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So you’ve decided to have a baby! Believe it or not there’s a lot of planning and organization involved to becoming a father following the conscious decision between you and your partner to start a family. For most of us, sure there are the lucky ones who decide to have children and are pregnant seven minutes later, but the reality is it just doesn’t happen that way most of the time! For those of us who fall into the majority, there are several “methods” to follow which can assist in making conception a reality. Not all will be successful either, and I’m sure there is a lot of other alternatives out there as well.
Moms… I’m not sure how this will come out but… I hope you appreciate the honesty. When we’re on course to conceive, and the planning and timing stuff is all being monitored, it’s not uncommon for us would be Dads to be a little… intimidated. There I said it!! Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about the actual idea of conception, pregnancy or the wonders that follow. To explain I’ll start by saying that regardless of what method you’re using to assist the conception part with, unless it’s invetro for example, there is a small window of opportunity when the actual “sperm meets egg and they dance” can take place within each monthly cycle.
To put yourself in the father’s shoes, there’s a lot of pressure to be at peak performance on a consistent basis during that time. I definitely felt it with our first pregnancy, but not so much the second time around. I guess that was because I knew I wasn’t shooting blanks! To see if this pressure was typical of all new fathers I took a small survey of friends, co-workers and a couple relatives who had planned pregnancies.(about two dozen Dads) Approximately 75% agreed that they did feel pressure during the four or five day window each month. One actually said he would avoid having sex a couple weeks before because he thought it may hinder his performance when it counted. When I asked what the pressure was comparable to, they almost all agreed it was worse than pressures in the workplace!
Wow! That says quite a lot now doesn’t it? One thing it says for sure about the men trying to become new fathers that I had spoke with, they take their part in conception very seriously. One gentleman admitted, although he eluded, perhaps not to his wife, to using methods of male performance enhancement! It’s nothing today like that old joke… “What’s a man got to worry about, one night and his job’s over…” On the contrary, today as we know, men are taking more and more of a parenting role when they become a father. That wasn’t the case when I was growing up mind you.
So how easy is it to conceive. Well that mainly depends on your health in relation to both partner’s fertility. Let’s say that both parties are fertile and healthy, here are some interesting numbers based on various age groups of woman to help you see what you’re up against before you start.
For women in their early 20′s their chance to conceive in any given month is 20 to 25%, it takes 4 to 5 months on average to conceive and they have a 93 to 97% chance to becomce pregnant within one year. In their late 20′s the chance to conceive drops to 15 to 20% in any month, it takes 5 to 6.7 months on average to conceive and there is an 86 to 93% chance to become pregnant within one year.
As women reach their early 30′s the chance to conceive in any given month has now gone down to 10 to 15%. and it may take from 6.7 to 10 average months to conceive, and pregnancy within one year, is now down to 72 to 86%. Into their late 30′s a woman’s chance to conceive in any given month is now 8.3 to 10%, on average it may take up to 10 to 12 months and the chance to become pregnant within one year is 65 to 72%.
If these monthly percentages are any indication, looks like it may be a little tougher than we thought. The average age of women who are trying to become pregnant however does not always depend on one’s birthdate, but also on physical age. There are some tests that which will help determine physical health, done to access health risks to mother and fetus. More extensive testing can be done again once the woman is pregnant. So let’s move on to some things we can do to increase our odds in those first few months while we’re trying. First though let me dispel a few myths on ideas that some think help conception along:
-Using egg-whites for lubrication help the sperm swim inside the vagina. FALSE
-Bacteria transferred from your mouth during oral sex kills sperm. FALSE
-Douche with sparkling water to give sperm a cleaner host. FALSE
-Some intercourse positions are “better” than others for promoting conception. FALSE
-The time of day for intercourse, the position used, family history, position of the moon and stars and diet can help determine the sex of the new baby. FALSE
-Vacation and relaxation help to promote a susceptible medium for conception. FALSE
When all is said and done, I would suggest any similar questions, and questions regarding legitimate methods to aid in conception, be discussed with your family physician or family planning official, of which I am neither. But back to the business at hand. There is another myth that actually comes close to being fact. It is a myth that you can conceive by timing intercourse one to two days after ovulation. It’s actually only possible by having intercourse during the five days previous, before ovulation actually occurs. Once the egg is actually released into the fallopian tubes there is only a twenty-four hour window for fertilization, after that the egg begins to disintegrate and can no longer be fertilized. Within that twenty-four hour period from the point the egg is released, the first two thirds of that time is spent travelling to the inner part of the fallopian tubes where fertilization can take place. This basically leaves only a six to eight hour period for the sperm to fertilize the egg before it becomes “over-ripe”.
Now don’t start worrying that your timing has to be that accurate. Some sperm will set out for the fallopian tubes immediately after ejaculation and arrive within the hour. Pretty efficient! For the majority of the mere 400 sperm that will make the journey out of the 200 million that were ejaculated, they wait in reserve and gradually make their way over the next five days. And although once one of these sperm penetrates the egg membrane no other can, it actually takes hundreds working together to get one in. That’s probably why I like hockey much more than figure skating…
Studies have shown that while some sperm work to reach the egg as it lies in the fallopian tubes, others sole purpose is to make the assist. More aggressive sperm actually work to clear a path for the healthy ones travelling north. Whether it be old or damaged sperm from the same ejaculate, or sperm from another donor, these aggressive forecheckers will actually attack the aforementioned so their healthy counterparts have an easier journey. This is no doubt another of nature’s attempts to ensure survival of the fittest… or something like that.
The actual release of the egg occurs approximately fourteen days before menstruation. Easy to determine simply by following your partner’s cycle on a calendar, if the cycle is twenty-eight days, but most cycles will vary between twenty-eight and thirty-five days! Watching the calendar and helping your partner track her cycle is not only a good way at increasing your odds of becoming a father, but can also aid your doctor to diagnose possible problems with conception down the road. It’s helpful to note the dates that your partner’s period begins and ends, any pre-ovulation symptoms. (Keep in mind that things like stress or illness can delay the start of ovulation, or even cause a cycle when ovulation does not occur.(an anovulatory cycle))
These may or may not include vaginal secretions which start as a rather whitish, sticky substance and then becomes more fluid-like as fertility draws near. The consistence is similar to raw egg-white but can become almost watery. This substance not only lubricates to assist in the natural act of intercourse, but also provide a less hostile environment for sperm to swim in. The easiest way to monitor this is by observing the large abundance of secretions during the most fertile period. Another symptom to look for, although I understand even some obstetricians have a hard time doing this, is to monitor the position of your partner’s cervix and how it feels! What?? Not sure becoming a father is enough to make you want to be searching around for a cervix? Well this one’s probably best done by her, without your help. here’s the rundown, or so I’ve read. The cervix is firm like the end of your nose, unless you’re a boxer, and located high up in the vagina. As ovulation draws near, it drops slightly and becomes more fleshy to the touch, like your lips. (If she can insert the tip of her finger into it, chances are now’s the time!)
Other observations can rely more on the senses as well. Studies have shown that a woman’s sense of smell and sight become more acute during the time of ovulation. This may be natures way of helping her notice better candidates for procreation. Let’s face it Dad, if you look good and don’t smell, she’s probably more willing than if your water got cut off and you look like you walked into a wall several times. But as I say that, I’ve also read that the sent that women find truly irresistible during ovulation is male armpit sweat.(Must be a subconscious thing!) On the male side of the senses, we need to pay attention to what we see. Reports also state that there is direct correlation with the less clothing a woman may wear out to a night-club, and the more CHANCE there is that she’s ovulating. Overall female attraction, in general, tends to change during ovulation as well. The preference tends to be to men with more masculine features during times when conception is more likely. So basically if you come in from working in the back-yard, covered in dirt and sweat with two days growth on your face, and your partner is wearing nothing but flip-flops and a seductive smile… it’s time!!!
The main monitoring method that my wife and I used, and one of the more popular monthly tracking methods, was to measure the changes in her basal body temperature. “Basal body temperature” basically means her morning body temperature before she even gets out of bed to pee. The long and short of it is that her body temperature will show a distinctive shift immediately after ovulation. A large quantity of the hormone progesterone is produced, which causes her temperature to increase dramatically. It is also typical that just before ovulation her temperature will drop slightly, with this doesn’t happen with all women. It took us a few months of recording temperatures and her monitoring vaginal secretions to be confident that we were on track with her cycle, not to mention how many times I re-read the instructions that came with the Basal thermometer<<< that we purchased. Overall it was fairly easy to track, and once we realized when to expect ovulation, the cycle was quite clear. With our first it took us six months and only three when trying for our second baby.
Once you have hit the correct cycle, it is only a matter of time, for those of us who are lucky enough to not have any infertility problems, before your partner will be saying “I’m late!!!” Then you’ll race off to find a testing kit to confirm if she is just ‘late’ or if your life as you knew it drastically changes. The first time we got pregnant, my wife says she thinks she did feel different, but hadn’t noticed anything specific. For our second baby though, she was so confident that she went out and purchased an early testing kit.