Already trying to conceive or thinking about it?
While this part of your journey may be similar wherever in the world you’re trying to conceive, this section answers some general questions you might have and gives some :
- Do I need to see a health professional before trying to get pregnant?
- How do I know when I’m fertile?
- Where can I buy cheap pregnancy tests?
- I’m pregnant, now what?
- I’m still not pregnant, now what?
Do I need to see a health professional before trying to get pregnant?
Although there is of course no obligation to visit a health professional before trying to get pregnant, some women like to visit their family doctor, midwife or gynaecologist for a ‘pre-conceptual’ check-up.
This could be a chance to discuss your current health and wellbeing, any pre-existing health conditions and if/how pregnancy might impact them, any medication you currently take and whether or not you can continue during pregnancy, steps to help you stop smoking etc.
Your care provider will also remind you:
- of the current recommendations to take 400mg folic acid while your trying to conceive and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy;
- to have a smear test if you have not had one within the last three years; and
- to have your immunity for rubella checked.
Detailed ‘pre-conceptual consultation’
Many independent midwives offer a comprehensive ‘pre-conceptual consultation’ (CPC), which is an in-depth consultation tailored to your needs (link in French – view with Google Chrome for translation).
- She will ask about your medical history, and will highlight anything that could impact or be impacted by a future pregnancy.
- Knowing your medical history, your midwife will determine whether or not genetic screening tests may be advisable, e.g. to see if you or your partner is a carrier for serious inherited illnesses such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, and others.
- She can help you understand the best time to try to conceive, according to your menstrual cycle, or can advise you on contacting a fertility clinic if there are reasons to think you may have trouble conceiving without assistance.
- Your midwife will ask about your diet and may offer recommendations if needed. Certain deficiencies may have an impact on your fertility, on how a pregnancy unfolds, and ultimately on the health of your baby.
- If you smoke, she can also provide you with guidance on how to stop smoking, so that you give your future child the healthiest possible start.
A CPC costs around €50 for a 1h15 consultation; this is not currently reimbursed by the mutuelle.
Read more about finding an independent midwife in Belgium.
If you’re lucky enough to have a regular menstrual cycle, you are most likely ovulating 12-14 days before your period begins[efn_note]Fehring RJ, Schneider M, Raviele K. 2006. Variability in the phases of the menstrual cycle. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs 35(3):376-84[/efn_note].
Given that a newly ovulated egg survives around 24 hours, and that sperm can live for up to seven days, having sex within your ‘fertile window’ – the period from around five days before ovulation, and the day of ovulation itself – gives you the best chance of conceiving.
As well as using these calculations, watching out for your body’s fertile signs can also help you better understand your fertility. If you do not have a regular cycle, it is of course more difficult to know when you’re fertile, even if you are watching out for signs. And although regular sex will increase your chances of conceiving, you might like to find some ways of tracking your fertility:
- Ovulation predictor kits / fertility monitors
Ovulation predictors / fertility monitors test your urine for increased levels of luteinising hormone (LH), which happens one to two days before ovulation.
There are various kinds of kits available, most of which are very expensive in Belgium. Amazon (and other online stores) sell cheap ‘ovulation/fertility strip tests’ as well as brand name kits and monitors. Buying online usually works out cheaper than buying locally.
- Charting your basal body temperature Your basal body temperature (i.e. your temperature first thing in the morning, or after at least three hours of uninterrupted sleep) raises slightly after you ovulate.
While this may not help you on your first cycle trying to conceive, you may start to see a pattern and predict your most fertile time on future cycles.
One popular website www.fertilityfriend.com lets you record your basal body temperature (and other signs such as cervical mucous, breast tenderness etc), and provides an easy way to analyse your cycles. This website also has active forums which can offer advice and support when you’re trying to conceive.
Shocked at the price of pregnancy tests in Belgian pharmacies or supermarkets?
Unless you are lucky enough to fall pregnant on your first cycle trying, you might want to find a cheaper source of pregnancy tests. Amazon (and other online stores) sell cheap ‘pregnancy strip tests’ often known as ‘pee sticks’ / ‘ICs’ (‘internet cheapies’).
To use these, you need to dip them into a urine sample (ideally your first morning urine, as pregnancy hormones are more concentrated). They are typically renowned for being as accurate as more expensive tests.
And although it’s great to see the word ‘Pregnant’ / ‘Enceinte’ / ‘Zwanger’ appear on a more expensive test, you can save that one for when you’re sure you’re pregnant.
Most couples manage to conceive naturally, although how long this takes may depend on various factors. Figures show that out of 100 couples trying to conceive:
- 20 will conceive within one month
- 70 will conceive within six months
- 85 will conceive within one year
- 90 will conceive within 18 months
- 95 will conceive within two years [efn_note]http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/infertility/Pages/Introduction.aspx[/efn_note]
Women under the age of 35 are often encouraged to seek medical advice after one year of trying to conceive. In Belgium, you might decide to visit an independent midwife or a gynaecologist to discuss your situation.
Women over 35, or women/couples who have reason to suspect that they have fertility issues, are encouraged to seek help sooner.
See the section Having trouble conceiving?
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