Close-up of hour glass in action.
profile picture of Laura Schocker
Laura Schocker

10 Common Fertility Mistakes

TTC taking awhile? Beware of the most common mistakes couples make when trying to get pregnant.

From having too much sex to not having sex often enough, we asked experts to spill some of the most common mistakes their patients make when first trying to conceive a baby. Are you guilty?  Find out — and learn some easy fixes that could help get you back on track with TTC.

1.  Timing. If you can remember back to 5th grade sex ed, the typical woman has a 28-day cycle, which means ovulation generally happens on day 14. But don’t assume that time clock necessarily applies to you. Since individual cycles vary, you may have one that’s slightly shorter or longer, according to Dr. Shieva Ghofrany, a Connecticut-based OB/GYN. So in order to figure out the exact day you ovulated, you’d actually need to count back 14 days from the day you started your period. If your cycle’s fairly regular, though, you can use this technique to estimate when ovulation happens each month. Use our Ovulation Predictor tool to help you.

2.  Going to the specialist too soon. If you’re under 35, it’s completely normal for it to take up to a year to get pregnant, says Dr. Ghofrany. It’s also completely normal to feel frustrated after month 6 or 7 — but if you don’t have any underlying health problems, you should probably wait it out.  (Dr. Ghofrany says 80% of healthy patients will get pregnant within this time-frame.) If you’re over 35, go ahead and set up an appointment with a specialist after six months instead of a year. We know, sometimes the wait can drive you crazy.

3.  Waiting too long to go to the specialist. According to Dr. Ghofrany, there are definitely exceptions to the one-year-wait rule: If your cycle is shorter than 25 days or longer than 35 days, if you get very painful or heavy periods, or if you’ve had a significant pelvic infection in the past, it’s a good idea to head to the doc sooner rather than later to get everything checked out.  One more important reason to not put off a doctor’s appointment?  If you have a history of STDs. Even if you just think you’ve been exposed to one, it’s best to get checked out ASAP, says Dr. Roger Lobo, an OB/GYN at Columbia University Medical Center and president-elect of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.


4.  Hanging on to unhealthy habits. It’s a no-brainer that you’d have to kick those obviously bad habits like smoking, drinking, and/or drug use once you get pregnant.  But remember that other common lifestyle factors play a role in affecting your fertility, too. Dr. Lobo suggests that, before TTC, patients avoid extremes in weight (either being too thin or overweight), along with keeping a balanced and relatively healthy diet (skip the fad diets). Other things to keep in mind: Ease up on the caffeine (studies show it affects your ability to absorb iron, a key pre-natal nutrient) and try to curb that artificial sweeteners habit now (hey, you’ll have to once baby comes anyway).

5.  Obsessing about positions. If you’ve taken to standing on your head, lifting your legs in the air, or bending into any other coital or post-coital position to up your baby-making odds, we’ve got some news for you: You may be wasting your time. (Nope, you don’t need to be a contortionist to get pregnant after all.)The truth is, the majority of a man’s sperm goes toward the woman’s egg the moment he ejaculates, says Dr. Ghofrany. And as for that left-over liquid that comes out after?  It won’t actually have much sperm left in it anyway. So if you want to do it missionary-style or prop a pillow under your hips, go right ahead — but don’t stress yourself out about it too much. Your odds of getting pregnant hinge on many more factors than just mere positioning.

6.  Only having sex on the exact day you (think) you’re ovulating. Even if you have a super-regular, 28-day cycle, there’s a chance you might ovulate one or two days before or after the day you think you will. Plus, even if you do ovulate on day 14, sperm can live inside your body between 24-48 hours (and in some cases, up to a week!) after sex. If you’re hoping to up your fertility odds, Dr. Ghofrany suggests starting to have sex 4 to 6 days before ovulation and then 4 to 6 days after.

7.  Having sex every day. Believe it or not, too much sex can decrease your man’s sperm count, which can then take a few days to rebound. Once you get the timing down, Dr. Ghofrany recommends trying to have sex every other day, instead of every day, in the week leading up to ovulation and during the week after.

8.  Assuming “the problem” is with you. A lot of couples focus their fertility investigation on the woman — but in reality, Dr. Lobo points out that 40% of the time fertility problems can actually be attributed to the man. So if you haven’t conceived after a year of trying and are under 35, you should both head to the doctor. Your partner will probably need a semen analysis to rule out any problems on his end.

9.  Believing prenatal vitamins will help with conception. Sorry, ladies, despite rumors to the contrary, popping a prenatal pill everyday won’t increase your chances of getting pregnant. But it is important that you keep taking them if you’re TTC. To avoid future problems with baby’s spine, Dr. Ghofrany says that every mom-to-be should have plenty of folic acid in her system at the time of conception; so start your vitamin routine before your pregnancy test comes back positive.

10.  Waiting too long to try. We get it – you’ve probably got a lot left on that pre-baby to-do list (establishing a career, beefing up your savings, buying a bigger house, etc.). But, if you’re in a stable relationship and want a child, don’t wait just because you think it won’t be a problem to get pregnant later in life. According to Dr. Lobo, the ability to conceive decreases by about 50% between the ages of 20 and 40. So if you feel ready, by all means, go for it.

Photo: iStock