Nowadays, many of us prepare for getting pregnant in the same way we would train for a race or prepare for a big meeting at work. We carefully map out when we will stop our contraception, how we will tackle the trying thing, and how long we will let things go “naturally” before seeking out fertility advice. Infertility has gotten a lot of press (one in six couples will experience infertility), and therefore, many couples are thinking about what could go wrong before the process has even begun. But let us mitigate some of the madness about becoming a momma with a few morsels of advice about the “pre” period.
Most women who are not trying to conceive have a better idea about when their Amazon Prime package will arrive rather than when to expect their period. Tracking often applies only to packages, not periods! And the situation is even more confusing for women who are on the pill, the patch, or the ring or have an IUD. These forms of contraception can turn the system off all together (which is not a bad thing, we promise!), which makes knowing what’s up with your periods pretty problematic.
And while we certainly don’t recommend that you stop your hormonal contraception to focus on Aunt Flo’s arrival, we do suggest that you say goodbye to hormonal contraception a couple of months before you are ready to give things a go. During this time, you can get a good idea about the regularity (or irregularity) of your cycle—this information will be helpful when you are trying to track your ovulation and time intercourse. To protect yourself from pregnancy while you are getting your timing back, we suggest using a non-hormonal form of contraception (a.k.a. condom)—barrier methods only block pregnancy in that moment. They won’t have any impact on your menstrual cycle/ovulation.
Second, while we don’t want to turn the process into a science project from the start, we do suggest that you visit your OB before you get the pregnancy party started. During this visit, they will not only offer you good advice about timing/trying but also will make sure you have a clean bill of health. Medical problems that predate pregnancy can get worse with a baby on board; therefore, it’s important to make sure your body is prepared for what’s to come. A thorough medical history and physical exam can reveal a lot.
Additionally, during the pre-conception visit, most OBs will perform a genetic screening panel—this blood test is basically taking a magnifying glass to your genes to see what’s normal and what’s abnormal. And although we don’t have the ability to look at all 25,000 protein coding genes, we can look at a good number of them. In cases where you come up as a carrier for a genetic disorder, we will want you to chat with a genetics counselor and test your partner. Couples who are both carriers for the same genetic condition may elect to do PGD to screen embryos.
For anyone who has ever played tennis, golf, baseball, or squash, you know how important timing is. It can take a good number of practice sessions before you are making good contact with the ball. The same can be said for your menstrual cycle. Taking a few swings before game day can help. But remember, not everyone needs so much time on the practice field. Although infertility will affect many couples, you may not be one of them. Don’t let fear force you to start trying before you are ready for a baby. You will get your timing back, and if it doesn’t happen on your own, we can coach you through it!