Week 1: How to improve conception

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This is your Pea in the Podcast for week one of your pregnancy. I'm Bonnie Petrie and joining me to guide you through the next forty weeks is Dr. Laurie Swaim, an obstetrician at Houston Women's Care Associates in Houston, Texas.

So welcome to week one of your pregnancy, but the interesting thing about week one is there is no baby. Not just yet any way. Yes, obstetrician Laurie Swaim confirms the average pregnancy is measured in forty weeks but that forty week journey begins with the first day of your last period before pregnancy. "I think that came about because in the olden days they used lunar cycles and so they can only tell when a woman got pregnant by how many moons passed from her period or something like that. Any way it's just continued and it's just facilitates communication between you know OBs and radiologist and the anesthesiologist and what have you. So the first two weeks of menstrual baby you're not really pregnant because you don't ovulate until two weeks later. So when we say that you're forty weeks pregnant really the baby has really only been there for 38 weeks."

So when you find out you're pregnant, figuring out just how pregnant you are sometimes takes a calendar, and a calculator, an abacus, your high school math teacher, your astrologer, your doctor, "And then we furthermore confuse women because they want to know how many months pregnant they are but I always point out to them that forty divided by four is ten months so we really don't want to go there." Yeah let's not go there.

Well even though you're not technically pregnant during this week one, it is an important week particularly if you're actively trying to conceive. You've got about two weeks before that egg makes her appearance and some people wonder if there is anything you can do, take or eat that will make conception more likely to occur. "So do the healthy stuff you know no alcohol, no drugs, you know all that kind of stuff, there may be some indication that some medications there may not help you get pregnant and certainly if you're taking any medicine you need to make sure that they're safe in pregnancy before you get pregnant and diabetics need to make sure that their glucoses are well controlled and that kind of stuff. But other than just being you know healthy just being you know healthy and smart, no I don't think so."

One habit that you have that might make conception significantly less likely to occur is smoking. Now experts say it can make you anywhere from 30 to 50 percent less likely to conceive. The American Society for Reproductive Medicines says nicotine and other toxic chemicals in cigarettes can impede fertility by interfering with your body's ability to make estrogen. It can also decrease fertility in other ways including by restricting blood flow to the genitals that contributes to vaginal dryness which can make sex unpleasant but it can also make it more difficult for the sperm to get to where they are trying to go. Smoking can also decrease egg count by destroying eggs in the ovaries before they reach maturity. It can also decrease the ability of an embryo to implant. So if you can, trash the smokes.

But add a little folic acid to your life. The B vitamin can a long way toward protecting your baby from birth defects of the brain and spinal cords if taken very early in pregnancy. Food sources of foliate include leaf vegetables like spinach and turnip greens, dried beans and peas, sunflower seeds, liver, yeah liver mmm, some breakfast cereals, breads and flours are fortified with folic acid. But the Center for Disease Control is concerned right now about foliate in the changing diet of American women. CDC recently issued a report saying that among women in their child bearing years they've seen blood foliate levels declining by 16 percent between 2000 and 2004. Some experts blame popular low carb diets for this, they exclude fortified breads, cereals and flour. So if you're low carb make sure you're getting enough folic acid from other sources. Many women who are actively trying to get pregnant will be taking prenatal vitamins now. Well a regular multi vitamin should do the trick, prenatals are fine too. Just make sure whatever you're taking has 400 micro grams of folic acid and take it every day before pregnancy and during early pregnancy.

Of course the big thing that you need to get pregnant is have sex, early and often. "A woman is most likely to become pregnant it turns out if she has intercourse on the three to six day every other day prior to ovulation and a lot of people are confused about that because they think sort of you know best at or after ovulation but the fact is the egg is sort of a princess and she wants the sperm to be waiting for her. And the sperm will last for two to three days." Doctor Swaim says 85 percent of healthy couples who have sex two to three times a week are likely to get pregnant within six months. So maybe you should spend week one stocking up on romantic candles and hot oils because next week you're going to need them.

That's your Pea in the Podcast for week one of your pregnancy. Doctor Swaim and I look forward to talking to your next week. I'm Bonnie Petrie, thanks for listening.