Having a healthy diet and lifestyle may help (NICE 2010), as may keeping your stress levels low (Buck Louis et al 2010, NCCWCH 2016:67).
What if we’re too busy to plan our sex life?If your lifestyle makes it tricky to have regular sex (because of work trips away or the demands of existing children), you could learn to pinpoint your fertile window.
Women with an irregular cycle may also prefer to take some control over trying for a baby. (If you’re on a cycle of assisted conception treatment, your doctor may have asked you to detect ovulation as part of the process.)
An easy and accurate way to do this is by using urine-based ovulation predictor kits (OPKs). You can buy the kits from pharmacies, or you may be able to cut your costs by bulk buying online. This method is seen as more useful than some other ways of spotting ovulation (NCCWCH 2016:68).
A more time-consuming but cheaper way of working out when you are likely to be ovulating is to track your basal body temperature (BBT) and cervical mucus (CM) using a BBT or fertility thermometer.
Using this method, you have to chart your cycle every day, first thing in the morning, for a few months. Then you can recognise your pattern and have a better chance of predicting your most fertile days. Most women see a spike in their temperature, signalling that they’ve ovulated, and notice that their mucus looks and feels like raw egg white at around the same time. When the two coincide, it tells you that you have ovulated.
Provided you have a regular cycle, you can work out the days in future cycles when you’re more likely to conceive and so make sure that you have sex at least once at those times until, hopefully, you conceive. In general, though, timing sex in this way has not been found to improve your chances of natural conception compared to just having sex every two to three days (NCCWCH 2013:68).
Check out the sample chart to see how a completed one will look. Then, if you decide you’d like to try charting your BBT and CM, you can print out a blank chart for use at home.
Remember, every woman’s cycle is different. Yours may not look like the sample, or may be different every month. There are also some disadvantages to using this method of ovulation prediction - see our articles on how to chart your BBT and cervical mucus and charting vs. ovulation predictor kits for more information.
Whether your approach to conception is to have sex regularly and see what happens or to focus on your fertile window, we wish you luck!
If you’ve been trying for a baby for a while without success, join the discussion in our friendly community to share your experiences and pick up tips from others who are also trying to conceive.
Last reviewed: May 2017
ReferencesBuck Louis GM, Lum KJ, Sundaram R, et al. 2010. Stress reduces conception probabilities across the fertile window: evidence in support of relaxation. Fertil Steril Online first: 5 Aug
NCCWCH. 2016. Fertility: assessment and treatment for people with fertility problems. National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health, NICE Clinical Guideline. London: RCOG Press. guidance.nice.org.uk [pdf file, accessed May 2017]
NICE. 2010. Dietary interventions and physical activity interventions for weight management before, during and after pregnancy. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, Clinical guideline, 27. London: NICE. guidance.nice.org.uk [pdf file, accessed May 2017]