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top tips on how to get pregnant

Conception is a small miracle - a matter of chance - and the length of time it takes to conceive a baby varies enormously. Some will be lucky and fall pregnant at the first attempt; others will still be trying a year or more later. If you're ready to start trying for a baby or conception is taking longer than you'd like - follow our guide to give yourself the very best chance of getting pregnant.

The best time to conceive

To fall pregnant naturally, you ideally need to make love one or two days before you ovulate (when an egg is released from your ovaries) and no more than 24 hours after ovulation. This is because sperm cells can live for up to 72 hours in your body, but eggs live no longer than 24 hours after ovulation. If you have sex a day or two before you ovulate there should be a healthy amount of live sperm in your fallopian tubes when your egg is released - giving the very best chance of fertilisation.

How to tell when you're ovulating

Some women are aware of when they ovulate - others notice no changes at all. The subtle signals that an egg has been released from one of your ovaries may include a small stab of pain in your middle abdomen, increased vaginal discharge (with a gelatinous, egg-white-like appearance), and a slight increase in body temperature.

If you have a fairly regular menstrual cycle, but are still unsure of when you're ovulating, your ovulation date can be pretty simple to calculate:

  • Take the first day of your period as day one of your cycle.
  • Calculate the average length of your period (somewhere between 23 - 35 days for most women).
  • Subtract 14 days from the length of your cycle to find your probable ovulation date (ie if your cycle is usually 29 days long, your ovulation date should be around day 15). This works because the luteal phase (the phase after ovulation and before your next period) tends to be the same - 14 days - for most women.

If your periods are irregular - but you are ovulating - having intercourse every two or three days throughout your cycle is the best way to ensure you're having sex at the right time.

Improve your chances of conception

To boost your chances of conception, both partners should:

  • Eat well - choose organic whole foods where possible and avoid junk and processed meals.
  • Abstain from cigarettes, alcohol and non-prescription drugs.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Achieve a healthy weight.
  • Get checked and treated for any genito-urinary infections and sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Try to relax and reduce your stress e.g. take up yoga or swimming - whatever helps you.

It's also important to start taking folic acid now for the healthy development of your baby, if and when you conceive. The government recommends mothers take a daily 400mcg supplement from the time of conception until the 12th week of pregnancy.

Don't expect immediate results

It can be very disappointing to try and fail to conceive month after month. However it's worth noting that even a healthy, fertile couple in their early twenties will take an average of five cycles to conceive, and a woman in her thirties, an average of nine cycles. One in 10 couples will take more than a year to succeed, with chances declining gradually with increasing age. Your age, the contraceptive method you have been using, and your general and fertility health as a couple can all affect your chances of conception. Most GPs will tell you not to worry until you have been trying for at least a year with no result. However, you should ask for early sperm and ovulation checks if you are over 30, suspect ovulation problems, have suffered from a sexually transmitted disease or had pelvic or abdominal surgery in the past.

Use gurgle.com's Ovulation calculator to help you find out exactly when you are most fertile each month. That way you can increase your chances of falling pregnant.