When you’re ready to start trying to conceive (TTC) you might feel overwhelmed by all the fertility-focused gadgets and gizmos advertised in your social media feed and lining the shelves of your local pharmacy. You might even be led to think that pregnancy isn’t going to happen quickly, or at all, unless you purchase and use all the latest TTC tech.
When it comes down to it, there are only a few things that could be helpful when you’re ready to start trying to become pregnant, many of which can be accessed for free or at a low cost.
You also don’t need anything if you choose to start with a let’s “see what happens” approach. That said, a preconception visit with your healthcare provider and 400 mcg of folic acid daily is always recommended when you plan to become pregnant within the next year (1).
If using tools to plan and focus your efforts when TTC sounds exciting and can give you a sense of more control, here are a few things we can recommend:
1. Subscribe to Clue Plus and switch to Clue Conceive mode
Researchers have shown that tracking your cycle can help you identify the days when conception is most likely and improve your chances of becoming pregnant (2,3). You only need to track your period with Clue Conceive to get accurate predictions about when to plan for sex, so it’s great for those who want an easy approach to TTC. Find out more about how to use the Clue Conceive as part of your TTC journey here. Tracking your period will also help with pregnancy dating so that your healthcare provider monitors and manages your pregnancy appropriately.
2. Take folic acid
This is an important one. It is recommended that all people who can become pregnant in the next year take 400 mcg of folic acid daily to prevent neural tube defects (issues with infant brain and spine development) (1). If you’re ready to start taking prenatal vitamins, that is also ok; just ensure they contain the correct amount of folic acid. Health insurance often covers these vitamins if you ask your healthcare provider for a prescription. You can also purchase them over the counter at most pharmacies and grocery stores. You can eat foods rich in folate (the naturally occurring form of folic acid) in foods like dark leafy greens, fruits, nuts, beans, seafood/meat, dairy products, and grains (4). However, dietary folate alone should not replace folic acid supplementation (5).
3. Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs) or Ovulation Test Strips
Several different types of OPKs can be purchased over the counter at your local pharmacy or online. Most OPKs either identify luteinizing hormone (LH)and/or the estrogen metabolite, estrone-3-glucuronide (E3G) in urine and can reliably predict ovulation nine times out of 10 if used correctly (6). OPKs can help you learn more about your body while you are trying to become pregnant, and you can track your results in Clue Conceive.
Pro tip: there is a lot of variety in OPKs, and they can be quite expensive if you opt for digital or brand name options. If you’re looking for low-cost options, simple LH test strips can be purchased in bulk online or at a dollar store and are just as effective at predicting ovulation.
4. A lubricant that works for you
Some commonly used lubricants have been thought to decrease sperm motility (the movement of sperm toward the egg). Still, research studies have found that lube does not appear to impact fertility or time to conception (7,8). If you want to use lubricants, pick one that works for your body and budget, you don’t need to purchase expensive lubricants to become pregnant (9). Check out this article for more information on how to choose a lube.
5. Pregnancy tests
When you’re in TTC mode, the urge to test for pregnancy quickly and early is strong. The “two-week wait” between ovulation and when you can accurately take a pregnancy test can be a true test of patience for many people.
Like OPKs, there is a lot of variety when it comes to available pregnancy tests. Many brands advertise “early results” before your missed period. Still, several studies have shown that these claims are often misleading and produce a high rate of false-negative results if taken before your expected period (10).
Accurate and affordable pregnancy tests can be purchased at low cost at dollar or discount stores and local pharmacies. You may also request a pregnancy test at your healthcare provider's office or local health center. You can also schedule an appointment at a Planned Parenthood clinic for a free pregnancy test in the United States, for example.
Pro tip: In the United States, pregnancy tests are considered to be a “qualified health expense” and various types of health spending (FSA) and health savings accounts (HSA) can be used to pay for them (11).
Everyone's TTC journey is unique. It can be frustrating for some people when you’re proactively TTC and don’t get pregnant quickly. We’ve put together these tips on pregnancy planning (and coping) when things don’t go to plan.
Pro-tip: Timing is everything. If you’re 34 years or younger, it’s recommended that you talk to your healthcare provider if you have been trying to become pregnant for 12 months. If you’re 35-39, you should see someone after trying for six months, and if you’re 40 years old or older, you should see a specialist straight away (12).