as soon as I get up and drink 1-2 full glasses of water. B vitamins are water soluble so they get absorbed without food. I’m purely assuming here, but this may have helped with me not having nausea in pregnancy because when you have pregnancy nausea doctors recommend taking B6. Perhaps my body was used to it or had a storage built up? I could be totally wrong here but since I had no nausea in pregnancy I wanted to share this B6 routine.
Don’t forget about your partner! He should equally be taking care of his health, staying active, and taking supplements. Tom takes Thorne multivitamins daily, omega 3, green superfood supplements, and we both take magnesium and zinc and occasionally vitamin D3.
Start using ovulation strips 1-2 months before you want to start trying. This way you’re familiar with the process, and you can see if your ovulation days line up with the estimated days your app gives you because your app is going to estimate your ovulation window based on your cycle length but your actual ovulation window will vary because it’s not the same for every woman. Then, make sure you log your ovulating days from the strip results into your app and your app should update your estimates going forward based on your results.
We also used PreSeed lubricant the last month of trying so it worked for us. You have to use the applicator and insert it up near the cervix so the lubricant gets up there and it helps the sperm to swim towards the cervix. I followed directions but used only ¾ the recommended amount.
Alcohol, caffeine, food and other things: There are SO many recommendations on this and my conclusion based on my experience was: stay healthy, and everything in moderation. One month I did not drink alcohol all month and it didn't work meaning that month we didn’t get pregnant. But I don’t drink heavy anyways, and I don’t drink during the week so my normal lifestyle was having 1-2 glasses of wine at dinner with friends on a Friday or Saturday. Looking back now I would have stuck with my normal lifestyle which was alcohol and coffee in moderation (I only have 1 cup of coffee per day). So knowing that I was already living a healthy lifestyle, looking back I wouldn’t have stressed myself with the 1 month of zero alcohol or the worry every morning when drinking my only coffee of the day, or reading about all the foods that *may* affect fertility.
Note: I have friends that provide health services to pregnant women and women trying to conceive and the consensus amongst these wise women always seems to be the same: don’t stress, stay healthy, everything in moderation, and don’t obsess over it. However, this does not mean any of the above factors may not affect fertility or the conception process. Of course, binge drinking, heavy caffeine, low-quality food and inactivity is not good for you and thus would affect your health and body-related processes. If you are told by a doctor that you need to do or not do certain things, by all means follow those instructions! Especially if you haven’t gotten pregnant after 6 months and have visited a doctor about it. Trust the advice of accredited medical professionals.
I did lay in bed for about 10 minutes after sex, and bonus if you can snuggle with your partner…but keeping a book, your phone, or a laptop near your bed also does the trick for those 10 minutes of waiting. In regards to putting your legs up against the wall or certain sex positions being more helpful…my determination was that these seemed to fall in the category of old wives tale/doesn’t hurt to try but medically there’s no strong evidence that they actually help. Again, this is based on my own belief to trust medical professionals first. For others, those tips passed on by generations of women in your family may be your guiding light and there is no perfect formula for getting pregnant (if there was everyone would be doing the same thing), so do what feels right for you and honors your own beliefs.
If you have any questions or comments on these recommendations, don’t hesitate to reach out. I enjoyed this journey and if I can be a resource to you or a source of support, I’d be honored to.