BRINGING ON BABY
If you've been trying to get pregnant and are worried that nothing has happened, don’t panic. Here’s how you can boost your chances. BY AZLINDA SAID
Don’t Dry Out
Not drinking enough water doesn’t just affect your skin, organs and muscles, it affects your cervical mucus, too. Dr Watt Wing Fong, a consultant and specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology at Raffles Women’s Centre, says being dehydrated dries out your cervical mucus. “It makes it more difficult for the sperm to get through,” she adds.
Watch Your Diet
While aphrodisiacs like oysters, caviar and chocolate may get you in the mood for love, they don’t affect ovulation.
However, you still need to eat healthily to ensure you ovulate regularly. Food low in nutrition can cause you to put on weight and starve your body of essential nutrients – both of which can affect ovulation.
“A ‘fertility diet’ should contain mono- or polyunsaturated fats (like fish oils) rather than trans fats (like crackers, cookies and fried food), vegetable rather than animal protein, as well as high fibre, low glycaemic carbohydrates (like whole grains) rather than white bread and rice. Supplement your diet with multivitamins, too,” notes Dr Kelly Loi, Singapore Obstetrician at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.
Dr Watt also advises that you eat more fruits and vegetables as these are rich in vitamins, antioxidants and folate. “Keep to no more than two glasses of alcohol or two cups of coffee a day if you’re trying to get pregnant,” she adds. Alcohol and coffee can interfere with ovulation.
De-stress First
If you’ve had a long, stressful day at work, make it a point to get completely relaxed – whether you’re planning to have sex that night or not. “Stress can affect ovulation, fertilisation and the mood for sex, which may, in turn, affect the quality and quantity of your cervical mucus,” says Dr Watt. Cervical mucus nourishes and protects the sperm as it swims through the reproductive tract. So if you’re not producing enough or the quality of the mucus is poor, the sperm may not be able to get to the egg.
Make Whoopee In Any Way
Contrary to popular belief, there is no specific sex position that can increase your chances of getting pregnant. It doesn’t matter whether the woman is on top, or if you’re doing the deed standing up or sitting down. “Healthy sperm, once deposited into the vagina, can swim through the cervical canal into the uterus and fallopian tubes to fertilise the egg,” says Dr Loi
However, pregnancy will not occur if penetration is incomplete or if there’s premature ejaculation as the sperm is unable to get into the reproductive tract, adds Dr Julinda Lee, a gynaecologist at Pacific Healthcare Specialist Centre.
Be Sure Of When You’re Ovulating
“It is important to have sex during the time that ovulation is most likely to happen,” says Dr Lee. “If you have a 28-day cycle, you are likely to ovulate on Day 14 (Day 1 is the first day of menstrual bleeding). If you have a 30-day cycle, you are likely to ovulate on Day 16.”
Did you know that the egg only lasts 24 hours after ovulation but sperm can last 72 hours?” If you have a regular, monthly menstrual cycle and have sex every other day between day 10 and 17 of your cycle, you have a higher chance of conceiving,” says Dr Lee.
You should also keep an eye out for these signs that indicate you’re ovulating:
  • CLEAR, WATERY, EGG WHITE-LIKE VAGINAL DISCHARGE. You should be able to stretch the mucus between your fingers. You may also notice slight blood streaks in the mucus.
  • MILD CRAMPS IN THE MIDDLE OF YOUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE. It’s a sign that your body is releasing an egg.
  • A SLIGHT RISE IN YOUR BASAL BODY TEMPERATURE. The increase is about 0.2 to 0.3 deg C. But you’ll need to chart your temperature every morning, to be able to spot this spike.
However, there are times when you could mistake symptoms of vaginal infection for signs of ovulation. Dr Watt says such infections also increase vaginal discharge and your body temperature. “Bloodstained mucus may also be due to other gynaecological issues like polyps or cervical problems. Lower abdominal pain may also be due to ovarian cysts, bladder or bowel problems,” she adds.
To confirm that you really are ovulating, use an ovulation kit, which measures the levels of luteinising hormone your body is releasing, advises Dr Lee. “The brain sends out this hormone to help with egg development and maturation. It gets released the most just prior to ovulation. The test kit can measure the hormone in succession over a few days and can tell you when you’re likely to be the most fertile.”
Don’t Exercise Too Much…Or Too Little
Both can prevent ovulation. Dr Lee explains that the body perceives over-exercising as chronic stress. “If you’re exercising much more and not eating enough, and weight loss – in particular, fat loss – occurs, you may stop ovulating altogether.”
On the other hand, doing too little exercise may lead to weight gain and the increase in body fat can also affect ovulation. “Ideally, try doing aerobic exercises two to three times a week, for 30 minutes each time,” advises Dr Loi.
WHAT'S MY KIT?
To monitor your ovulation cycle, check these out:
1. Urine ovulation kit. It detects the levels of luteinising hormone in your urine. A surge generally occurs 12 to 24 hours before ovulation. When you see this, have sex that night as well as over the next two days. You can buy the kit at pharmacies.
2. Basal body temperature kit. This comes with a thermometer to help you track your basal body temperature over a period of time. As body temperature rises a day after you ovulate, charting it when you wake up every day can help you predict when you’ll next ovulate. This kit is also available at pharmacies.
3. Period-tracking app. It predicts ovulation based on your menstrual cycle. You can download these apps to your smartphone for easy access.
They Tried It!
We asked women to try these free period-tracking apps, available for iPhones and Android phones.
Period Tracker Lite
You key in the start of your period every month, so the app can keep a log of your periods’ start dates. It predicts the start of your next period based on your menstrual cycles for the last three months.
“I love this app! It accurately counts down to my next period and even lets me know when my menses is late. My fertile eight-day window is indicated by flowers on my home screen – very discreet. I can also jot down my moods, body temperature, and more.”
- Ashley Ng, 35, marketing manager
Period Plus
This no-frills app predicts the dates of your period, your most fertile days, and your ovulation period for the next 12 months.
“I like that it’s password-protected. I can also make journal entries on days that I have sex – a great feature to pinpoint the exact date of conception!”
- Ani Rasi, 40, executive secretary
What To Expect Fertility Tracker
This period calendar helps map out when you’re most fertile and when you should expect your period. There are also daily pregnancy tips to inspire you.
“It’s simple and has a forum where I can reach out to other women trying to get pregnant. It also churns out estimated due dates for each day that I might conceive – one of the more nifty apps I’ve used.”
- Tan Li Li, 32, private tutor