When Should You Start Preparing for Your TTC Journey?
Are you ready to start your “trying to conceive” (TTC) journey? Taking steps before your journey can help support your reproductive health and make your journey a little easier.
One of the best things you can do before trying to conceive is to learn how pregnancy works and what you need to do to prepare your body for a successful pregnancy.
Let’s talk about the timing of your TTC journey.
How much does timing matter in my TTC?
When trying to conceive, timing is one of the most critical factors for success. The timing of ovulation and sexual intercourse is a key piece to conception.
Ovulation is the process in which a mature egg is released from the ovary. For most women, ovulation happens once a month during a woman's fertile window.
During the follicular phase of your menstrual cycle, your body will release follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) that helps oocytes (eggs) mature. This hormone is also responsible for one mature egg being released into the fallopian tubes for fertilization.
Ovulation occurs approximately 14 days before the start of your next period, for women with a 28-day cycle. Because sperm can wait for 4-5 days in the fallopian tubes to fertilize the egg, about 4-5 days before ovulation is when your fertile window begins.
Having unprotected sex in this window before ovulation helps increase your chance of getting pregnant. The egg will only survive 12 to 24 hours after ovulation, so your fertile window closes relatively quickly after ovulation.
This process happens every month until an egg has been successfully fertilized. Without ovulation, and without fertilization, natural pregnancy cannot occur. So it’s crucial to time your intercourse to your fertile window, i.e., when you are most fertile in each cycle.
Age is another important factor when trying to conceive. Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have, about 1 million. As women age and eggs mature and die in each cycle, their egg count declines. When a woman hits puberty, there will only be about 300,000 eggs left. Only about 300 to 400 of those eggs are matured and released throughout a woman’s reproductive life.
When you reach your early 30s, your egg quality and quantity decrease. In your late 30s and early 40s, the number of eggs left is below 10 percent. However, this does not mean that getting pregnant later in life is impossible — in fact, more and more women are waiting to conceive until this stage. A TTC journey in your 40s may take longer, but you are certainly not alone.
How can I prepare for my TTC?
You can do several things to help support your TTC journey before you even start. Preparing your body for conception can help support your overall reproductive health and wellbeing.
Stop taking birth control
When you’ve decided that it’s time to have a baby, going off your birth control is the first step.
If you are using the pill, ring, or patch, you can generally stop taking birth control at any time. If you want to stay on track for your cycle, you can finish taking the current pack and expect to have your period in the days after your last pill.
If you use an IUD or another hormonal implant, you will need to speak to your doctor about removing it.
Either way, talk to your women’s health care provider about your family planning needs so you can get the best guidance for your specific health history and can begin prenatal care.
Once you stop taking birth control, you can become pregnant almost immediately, though it can take a few months for your periods to return to normal. You generally do not need to stop taking birth control months in advance.
Most physicians recommend taking prenatal vitamins 3 months before starting your TTC journey. Starting on prenatal vitamins 3 months before you start trying has 2 benefits:
- The additional nutrients in prenatal vitamins can support your overall health and prepare your body for conception. Given that over 90% of women are deficient in at least one nutrient, it's a good idea to start building your foundation early.
- In the early weeks of a pregnancy, most women don’t know they are pregnant. Taking prenatal vitamins before you start trying ensures that the baby (that you don’t know exist yet) receives all the necessary nutrients in the early, crucial days of the pregnancy.
Prenatal vitamins offer essential nutrients your body needs to function normally so it can provide a healthy environment for a baby to develop in.
Ingredients in prenatal vitamins can help support your reproductive needs. Here are some of the key ingredients you may find in a prenatal supplement and how they may support your health.
- Folate (Folic Acid): Folate is the natural form of folic acid, which helps support a baby's growth and development, particularly its brain and central nervous system.
- Choline: Just like folate, choline supports the healthy development of a baby’s brain and central nervous system.
- Iron: During pregnancy, your blood volume increases. Iron, a component of hemoglobin, can support healthy blood volume to supply enough oxygen to you and the growing baby.
- Calcium: Calcium helps support the growth and development of bones and teeth in babies, while maintaining the mom’s.
- Zinc: Zinc is involved in many physiological functions, including proper functioning of the immune system.
- Iodine: Iodine is a key building block of thyroid hormones, which is necessary for the health of the mom and baby.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps support the growth and development of a baby and maintenance of a healthy pregnancy.
- B vitamins: Replenishing your B vitamins is especially important if you have been using hormonal birth control, which has been known to deplete women’s bodies of B vitamins like Vitamin B6, B12 and folate.
There are several lifestyle changes you can make to optimize your reproductive health. While increasing your intake of key vitamins and minerals for reproductive health, you can eliminate other habits to maintain health. Let’s look at a few lifestyle changes you can implement prior to your TTC journey.
- Take care of your mental health. Stress can affect your health more than you think. There is evidence to support the link between high levels of stress and reproductive health. Managing stress in a healthy way can be a great way to prepare your body for pregnancy — try meditating, exercising, practicing self-care, and resting. Try a few things and find what works for you.
- Eliminate alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol and tobacco can cause harm to your body and your baby. If you are ready to start trying, cut out alcohol and stop smoking immediately. You could be pregnant for many weeks before you know it, so it’s best to avoid drugs and alcohol while preparing for your TTC journey.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being underweight or overweight can both pose challenges during your TTC journey. Maintaining a healthy weight before conceiving can help you manage your systemic health, creating a better foundation for a pregnancy.
- Exercise regularly. Exercising can help you manage stress, stay physically healthy and maintain a healthy weight before becoming pregnant. Moderate exercise for about 30 minutes a day can help your overall health and well-being.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Eating a balanced diet helps provide you with the nutrition you need to support your reproductive health. Eating the appropriate amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and dairy can help you get the recommended daily amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Tracking ovulation can help you know when the right time to conceive will be. You will ovulate only once a month, so pinpointing when that will be will give you an advantage. You can use ovulation trackers and the cervical mucus method to know when your fertile window is.
- Ovulation Trackers
Ovulation trackers can help predict your ovulation. There are different ways to predict ovulation:
- By tracking your basal body temperature (BBT) throughout your cycle;
- By testing your reproductive hormones like luteinizing hormone and progesterone; or
- By analyzing the changes in your cervical mucus throughout your cycle.
The BBT method traditionally has you measure your core body temperature using a special basal body thermometer each morning as soon as you wake up. Your body temperature naturally increases a couple of days leading to ovulation. Charting your temperature may take a few menstrual cycles to pinpoint your fertile window.
A more modern BBT-based ovulation predictor includes Tempdrop. With Tempdrop, you wear a temperature sensor to bed (in an armband form), which sends the data directly to the Tempdrop app so that you don’t have to wake up every morning and record your temperature manually.
Ovulation prediction via hormone testing uses test strips for a urine test that tests your levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) and other hormones during your menstrual cycle. Days before your egg is released, your LH levels rise, signaling you are close to ovulating. Progesterone can signal that your body is in a good shape to facilitate implantation. Typically, you take ovulation tests for many days until you get a positive result, letting you know you are fertile.
- Cervical Mucus
During your menstrual cycle, the texture and appearance of your cervical mucus change. During your fertile window, your mucus will be clear and smooth to allow sperm to move more freely in the reproductive tract.
Whichever method you settle on, it’s crucial to know when you ovulate and when you are fertile, when you are trying to conceive.
How can I make my TTC journey less stressful?
It may be a little intimidating when you start thinking about becoming pregnant; after all, it is a huge life change. Many couples are also surprised that a pregnancy takes much longer than expected, which can be stressful and strain the relationship. Here are a few things to keep in mind when starting your TTC journey:
Knowledge is power
Learning about how parts of your reproductive system work together will give you an advantage. Knowing the mechanisms of ovulation can help you better track your fertile window, supporting your chances of pregnancy. Knowing how eggs mature in the ovaries leading up to ovulation can let you be proactive about supporting your egg health. Talk to your doctor and clear up questions about reproductive health and your family building plans.
Your fertility journey can be an emotional rollercoaster. Know that becoming pregnant may take more time than you expect. There are a lot of moving parts that factor into conceiving, like timing and overall health.
For some, getting pregnant may take only one menstrual cycle, but for others, it may take months. Know when to talk to your doctor if you haven’t had success yet.
If you are younger than 35 and have been actively trying to get pregnant for 12 months without success, you should speak to your health care provider. If you are 35 and above, seek fertility help after six months of trying.
If you are having trouble getting pregnant, your doctor might suggest fertility testing as a basis of your plan of attack.
You don’t have to tackle your pregnancy journey alone. Talk with family and friends for support. If you are experiencing fertility problems, you can seek support groups like Resolve or mental health professionals who specialize in fertility issues.
Talking to others experiencing the same difficulties can help you cope during your journey. You can also seek support by joining social media platforms and forums related to reproductive health and pregnancy.
Embarking on a TTC journey for the first time can be a little nerve-racking. You must take care of your mental and physical health during this time as you prepare for a pregnancy.
Start tracking your ovulation by using ovulation trackers to support you at the beginning of your journey to motherhood, arm yourself with reproductive health knowledge, and be proactive about your overall health. And please reach out with questions - we are with you.
Ovaterra provides reproductive health resources for general, educational purposes only. This content is not intended to replace medical advice from a qualified healthcare professional. Similarly, when making your financial decisions, please consult qualified financial professionals who can make individual recommendations.
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