So you've made the big decision -- you're going to start a family! But while you were certain that getting pregnant would be fast and easy, after six months of trying it's just not happening.
Could something be wrong? Of course that's always a possibility. But if you are young (between 18 and 34) and you and your partner are generally healthy, doctors say more often than not some simple problems -- with easy fixes -- may be standing in your way.
While some lucky people may get pregnant almost as soon as they start trying, it takes longer for many couples. One good way of increasing your odds is to chart your fertility cycle; that way, you'll better understand when you have the best chance of becoming pregnant. As you go through your cycle, your body gives you all sorts of clues to indicate when it is going into ovulation. You just need to know how to look for them.
Among the most common: Miscalculating your most fertile time of the month.
"By far, the single most important thing stopping healthy couples from getting pregnant is they are not having intercourse at the right time -- and the reason for that is many women simply aren't calculating their ovulation time, or most fertile period, correctly," says Steven Goldstein, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at NYU School of Medicine in New York City.
Goldstein says that, while most women know they must ovulate in order to conceive, many don't realize that waiting for this to happen before having sex causes them to bypass their most fertile time.
"After ovulation, an egg is only viable for about 24 hours -- so if you are waiting until you ovulate to have intercourse, chances are you are going to miss the opportunity to get pregnant that month," says Goldstein.
Since sperm can live in your reproductive tract for up to 72 hours, doctors say having sex beginning at least three days before ovulation dramatically increases your chance of conception.
"I tell my patients to start having sex a full five days before they expect to ovulate -- this way even if they are off a day or two in calculating their ovulation, the bases are still covered. It's better to have sex too early, than too late," says Sharon Winer, MD, an obstetrician at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Indeed, a 10-year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997 found that having sex beginning six days prior to ovulation is the most conducive to achieving conception. In the same study, not one pregnancy occurred when sex took place 24 hours after ovulation.