What's the single-best thing a couple can do to increase their odds of conceiving? Well, if the answer were that simple, couples wouldn’t need to get lost in the abundant amount of information available on the web, scouring bookstore shelves for the newest read on the subject, spending a considerable amount of money, and time learning about the most effective testing on the market, best products, the what-to, and what-not-to-do’s of getting pregnant.

Conception and fertility have really become hot topics over the last decade or so. People have opened up a great deal when it comes to discussing everything from signs a woman is most fertile, sexual positions most effectively used to conceive, foods to eat, herbs to ingest, tests to take, basal temperatures, charts to track, and so on, and so on, and so on. For ‘beginners’, or those just making the decision to start a family, or experiencing difficulties in becoming pregnant for the first time, they are suddenly immersed in the world of fertility. It can all be quite confusing.

Here are some tips and tricks for beginners to help sift through some of the material, and ‘need-to-knows’!

If I had to pin down the one vital best-odds low-tech method of conception, I would say: TIMING. The vital key is to find out when the egg is ready and waiting, and make sure that numerous, healthy sperm are there to greet it.

When you are trying to get pregnant there are many thoughts that can run rampant through your head. Can I get pregnant? What if I have infertility problems? Unfortunately, until you try for several months, you won't know. Most doctors will not run fertility tests until there is a good reason to suspect there is an actual problem. But there are a couple of things you can do to find out if you are indeed ovulating.

There are many myths about ovulation. The main one is that ovulation always occurs on day 14 of your cycle. The truth is many women will ovulate sooner or later than day 14, and some may actually ovulate on day 14 - but this is not carved in stone. It is perfectly normal for a woman to ovulate as early as day 8 or as late as day 28 or later. And another myth - just because you have menstrual bleeding every 28 to 30 days doesn't necessarily mean that ovulation has occurred. Sometimes the bleeding is simply breakthrough bleeding, caused by hormones. There are ways you can tell, usually within a month or two if you are ovulating or not.

First thing you can do is to chart your basal body temperature. This is an excellent way of confirming ovulation. Purchase a good basal body thermometer.

Take your temperature at the same time every day. Take it before you move around or get up or speak. Record this on an ovulation chart (easily found on the Internet) noting anything unusual such as too cold or too hot or sick. The rule of thumb is for every half hour early you rise add .1 a degree, and for every half hour late you rise subtract .1 a degree.

The first half of your cycle - from day 1 of menstrual bleeding to ovulation, your temperatures should remain in the low range - anywhere from 96.0 to 98.0. This is due to the hormone estrogen, which prompts the body to produce fertile quality cervical fluid - and to aid the luteinizing hormonal surge in helping the ovaries to release the egg(s). Occasionally, right before ovulation, a large amount of estrogen is released, thus causing the temperatures to dip a little lower. This is not always the case - but some women can tell on their charts by this dip in temperatures that ovulation is imminent.

One the temperature shifts upward for approximately 3 days, you can safely assume that ovulation has occurred. The shift should be roughly .4 a degree upward from the day of suspected ovulation. Occasionally a woman will be a "slow riser" meaning that it may take several days for the temperature to jump up.

Some women may spot a tiny bit of blood during ovulation. This is perfectly normal. It happens when the egg pops out of the ovary. Be concerned if the bleeding lasts for more than a day. Also, judging from the cervical fluid, before ovulation there should be an abundance of it. Once thought of as infection, this fluid is normal and essential in aiding fertility. After ovulation, the fluid should dry up.

After you see the rise in temperatures, they should stay "high" until your next menstrual cycle begins. This is due to the hormone progesterone, which prepares the uterine lining for possible implantation of a fertilized egg. This period is known as the luteal phase and should last from 10 - 17 days. If you are pregnant, your temperatures will remain high. You count a cycle from the first day of bleeding until the day before the next cycle's bleeding begins.

If you never notice a rise in temperatures and yet still have "menstrual" bleeding every month - you are probably not ovulating. This is known as breakthrough bleeding, caused by high levels of estrogen. If you see this pattern in your temperatures - jumping all over the chart - with no definite rise and no definite luteal phase this is known as anovulation. There are a number of reasons why this occurs and you and your physician will need to come to a diagnosis and possible treatment.

Another way of determining if you are ovulating is through the use of ovulation predictor kits. While these kits are fairly accurate, you will have better results from determining ovulation from charting. If you choose to use ovulation predictor kits, be aware that each brand has different instructions. For example, the time of day you urinate for the test, whether or not the result line is the same or darker than the test line are a few of the differences. And if you are anovulatory, you may see a surge (positive result) for days. Using them in conjunction with charting insures the best results.<

A fantastic ovulation calculator tool can be found on makeababy.ca.

Simply fill in the information on the calculator, and you will be provided a personalized chart of when to expect ovulation.

If you are above the age of 30 and find that after 1 year of following the guidelines above, you have not successfully conceived, talk to your Doctor. If you are 35 and older, wait only 6 months before booking an appointment with your GP.

Another very helpful aid in pinpointing ovulation, is the use of Ovulation test kits. There are many good tests on the market. At Make A Baby, we offer both midstream and dip tests that are very easy to use and extremely reliable. You can perform the test every single day until the test reads positive, drastically reducing the amount of time spent charting and pin-pointing on your own!

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