10 things I wish I knew before I started ttc

I have always felt school sex ed lessons really missed the mark on fertility, and as a new parent, I am determined to ensure they are not left thinking you only have to touch a boy to get pregnant (if only it was that simple!).

There is of course balance to be had, we don't want teen girls thinking falling pregnant is almost impossible so having unprotected sex is fine, but understanding that age, hormones and your overall health all impact the mission that is bringing a baby home, because let's be honest, it does turn into a mission for many.

I took my fertility and ability to have a baby for granted until I started trying to have one. Here’s what I learnt when I first started trying to conceive:

1. Unprotected sex doesn’t result in a baby.

The first thing that struck me was that one session of unprotected sex does not result in a baby… If you managed to pull this off, hats off to you, the timing must have been spot on. But for most of us the journey is longer. According to the NHS the average woman will fall pregnant within one year of trying. For the average 30 year old woman, with a normal functioning reproductive system, the chance of conceiving in any given month is 20%. For a healthy 40 year old woman it is 5%.

2. Let yourself feel the full spectrum of thoughts.

The gut wrenching feeling when your period arrives or when yet another friend tells you she is expecting is totally normal. It's ok to feel like that and you shouldn’t punish yourself for those thoughts. Sit with them, acknowledge them and take time for yourself. I found surrounding myself with those that understood it and/or had experienced it, was most helpful, their compassion and kindness got me through. Find your tribe!

3. Egg quality is SO important.

You are born with your lifetime supply of eggs. Yes they are immature and not fully formed but all the things you do throughout your teens, twenties and thirties are affecting the quality of your eggs. This is not meant to be a guilt trip because life is for living, those experiences in your early twenties are part of life’s lessons in growing up and you definitely should not punish yourself for enjoying those early years. For me the lesson I learnt from this piece of information was that just like my face, my eggs at 35 are probably starting to show some small (I might add...) signs of ageing and that actually the decline in egg health from 35 onwards is fairly rapid. Ensuring you are taking the right supplements to boost and support egg health in the months leading up to trying to conceive is really important.

4. Sperm Quality is also incredibly important.

It can be so easy to get wrapped up in what YOU can do. But sperm take 90 days to be produced and men are not born with their sperm reserve so what they do in the 3 to 4 months prior to when you hope to fall pregnant can have an impact on sperm quality. By which I mean alcohol consumption, cannabis and elevating the body temperature adversely affects sperm quality. Yup I’m sorry chaps - those hot tubs, saunas and heated car seats are all a big no-no. In order for sperm to live they need to be kept at an optimal temperature so anything that generates too much heat in that area, like using the sauna, kills the sperm, unless of course you take an ice pack in there with you, but you might get some odd looks…

5. Scrap the 12 week rule.

Telling people you are pregnant before the 12 week mark is not bad luck - you will not miscarry because you said those three words “I am pregnant”. But why do so many hold onto this old wives tale? I did and I reflect back and wonder why. Surely there is value in people knowing you are pregnant so they can support you in this early trimester whatever the outcome. Those first few weeks already feel so uncertain and having a good support network can help leaps and bounds. It's time to change this narrative. Which leads to my next point…

6. Miscarriage is more common than you think.

1 in 4 women will miscarry, and an estimated 1 in 20 will go on to miscarry more than once. It’s more common than you realise, and until celebrities recently started speaking out about it, it was a taboo topic. But why? When it affects so many people. It is a hugely misunderstood, under researched and underfunded area. The biggest take away though is that it is not something you have done. Do not blame or punish yourself. If you have a very early miscarriage, please make sure to let your GP know.

7. Learn your cycle.

Most women do not ovulate on day 14. We were always told an average woman’s cycle is 28 days long but new research has shown this is wrong - the average is actually 29.3 days. The study also found cycle length differences were predominantly caused by follicular phase length variations. So learning about your own cycle is really important, and this only comes with time and knowledge on what to look out for. Check out other blogs we have written on hormones to learn more - our blog on AMH is a great place to start.

8. Reverse Cowgirl doesn’t increase your chances of conception.

Sex positions do not affect your chances of conception. No study has yet to prove that one position is more effective than another in helping you fall pregnant. So do what you and your partner enjoy most whether it’s missionary or a position you just about remember from your favourite teenage magazine, otherwise this baby making malarky really does become a chore. Yeee Haw to that!

9. Having sex every day is not the best strategy for getting pregnant.

The more frequent the ejaculation the lower the concentration of sperm. Therefore it’s best to have sex every 48 - 72 hours, as this increases the quantity of quality sperm per ejaculation, increasing the odds of a successful pregnancy. One recommendation for increasing the probability of fertilisation is to hold off having sex for 2 - 3 days prior to ovulation, and then having as much sex as possible on the day before and day of ovulation. It is also worth noting that sperm can live up to 5 days inside the female body, so there is room for tracking errors on ovulation and you don't need to just wait for ovulation day.

10. Keep doing the things that make you happy - e.g. exercising.

Exercising is more than ok when trying to conceive, in fact it's recommended providing that the exercising is moderate and enjoyable to you. Exercising not only helps to keep your BMI within the ideal range, it also triggers the release of endorphins helping to reduce stress and improve your overall sense of wellbeing. I started pilates and swimming, but anything goes.It is worth noting though if you are undergoing IVF and are exercising intensively and vigorously your doctor may suggest you scale back your exercise to a moderate level. Of course, if exercise is not your thing, stick to walking and getting your steps in.

Most of all though, you need to keep doing the things that make you happy. TTC can be all consuming and it’s easy to lose yourself in the process. Take 10 mins out of your day to do something for you, whether that’s going for a stroll, fitting in a workout, reading a chapter of your book or simply being present.

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