For me at least, trying to conceive (TTC) was one of the most challenging and stressful periods of my life. It took about two years for me — and that seemed like forever. For others, it could unfortunately be even longer than that. It’s so frustrating because you want something so bad, you feel like you’re doing everything you can, and it’s just not working. Especially if you have irregular periods. I’m sure you feel like you’ve tried everything, but just in case, I asked an expert for some habits that increase chances of getting pregnant with irregular periods.
If you are struggling with irregular periods or not ovulating regularly — or at all — you’re not alone, says Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman, an OB-GYN and medical travel blogger for TwinDoctorsTV. “It is estimated that anywhere from 18 to 25 percent of women currently suffer from some degree of ovulatory dysfunction,” he says in an email interview with Romper. So what do you do?
It’s important to understand your fertile period and how all this stuff works like the back of your hand. “Most women trying to get pregnant are told that they should be at their most fertile between days 10 through 17 of their cycle. This however really only holds for women that have fairly regular 28 to 31-day menstrual cycles. Those with longer or shorter cycles will find that their fertility windows either start before the tenth day of the cycle or extend beyond that seventeenth day of their cycle,” Abdur-Rahman explains. But this means nothing to us ladies who don’t have regular cycles. So we have to get in the daily habit of tracking our ovulation by focusing on our body's cues, and getting into the habit of trying to improve our health.
1. Check Your Temperature Every Morning
When you're ovulating, your temperature will be elevated from its normal range by about 0.1 to 0.2 degrees, according to Abdur-Rahman. And that temperature will stay elevated for about four days. "So every morning while you're still laying in bed, check your temperature with a basal body thermometer," he suggests. "A basal body thermometer is more accurate than a standard thermometer, being able to detect temperature changes as small as 0.1 degree Fahrenheit. Standard thermometers typically can detect changes of 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit. When a woman detects the 0.1 to 0.2 degree Fahrenheit elevation that comes along with ovulation, that is when she and her partner should really focus their efforts."
2. Check Your Cervical Mucus Daily
"To augment checking basal body temperatures, women wanting to determine when they've ovulated can also check their cervical mucus," Abdur-Rahman says. Your cervical mucus (CM) can definitely tell you a lot about your cycle and when you're in your fertile window. Though it may seem weird to get that up close and personal with yourself after using the restroom, I think this is one of the things that helped me conceive. That, and following these ways to make my CM most fertile. So how does the consistency and color of your CM work when it comes to tracking ovulation and potentially conceiving?
"The cervix, which acts as a barrier between the vagina and the uterus, typically has a mucus plug that prevents bacteria and even sperm from entering the uterus. However, once a woman has ovulated, her body recognizes that an egg has been released and that it is 'time to make a baby,'" Abdur-Rahman explains. "As a result, the [CM] barrier becomes very thin and watery, making it easier for sperm to cross the cervix and enter the uterus. So if a woman checks her cervical mucus by inserting a finger into the vagina daily, she will typically notice that the mucus is much thinner and more copious." This will help you pinpoint ovulation when your periods are all over the place.
3. Healthy Diet & Exercise
Eating a balanced diet and exercising is obviously important for your overall health, and when you're TTC it's no different. In fact, it's even more important.
"Fat tissue in both men and women produce a form of estrogen called estrone...which is very similar to estrogen." Abdur-Rahman explains. "As a result, when women who are overweight have large amounts of estrone that have been produced by their fat tissue, their brains (i.e., the hypothalamus and pituitary glands) become confused. They think that their ovaries have produced more estrogen (i.e., estradiol) than they actually have." And then your brain doesn't signal to the ovaries to regulate cycles and stimulate ovulation, which results in an irregular cycle and "ovulatory dysfunction," he adds.
4. Eat Lots of Fiber
As part of your healthy diet, eating a lot of fiber can help with your ovulation and trying to get it on track. "Many women with ovulatory dysfunction either have that dysfunction as the result of a hormonal imbalance, or they develop a hormonal imbalance from the ovulatory dysfunction," Abdur-Rahman explains. Talk about the chicken or the egg argument. "An imbalance can make that ovulatory dysfunction worse. However, eating a high fiber diet can help to regulate imbalanced hormones. Fiber has the ability to bind hormones in the gut," he says. Once your hormones are bound by fiber, they'll be excreted when you poop. "So when a hormone imbalance exists, excess hormones are found in the gut. When these excess hormones are bound by fiber, they are eliminated, helping to return hormone levels to a healthier more balanced level."
5. Catch As Many Zs As Possible
"While sleeping may not be the thing that people trying to get pregnant think of doing when they get in the bed, getting adequate sleep is important," Abdur-Rahman says. This is because when women don't get enough sleep, our bodies make more cortisol — the stress hormone.
"Short-term, higher cortisol levels benefit women, as they help their bodies to cope with the effects of not getting enough sleep. But long-term, higher than normal cortisol levels prevent the pituitary gland from making adequate amounts of the lutenizing hormone (LH), which is the hormone that signals to ovaries to ovulate," Abdur-Rahman explains. This throws our hormonal balances out of whack, causing irregular ovulation cycles. "Women with irregular cycles and ovulatory dysfunction can dramatically improve their chances of getting pregnant by sleeping between six to eight hours a night," he says.
TTC is harder for some women than others — especially when you feel like your body isn't doing what it's supposed to do. But checking your body for cues that you're ovulating daily, in addition to a healthy diet and exercise and good sleep, may help increase your chances. Good luck!