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How do I actually start trying to conceive?

So you're ready (as you'll ever be) to start trying to have a baby. What now? Is it a matter of literally just doing it, or is there more involved? We know how to prevent pregnancy, but learn very little about how to actually conceive. Don't worry — we're here with the 101 on how to start smart, know when to ask for help, and more.

Get your knowledge on

It's never too soon to start getting to know your body. Learning about your hormones, for example, is an important step. Modern Fertility's test will evaluate hormones that play a key role in your fertility, although, and we can't emphasize this enough, it cannot diagnose you with infertility. For starters, getting a look at what your AMH levels (which can tell you a lot about your ovarian reserve) are at a time when you're still pondering kids can help you make decisions about timing and more. Don't stop at testing just once, though — the more information you have over a period of time, the better.

Your menstrual cycle is an essential aspect of getting pregnant, so developing a familiarity with it is key. You can do that by tracking ovulation, which you can do with an ovulation tracker. Knowing when you're ovulating can help you strategize around sex (more on this later). Before you go off hormonal birth control, talk to your doctor about what you should expect in terms of symptoms (like withdrawal bleeding) and whether or not it might take a minute to pregnant after you stop taking BC.

Talk with your health care provider about how to prepare for pregnancy in terms of diet and exercise, in order to get yourself in the best shape possible, which includes learning the status of your vaccines and updating them if necessary, as well as inquiring about what prenatal vitamins you'll want to start taking. If you're a smoker, you definitely want to quit, and you'll want to be very thoughtful about your alcohol consumption. Make sure you're getting those 8+ glasses of water a day, and lots of good sleep.

If your partner is male, there are important preconception steps he can take as well, like managing stress and alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, and seeing a health care provider to make sure he's in good physical health.

(Not Necessarily) Sexy Times

If you're in a heterosexual relationship, you could "just do it," but in order to conceive, you'll want to plan it around your fertile window, or the time you have the best chance of getting pregnant. This is called timed intercourse, and it's where tracking your ovulation comes into play.

The likelihood of conceiving when you're having timed intercourse depends on how old you are, as well as the health of your fallopian tubes and uterus, and if your partner has any issues with his sperm or reproductive organs. If everything is in working order, so to speak, and you can pinpoint ovulation (which depends on whether or not you have a predictable menstrual cycle), having sex five days before you ovulate gives you a 14 to 23 percent chance of getting pregnant. You might want to consider an ovulation predictor kit, which looks for a rise in luteinizing hormone (LH). This rise typically happens 12-36 hours before you ovulate. Keeping in mind that everyone's body is different (not everyone has a 28 day cycle), there are other ways to assess ovulation, including checking your basal body temperature or your cervical mucus.

Conceiving when you're LGBTQ

If you identify as LGBTQ, you've probably keenly aware that getting pregnant is more complicated that learning when to have timed intercourse. There are options if you or your partner wants to carry a baby, which include intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF). You can use a sperm donor you know in real life, or choose one via a sperm bank.

Transgender individuals who want to reproduce have a number of options for doing so. A trans person who's planning to have their testicles removed can bank sperm beforehand, and before they begin estrogen therapy. If they are already taking hormones, it's recommended that they stop for a few months so that sperm quantity and quality can be restored, since long term use of estrogen negatively impacts the maturation and motility (the ability to move and swim) of sperm . For trans people who have ovaries and have been taking hormones like testosterone, stopping the intake of testosterone can reinstate ovarian function. Egg and/or embryo freezing, followed by IVF or IUI, may be good options for getting pregnant.

While you've navigating the process of finding the right doctor, the right clinic, insurance madness, and other bends in the road, remember that you deserve to be held and supported in your journey, and to have all the information you need to make decisions for your future family.

When to ask for help

Once you've been trying to get pregnant for a while, let's say a couple of months, it can start to feel like a chore, and that feeling can intensify if you're surrounded by people who seem like they can get pregnant just by making eye contact. When is "a while" too long? When should you worry?

The definition of infertility is not conceiving after you've been having regular, unprotected sex for 12 months and you're younger than 35, or you're 35 and over and you've been having regular unprotected sex for six months. If this applies to you, you may want to consider seeking out a fertility specialist, who will perform a battery of tests in order to assess what's going on and point you in the direction of further treatment. It's important to remember that around 40% of fertility challenges are due to male factors, such as sperm count and quality, so make sure to advocate for testing for your male partner if your doctor isn't evaluating his fertility as well as yours.

No matter where you are on your path to conceiving, be kind to yourself. Fertility and pregnancy are inherently stressful, so don't hesitate to seek support from those around you, as well as professionals.

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Chanel Dubofsky

Chanel's writing has appeared in Cosmo, Rewire, Lilith, HelloFlo, & Extra Crispy. She has an MFA in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts & lives in New York. Follow her @chaneldubofsky.

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