The most important advice for a woman who wants to get pregnant is to know her body, specifically her menstrual cycle. It's Important to know how far apart her cycles are, so she can more accurately time intercourse in order to get pregnant.
What is menstruation?
The word ‘menstruation’ is etymologically related to the moon. The terms "menstruation" and "menses" are derived from the Latin mensis (month), which in turn relates to the Greek mene (moon) and to the roots of the English words: month and moon.
Menstruation is also called menses, menstrual period or period. It is a normal vaginal bleeding that occurs as a part of a woman's monthly cycle. Every month, your body prepares for pregnancy, if no pregnancy occurs, the uterus or womb sheds its lining.
The menstrual blood is partly blood and partly tissue from inside the uterus which passes out of the body through vagina.
Periods usually start between age 11 and 14 and continue till menopause at about 51 years of age. The normal menstrual cycle has an average duration of 28 days with plus or minus of 7 days (range 21-35 days). The normal number of days of bleeding are two to six days.
The average blood loss during each cycle is 35ml and the mean duration of menses (flow) is 4-7 days.
Besides bleeding from vagina, you may observe abdominal or pelvic cramping pain, lower back ache, bloating and sore breasts, food cravings, mood swings and irritability and headache & fatigue.
Tips to increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Record menstrual cycle frequency
A Woman who wants to have a baby should monitor whether the first days of her periods tend to occur the same number of days apart every month, which is considered regular.
Conversely, her periods may be irregular, meaning her cycle lengths vary from month to month. By tracking this information on a calendar, a woman can better predict when she might be ovulating, which is the time every month when her ovaries will release an egg.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, a woman's egg is fertile for only 12 to 24 hours after its release. However, a man's sperm can survive in a woman's vagina for up to five days.
Women with regular cycles ovulate about two weeks before the arrival of their periods. It's harder to predict ovulation in women with irregular cycles, but it usually occurs 12 to 16 days before the start of her next period.
According to a 2019 research paper published in the journal Nature, there is a wide variety in the lengths of cycles of people who menstruate, and the time and duration of ovulation changes over a person's lifetime. This variability means that it is best to monitor ovulation to find out when the person is most likely to conceive.
There are several methods women can use to help determine their most fertile days each month.
Home ovulation-prediction kits can reduce the guesswork needed to figure out when a woman is ovulating. Sold at drug stores, the kits test urine for luteinizing hormone, a substance whose levels increase each month during ovulation and cause the ovaries to release an egg. Three days right after a positive test result the couple should increase the frequency of having sex.
Another method to predict ovulation is to track cervical mucus, which involves a woman regularly checking both the amount and appearance of mucus in her vagina. Just before ovulation, when a woman is most fertile, the amount of mucus increases, and it becomes thinner, clearer and more slippery.
When cervical mucus becomes more slippery, it can help sperm make its way to the egg. A study published in 2013 in the journal fertility and sterility found that women who checked their cervical mucus consistently were 2-3 times more likely to get pregnant faster, over a six-month period.
Have sexual intercourse every other day during the fertile window
The "fertile windows" span a six-day interval — the five days prior to ovulation and the day of it. According to the American society for reproductive medicine, every month a woman is most fertile on these days.
When a woman has identified a fertility window, should she have sexual intercourse every day? Research has shown that there hasn't been a big difference in pregnancy rates between couples who had sex every day during the "fertile window" (37%) compared with couples who did it every other day (33%)"
Strive for a healthy body weight
A woman's weight can also impact the chances of conceiving. Research has shown that a woman who is overweight can take twice as long to become pregnant as a woman whose body-mass index (BMI) is considered normal weight. A woman who is underweight might take four times as long to conceive.
Having too much body fat produces excess estrogen, which can interfere with ovulation. A study suggested that couples in which both partners were very obese, with BMI of at least 35 each, took from 55% to 59% longer to become pregnant, compared with couples who were not obese.
In a study published in 2020 in the journal Plos One, researchers looked at data from more than 50,000 couples in China trying to conceive over the course of a year; they found that women's ability to conceive within a given timeframe decreased as their BMI increased.
Male obesity, which can disrupt the male endocrine system as well as sperm viability and concentration, can also affect a couple's ability to become pregnant, scientists reported in 2020 in the journal Andrologia.
According to the university of Wisconsin hospitals and clinics authority, the women who are underweight, with a BMI less than 18, might not be getting regular periods or could stop ovulating, which also hinders their ability to become pregnant.
Take a prenatal vitamin
Scientists recommend that women who are attempting to conceive should start taking a prenatal vitamin even before becoming pregnant. This way, a woman can find one that's more agreeable to her system and stay on it during pregnancy.
Another possibility is to take a daily multivitamin, as long as it contains at least 400 micrograms (mcg) per day of folic acid, the vitamin that's important for preventing birth defects in a baby's brain and spine.
The Centers for disease control and prevention recommends women to take 400 mcg of folic acid every day for at least one month before getting pregnant, to help prevent birth defects.
Getting a head start on folic acid supplementation is a good idea because the neural tube develops into the brain and spine three to four weeks after conception occurs, before many women may realize they are expecting.
Eat healthy foods
Although there may not be a specific pregnancy diet, eating a variety of healthy foods can help prepare a woman's body for pregnancy by giving her adequate stores of essential nutrients including calcium, protein and iron. This means one should start eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, dairy products and healthy sources of fat.
Besides, taking a supplement containing folic acid, a woman can also obtain this vitamin from foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, fortified breads and cereals, beans, citrus fruits and orange juice.
When trying to get pregnant, eat lower amounts of high-mercury fish, such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish. This is because mercury can accumulate in a pregnant woman's bloodstream, which affects a baby's development, according to the study. Also limit albacore (white) tuna to 6 ounces (170 grams) per week to reduce exposure to this toxic metal, the food and drug administration recommends. A study in 2019 found that mercury consumption could also impair men's and women's fertility.
Some scientists suggest that pregnant women should avoid caffeine. Health authorities in the United States, Europe and the United Kingdom said that a woman having about 200 mg of caffeine (less than two cups of coffee) will not affect her baby, but a 2020 review study, published in BMJ evidence-based medicine, found that there was no safe level of caffeine consumption for pregnant women or for those trying to get pregnant.
Cut back on strenuous workouts
Being physically active most days of the week can help a woman's body prepare for the demands of pregnancy and labor, and has been associated with a reduced risk of fertility problems, scientists reported in the march 2020 issue of the journal Human Reproduction. But doing frequent strenuous workouts could interfere with ovulation, a study reported.
Doctors see a lot of menstrual disturbances in women who exercise heavily, and a lot of times these women need to cut back on their workouts if they want to become pregnant.
Be aware of age-related fertility declines
As women get older, their fertility decreases. This is because of age-related changes in the ovaries that cause a decline in the quantity and quality of her eggs. With advancing age, there's also an increased risk for some health problems, such as uterine fibroids, endometriosis and blockage of the fallopian tubes, which can contribute to a loss of fertility.
The study says that there's a gradual fertility decline for women beginning in their 30s, a sharper decline after 37 years of age and a steep fertility decline after age 40. These declines mean that it may take longer to become pregnant.
Kick the smoking and drinking habits
Smoking can lead to fertility problems in both women and men. Chemicals found in cigarette smoke such as nicotine and carbon monoxide speed up the loss rate of women’s eggs.
Smoking ages a woman's ovaries and depletes her supply of eggs prematurely. According to a study published in 2020 in the journal reproductive biology and endocrinology, researchers looked at scientific findings around smoking, alcohol, addiction and fertility; they found that smoking is linked to decreased fertility.
It's also a good idea for women to stay away from passive smoking, which may affect their chances of becoming pregnant. Marijuana and other recreational drug use should also be avoided while trying to conceive.
It's safest for a woman to avoid alcohol when she is hoping to become pregnant. A woman should also stop consuming alcohol if she stops using birth control to get pregnant.
A 2017 study published in the journal obstetrics & gynecology found that about half of pregnant women in the United States drink alcohol around the time they become pregnant or in early pregnancy, usually before they know they are expecting.
Drinking alcohol at moderate (one to two drinks per day) or heavy (more than two drinks per day) levels can make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant, according to the American college of obstetricians and gynecologists. Once a woman becomes pregnant, there's no safe amount of alcohol.
Know when to seek help
Both the woman and the man should consider having an infertility evaluation if the woman is 35 or older and has not become pregnant after six months of having sex regularly without using birth control.
It is also recommended that a woman who is under 35 and her partner should consult a fertility specialist if she hasn't become pregnant after one year of having unprotected intercourse on a regular basis.
Dr Khalid Ur Rehman,
MD physician, Medical Officer J&K Health Services