If you read my last post (here), you already know that my hubby and I have been together for 11 years. We just celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary last week. We have been hit with baby fever. It doesn’t help that we have a total of NINE nieces and nephews from my hubby’s siblings and my brother. The newest one was just born a couple of weeks ago. To be honest, we were both ready to have kids seven years ago, but it just wasn’t in the cards for us. He had just separated from the military and working on his degree. I had just completed mine and struggling with finding my place in the world, then started grad school. Then, we dealt with two years where we were both unemployed. So, it was definitively not the right time to start our family. There is no perfect time to have a baby but having steady income would make for an easier time. However, we are officially trying to conceive (TTC) and it has been an interesting process.
With this blog post, I will discuss the steps hubby and I have taken in the process of trying to conceive. I will also share the products I have purchased and offer some quick reviews of them. We are rather new to actively trying to conceive, but we are keeping our fingers crossed that we will have good news soon!
**Keep in mind, I am not a medical professional and I am just sharing my experiences and thoughts on the topic. Please, seek advice from your physician before making any changes in your life.**
Step 1: Taking the plunge!
Like I said above, hubby and I finally felt like we were in a good place to start trying to conceive our first baby. We would regularly discuss what we felt had to happen for us to be comfortable with a pregnancy. The first thing that had to happen was for hubby to find a job. Then, we would just have to time everything out to be sure a baby isn’t born until after all his benefits have kicked in (e.g. insurance, paternity leave, paid vacation, etc.). Really, that was all we needed. So, when he accepted a job offer in June of 2018 we knew we could start getting the ball rolling to start our family. He did not actually start work until September. But, that gave us an opportunity to start doing some research and see what all we had to do to get ourselves ready.
Step 2: Getting Our Bodies Ready
This part of getting ready to try to conceive has taken us the longest! It has taken us nine months just to get through all of this!
Getting Off the Pill
The first thing I had to do was get off birth control. I was on birth control for 12 years. I was originally prescribed the pill because I had horrible hormone induced migraines. The pill did help, but looking back at all the other issues I had while on the pill as well as how hard it has been to regulate my cycle, I do not recommend hormonal birth control (I may have to get more into detail in another post about my experiences). But, I had to get these hormones out of my system and allow my body to do what it is supposed to do.
I did not see a doctor before getting off birth control. I DO NOT recommend doing this. It only happened this way for me because my prescription expired, and we had some issues with our new insurance. So, rather than pay out of pocket to see a doctor, I simply never got a new prescription, nor did I pay out of pocket to discuss getting off the pill with a doctor. I did finish my last pack of pills and just not start a new pack after that. This was in the end of November. Then, I was not able to see my primary care provider until March. One, there were still some issues with our insurance for some reason. And two, because hubby was sent out of state for training for ten weeks and I went with him.
That was an interesting time for us because I was off the pill, but we weren’t wanting to actively try to conceive until after we had gotten clearance from our doctor. My hormones were all out of whack too because my body wasn’t quite sure what to do. But, by February I was better. My cycle is still a little bit irregular in July/August, but I have been told that is still normal.
Physicals for Hubby and Me
In March hubby and I went in for our yearly physicals to just check on our overall health. I also got my annual PAP just to be sure all bases were covered. In those appointments, we discussed our desire to start a family and our doctor gave us some information on what our next steps should be. We also got the all clear and said we are perfect candidates for conception as all our blood work came in well. We did not need to go through any kind of genetic testing since there is no family history of genetic disorders and we are both younger than 35. But, we did have a couple more steps we had to take before we could start trying to conceive.
Hubby and I both had to get a vaccine. I had to get a blood test to see if I had antibodies for measles. I did not. So, I had to get an MMR booster. Side note: that shot hurts, a lot. I completely understand why the little ones cry when they get that one. I then had to wait an entire month before I would be able to start trying for a baby. The MMR vaccine could cause a fever and being pregnant while the virus is still working through my system may cause complications. My hubby had the antibodies, but he still had to get a DPT shot to ensure he had immunity to whooping cough. I did not get that vaccine myself because I am allergic to the pertussis vaccine and my Td vaccine is up to date.
My doctor highly recommend that we get these shots to help prevent disease while I am pregnant and once the kiddo is born and still too little to get vaccines of their own. This is a very important part of the process that every couple should discuss with their doctors.
After our vaccines, our doctor stressed the importance of me starting a prenatal vitamin and a DHA supplement. Luckily, my previous doctor told me to start taking prenatal vitamins as early as two years ago to get my body ready for babies. But, I was on a pretty bad vitamin. Not all prenatal vitamins are created equal! Do your research and make sure the vitamin you choose has all the nutrients you need for yourself and baby. I am using the Nature Made Prenatal Multi and the Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA supplements. The Nature Made vitamin came highly recommended by my doctor and from sources on the internet I came across. The Nordic Naturals are the only DHA supplement endorsed by the American Pregnancy Association. So, I think I made a good choice. The pills aren’t very big, and they don’t leave an after taste or make you smell fishy. So, I am a happy camper.
I am not the only one who must take vitamins though! Hubby should take a daily multivitamin as well! He is on a basic One A Day Men’s. Our doctor also recommended that he take fish oil pills as well. I found the Nordic Naturals for him as well. It was also recommended that he take additional vitamin c and zinc to help with fertility. All three supplements are known to help with production and quality sperm. So, I’m not alone in poppin’ pills for baby!
Step 3: Charting
As soon as hubby accepted a job offer, I started charting my cycle. Mind you, about five of those months I was still on birth control, so my period came like clockwork. But, I figured it was a great way to start getting in the habit of writing down notes about my cycle. There are so man apps out there for you to use on your phone that can help you keep track of your cycle.
I used Flo for quite some time and then moved to Ovulation Calculator because I felt like it was more accurate. Most of these apps do allow for you to input all kinds of different things like the days of your period, daily symptoms you might notice (e.g. skin breakouts, temperature, nausea, migraine, back pain, cramps, etc.). The longer you use these apps the more accurate it is in predicting your ovulation day and periods.
The Ava Bracelet
I did invest in the Ava bracelet. I found a lot of great reviews about Ava. They also have a purchase option where they guarantee a pregnancy in 12 months or your money back! You wear Ava at night while you sleep and it tracks your resting pule rate, skin temperature, breathing rate, HRV ratio (to measure stress), and your sleep cycle (REM, deep, and light sleep). Ava comes with an app for your phone and calculations are made to predict your five most fertile days in your cycle. Like the other apps, the more you use Ava, the more it will get to know you and increases the accuracy of its predictions. For my last cycle, Ava noticed that my temperature did not raise like it should have on the predicted ovulation day and notified me that I may not have ovulated yet and that hubby and I should try again. I ended up ovulating a day later than predicted. Ava marked on my calendar the actual day it believes I ovulated too (granted it is still an assumption since the only way to know 100% that I ovulated is through an ultrasound) since my temperature raised like it should when ovulation occurs (statistically speaking anyway).
You can learn more about the Ava bracelet here.
It was recommended in the books I read to use LH strips to predict my ovulation. LH stands for Luteinizing hormone. This hormone, in a lot of women, surges 24-48 hours before ovulation. So, it is recommended for women to start testing with these strips twice a day for at least a week before predicted ovulation to pinpoint exactly when ovulation will occur.
These strips will help you plan on your ovulation and will give you a warning of when you are expected to ovulate. There is a catch though, not ever woman will have a strong enough LH surge for it to be detected on the strips. Also, it does not tell you exactly when you will ovulate, you will just know it is coming. For some women that could be in 12 hours, in others, 48. But, you can try as often as you want to be sure you hit the egg.
I have had three cycles now of actively trying to conceive and I have yet to have a positive LH test. Therefore, it is good to have a couple of different methods to help predict ovulation.
Find What Works for You
In every book and forum I have read, charting temperature is the most accurate way predict ovulation. However, our temperature raises after ovulation, so waiting until your temperature rises will mean it is too late to try to conceive in that cycle. But, with phone apps or devices like Ava, you will be able to verify whether your fertile days were accurate or not. You can check your temperature with any thermometer. The difficult part is that you MUST check your temperature right when you wake up in the morning and try to do so before even sitting up out of the bed.
I know for a fact that I would constantly mess that up. You also would have to be asleep for at least four hours for the temperature to be accurate for that day. Well, I wake up in the middle of the night a lot and sometimes I need to get up to go to the bathroom. So, with that style of temping, I would have a hard time maintaining accuracy. Therefore, the Ava bracelet was such a good investment for me. The way it reads my temperature allows me to get up if I must and doesn’t seem to be bothered by my tossing and turning. This reduces a lot of stress in my life to just be able to throw the bracelet on when I go to bed and sync it up when I wake up in the morning.
The LH strips can increase stress for me too. I know I have spent a lot of time wondering if I even timed the test properly since I have yet to see a positive result. Then I get anxious thinking that I might not even be ovulating.
So, it is important to find a method that works well for you and your habits. You will have to maintain charts throughout your entire time trying to conceive. It is best to find something that’s accurate and is easy for you to do to keep up with for an extended amount of time.
Step 4: Healthy Habits to Increase Fertility
While my hubby and I have gotten the all clear from our doctor to start trying to conceive, we understand that the odds of getting pregnant is 25% each month (at most, some sources say as low as 15%) and in can still take the average couple 6 months to conceive. So, we want to do whatever we can to help increase our odds every month.
Hubby and I are trying very hard to eat a balanced diet. We are avoiding overly processed foods as well as alcohol. It was recommended to me that I eat foods that are rich in magnesium, iron and zinc. Foods with those nutrients include broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach, red/purple grapes, beans, cashews, and lean meats. I am also drinking at least two glasses of green tea a day. Green tea is a great antioxidant and helps regulate hormones. This should help regulate my cycle. It is also recommended that we both avoid trans fats. My hubby is a picky eater, but he has increased his consumption of vegetables and is doing very well avoiding the “bad” foods.
It is very important that we both get adequate amounts of sleep. This one is very hard for my husband as he has a hard time unplugging at night. But sleep is very important to allow our bodies to restore itself from stressful days and just improves our overall health.
While our doctor gave us clearance to start trying to conceive, she did say that we both need to work on losing weight. This is for our overall health, but also to increase our fertility and to reduce complications later in pregnancy. So, hubby and I are working hard to incorporate exercise in our daily routines. I had to start slow, but I can do cardio about four times a week now. Hubby is doing cardio and body weight training 3-5 times a week now as well. Exercising also helps reduce stress and regulates hormones! So, there are all kinds of benefits in exercising when trying to conceive. It will also be helpful to maintain an exercise regime once pregnant too.
Finally, reducing stress is so important in trying to conceive! I have already discussed a couple of things to help with stress, but it is important to keep it in check! Unfortunately, we had some plumbing issues in our rental that caused damage in the downstairs ceiling and the whole three-day ordeal caused a lot of stress. I got so stressed out that my period came almost a full week early. That is not good! That means my hormones went wonky and could throw me off for this new cycle I am on and could set us back a month or two in conceiving.
Life happens, but we need to be able to figure out ways to handle stress better. Getting good sleep and exercising regularly will help, but you might want to also find ways to meditate or even just a simple breathing exercise to use when you feel the stress building up. It is amazing how stress can affect nearly every aspect of your life. While it can be hard, but it is possible to manage stress better. It just takes practice. I know I am working very hard at it.
What I Read During This Process
What to Expect Before You’re Expecting
I have read two books throughout this process. First, I read What to Expect Before You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel. This book is, “the complete guide to getting pregnant”. It was written to help you prepare for conception, boost your fertility as well as your spouse’s fertility, how to adjust your lifestyle and timing your sex to increase your odds of getting pregnant. This is a very useful book. It offers advice on the best-case scenarios (getting pregnant quickly) as well as the worst-case scenarios (miscarriages and moving on from loss as well as scenarios where couples need fertility treatments or IVF). I highly recommend this book as it probably answers all your questions and then some!
The Babydust Method
Then, I read The Babydust Method: A Guide to Conceiving a Girl or a Boy by Kathryn Taylor. This book offers tips to increase your odds of conceiving one gender over the other. It also discusses the pitfalls to other sex-selection methods of conception. I read this book more for fun. It is short and offers some interesting advice in ways to increase your odds in conceiving your desired gender.
Now, hubby and I want at least two children and we want a boy and a girl. So, we will not care what gender our future baby is. Then, if we end up with all our children being the same gender, well, that’s what God wanted for us. But, this book was interesting to read, nonetheless. We may try a couple of the author’s tips and see how accurate it really was when we do conceive. My LH and pregnancy test strips came with this book. They had to be purchased separately, but they are packaged as if they come in a bundle.
So, these are all the steps my hubby and I have taken in preparing for pregnancy. We knew it was going to take some time before we were completely ready to actively start trying to conceive, but we didn’t realize it would take us 9 months to get there. Now, we are not the norm. We had some obstacles to get through that not every couple will face. But, it is good to keep in mind that you might have to manage some hurdles yourself before you are where you need to be in order to start trying to conceive as well.
We have also been unsuccessful in conceiving for three cycles now. I don’t think I have ever been so upset in starting my period as I was last week. But, we must stay positive and keep trying. If we still haven’t gotten lucky by the new year, I will schedule an appointment and see if there is anything else we need to do (e.g. hormone testing, fertility treatments) to help us have a baby. Every day that goes by makes us one day closer to becoming parents. We may have a couple more obstacles to conquer, or we may get lucky this cycle. But, we will become parents one day. I hope sooner rather than later, but it is all in God’s timing.
Questions of the Week
Are you a parent? What tips do you have for couples who are trying to conceive? What methods worked for you?
If you aren’t a parent yet, what methods have you tried that did not seem to work for you?