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Ideally, a woman decides to have a baby when she feels ready and prepared. It is not an easy task to be a mother. Women should learn certain things before it actually happens. That is why pregnancy planning is a common topic all around the world.

There are many important things about ovulation, nutrition, and emotional conditions that a woman should understand before getting pregnant.

What is ovulation?

In a typical 28-day menstrual cycle, ovulation usually occurs around day 14. The first day is the day your menstrual bleeding occurs. A released egg is capable of being fertilized for only a short period of time, usually 12 to 24 hours. At the same time, the sperm can live up to five days and sometimes longer in the cervical mucus. Every woman who is attempting to conceive should know whether her cycles are regular and whether she experiences ovulation signs. These signs include increasing cervical mucus close to ovulation, and what is called Mittelschmerz, or the mid-cycle cramping. However, these symptoms are not felt by all women.

It is recommended to have sexual intercourse during the period spanning one to two days before ovulation to about 24 hours afterward. The reason has already been stated: sperm cells can live for two or three days, but an egg survives no more than 24 hours after ovulation, unless fertilization occurs. If a woman has sex near the time of ovulation it stands to reason she might increase her chances of getting pregnant. With normally fertile couples, there is a 25% chance of getting pregnant each cycle. This means around 75-85% of women who have sex without using birth control will get pregnant within one year.

How to know when ovulation occurs, and when the woman is most fertile?

A woman should figure out when her next period is due to begin, and count back 12 to 16 days. This will give a range of days when she will probably be ovulating. In fact, for women with a 28-day cycle, the 14th day is often the one they will ovulate. To use this method, you must know how long your cycle usually lasts. You could try an ovulation calculator if you want professionals to do the math for you, but the best way to determine your most fertile time is to pay attention to your body and learn the signs of ovulation.

    * Change in cervical mucus is the first symptom you might notice. As your cycle progresses, your cervical mucus increases in volume and changes texture, reflecting your body's rising levels of estrogen. A woman is considered most fertile when the mucus becomes clear, slippery, and stretchy. Many women compare mucus at this stage to raw egg whites, so you could look for this ovulation sign. The role of mucus is to nourish, protect, and speed the sperm on its way up through the uterus for the rendezvous with your egg.

    * A rise in body temperature is the next symptom of ovulation. Following ovulation, a woman's temperature can increase by 0.5 to 1.6 degrees. Although you probably will not feel the shift, you can detect it by using a basal body temperature thermometer. This temperature spike indicates that you have ovulated. When you are releasing an egg, it stimulates the production of the hormone progesterone which raises body temperature. You are optimally fertile in the two or three days before your temperature hits that high point. Some experts think that a woman has an additional 12 to 24 hour window of fertility after she first notices the temperature creep up. However, most believe that at that point it is too late to make a baby, because it can take one to two days after ovulation for progesterone to build up enough to raise your body temperature. Since the egg can only survive for about 24 hours, it is likely too late for fertilization. The experts usually recommend that you chart your temperature for a few months to detect a pattern and pinpoint your likely ovulatory date. Then you can plan to have sexual intercourse during the two to three days preceding the day your temperature normally rises.

    * Lower abdominal discomfort is a sign that about 20% of women feel due to ovulatory activity. Lower abdominal discomfort is common, ranging from mild pain to twinges of pain. This condition, called “mittelschmerz”, may last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

Preparing the body for pregnancy

Pregnancy brings intense stresses on your body and overall physical health, because you have another life growing and developing inside you. How well you take care of yourself before pregnancy can have a dramatic effect on your health during pregnancy, and the health of your child. Experts recommend improving your chances of a healthy pregnancy. First, you should cut back on caffeine, avoid alcohol and tobacco, start taking multivitamins with folic acid, and generally improve your diet. You should also start or continue exercising. However, there is no formula that guarantees success when you are trying to conceive.

Statistics say it takes several months of trying before most women become pregnant. Some take longer; some shorter, and it is really all a matter of timing and luck. If you are beginning to feel frustrated about not becoming pregnant, you could try to improve your odds. Keep track of your cycles by taking your basal body temperature every day. Use an ovulation home test to figure out exactly which days you ovulating. Take the time to learn more about your body, natural family planning, and birth control.

Preparing your partner

Both you and your partner ought to be as healthy as possible before trying to have a baby. Your partner's health affects the number of sperm he produces and their quality, which is very important for fertilization. Although sperm production is a continual process, sperm do take 70 days to develop, which means your partner's health in the couple of months before you conceive is very important.

Smoking: Giving up smoking to maximize the chances of a healthy baby also applies to your partner because men who smoke tend to produce fewer sperm. They also have more damaged sperm, which affect their ability to conceive.

Drinking: Regular heavy drinking can lower the number of sperm and may damage them, similar to tobacco. Cutting down on alcohol is something both you and your partner can do together to improve your chances in pregnancy planning.

Heat: Sperm is sensitive to heat. Tight trousers and underwear made from synthetic material may cause the temperature in the groin to become too high, which is a risk factor for healthy sperm to develop. That is why you may want to suggest that your partner wears looser trousers and boxer shorts to avoid the potential problem.

Plan for pregnancy

Every woman that is planning to become pregnant should prepare for a healthy pregnancy. It is most commonly done by taking care of medical and dental concerns beforehand. If you have been using oral contraception, wait at least one regular menstrual period before trying to conceive. Fertility after stopping birth control can sometimes be delayed, but is not permanently affected. Now more than ever, it is recommended to get regular exercise, eat a healthy diet, and drink plenty of water.

As said earlier, each mother should avoid alcohol, medication use, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or Aspirin, and illegal drugs. It is also important to reduce or stop caffeine intake. Every woman planning a pregnancy should choose a health professional for pregnancy, childbirth, and after-birth (postpartum) care. It is also important to review your immunization history with health professional in order to prevent birth defects, miscarriage, or stillbirth that can be caused by some infections, most commonly rubella or measles. You should get any necessary immunizations and wait the recommended period of time before trying to conceive. During pregnancy planning, a woman should also talk to her health professional about whether to have cystic fibrosis carrier screening before pregnancy. This screening is especially important if you have a family history of cystic fibrosis. During a preconception visit, you will be educated and possibly screened for some diseases as well, probably some chronic illness, sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Your doctor will also check if dental work is needed. Routine lab work and immunizations up-to-date should also be checked during pregnancy planning.

Emotional health

These suggestions may seem normal and standard, but many families leave out the screenings for emotional and behavioral problems that will affect pregnancy. Stress levels and reduction, if necessary, of psychological problems and current medications should be considered. History of current or past family violence and family and social support are important points in pregnancy planning.

Read More: Trying To Conceive: How To Detect Ovulation

Previous pregnancy and family planning

Your previous pregnancies may be mentally and emotionally weighing on your mind, affecting the decision to have another child. They may also give you a glimpse into the care your will require in future pregnancies, either to encourage another healthy pregnancy or to try and avoid previous complications. If you have experienced infertility or pregnancy loss, you may wish to inquire about testing and education to help you deal with the trauma. Family planning can also have an effect on new pregnancies and pregnancy planning. For example, it is best to be off of any form of chemical birth control at least three months prior to conceiving. While many women have successful pregnancies, there are still some risks involved with birth control.

Every woman needs counseling on dietary management during pregnancy. They should pay attention to their weight, especially if they are already overweight or underweight. Does the mother or anyone else in the immediate family have a substance abuse problem, is a question that should also be considered during pregnancy planning. Are there socioeconomic risks which can lead to preterm birth, and low birth weight in some families. Is everyone aware of potential environmental hazards in your home? All these important issues should be involved in pregnancy planning.