For some parents, the journey to actual conception is bypassed by the surprise appearance of a little one, or simply happens without much effort. This certainly isn’t the case for everyone, however, and trying to conceive is a process that many couples must contend with.

If becoming pregnant is in your plans, you may be intimidated by the amount of information and seeming complexity attached to a process that seems simple on the surface. Getting acquainted with the specifics of your menstrual cycle and the way ovulation works can help the process feel less intimidating, and will help the language used when talking about conception and fertility to make more sense.

Understanding Your Fertility Window

Trying to conceive a baby begins with understanding your fertility window. The period in which you are fertile each month occurs during the ovulation phase of your menstrual cycle, which spans the five days before you actually ovulate as well as the 12 to 24 hour period after ovulation occurs.

The short length of this window and the natural slight variance of your cycle can make it difficult to pin down the exact beginning and end of your fertile time, but tracking your ovulation with tests called ovulation predictors or writing your basal body temperature each morning to look for a rise that indicates your ovulation can both play a role in helping you discover the best time to try to conceive.

It can take a few months of tracking your ovulation in order to effectively determine your true fertility window. Though it’s important to make use of this window if you’re trying to conceive, it isn’t a guarantee of success. If you’ve tried to conceive unsuccessfully for more than six months, a consult with your OB-GYN can help to identify any impediments to your conception.

When You Conceive

Although it can be difficult to track a very new pregnancy through urine tests, changes in your body begin from the moment your egg is fertilized. Every woman’s body and pregnancy experience is different, but some may begin to feel pregnancy symptoms within the first few days after fertilization. These are called DPO or ‘days past ovulation’ symptoms. You may be able to feel differences in your body as soon as fertilization happens, but that fertilized egg will still take 6 – 12 days to fully implant in your uterine wall, making these quite truly the earliest possible pregnancy symptoms.

Admittedly, this can be a little bit confusing, because some DPO symptoms are essentially the same as premenstrual symptoms. Sore, tender breasts and nipples can be associated with both menstruation and pregnancy, as can mild cramping and spotting, but moods swinging to and fro are one DPO symptom that can be informative in its timing. If you’re feeling moody at 1 – 4 days DPO, it’s probably your cycle. If those mood swings extend beyond day 5, they may indicate a pregnancy.

Those Telltale Symptoms

After conception, about two weeks beyond ovulation, it’s very common for a pregnant woman to begin experiencing some of the “signature” pregnancy symptoms that might make an inquisitive mom, sister, or friend wonder if there’s a baby on the way.

  • You may feel deeply exhausted, even if you’ve slept the whole night through and haven’t exerted yourself — this is perfectly normal! Your energy is going toward helping baby grow.
  • Morning sickness is common now, though it hardly follows any rules of timing its name might indicate, and can pop up any time and at any place. An enhanced of smell doesn’t do this symptom any favors, and aromas like brewing coffee or cooking oil might leave you feeling green in the gills where they had no effect before. This may also be the start of food aversions, which too may be triggered by your new super-smell abilities.
  • The soreness and tenderness of your breasts will give way to actual growth, and your cups may runneth over sooner rather than later. This will mean replacing your cute pre-pregnancy bras with some comfy maternity picks, so opt for wide bands and straps and soft, comfortable fabrics to help alleviate some of this pressure and pain; moms who had a large bust line before pregnancy often prefer a sports bra at this time.

Complications with Conception

Despite the best planning and preparation, some couples will experience difficulties conceiving. Many factors can affect your chances, such as:

  • reproductive health
  • general health
  • endometriosis
  • low sperm count
  • hormonal (endocrine) disorders, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • blocked fallopian tubes
  • age
  • how often you have sex

Some couples fall pregnant quickly, while for others it takes a long time. If you have being trying to conceive for 12 to 24-months, see your doctor for advice.

Pregnancy Tests

Using urine tests that indicate pregnancy is a big part of the experience of trying to conceive, and if you’ve gone in search of them, you know there’s a wide range to choose from. Fancy digital tests with foolproof, easy-to-read results and bulk-bought kits similar to those used in doctor’s offices offer the same results, but of course, the former are more user-friendly. The latter, however, are great for making sure your early pregnancy is progressing healthily.

This is because pregnancy tests track a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, which is produced by a developing pregnancy. Your hCG levels gradually increase and peak during your first trimester, declining as your pregnancy progresses toward birth. A faint line on your pregnancy test indicates the presence of hCG, and taking tests daily can demonstrate a darkening line that indicates an increase of hCG, a reasonable indicator of the progression of early pregnancy.

As a note, it’s wise to take your test in the morning, as this is when the hCG content in your urine will be at its peak. As soon as you take a positive pregnancy test, even if the line is faint, make an appointment with your OB-GYN. They’ll bring you in for a blood test to confirm your pregnancy, and give you your first prenatal checkup to make sure everything is going well.

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