Isn't pretty crazy how little the most of us know about our cycles and ovulation until we try to get pregnant? One study found that only 13% of women have been found to be able to accurately pinpoint their fertile window (source). We met with Dr. Don Aptekar who started his 40th year of his practice as an OB/GYN this November to find out what the biggest confusion's are when trying to conceive.
Q: What is the most commonly asked question you get from women trying to conceive?
A: That one hasn’t changed at all over the past 40 years. It’s when do I ovulate or when can I get pregnant.
Q: What is the biggest misunderstanding couples have while trying to conceive?
A: The biggest misunderstanding is what day they ovulate and timing the fertile window. Many women believe they ovulate day 14. Even though we now have apps and the internet, there is still misguided information on what day women ovulate. Day 14 is based on an average from a group of women and an estimate for a 28-day cycle. Women have been found to ovulate on any day between day 8-20 in any given cycle.
Oh, and also, if you haven't gotten pregnant in 6-12 months, don't forget to get your man's sperm checked out. Another major misunderstanding is that it can equally be the man's issue as it is the woman's.
Q: What surprises you the most during a doctor’s visit for women trying to conceive?
A: Nothing surprises me anymore and things haven’t changed since the 70s. Every year a new group of people come in and couples have the same questions. Even with the internet there are still the same questions, except now people try and self diagnose themselves. Once a month I see someone who believes they have a fertility problem from what they have read online and then the next month they are pregnant.
Honestly, I suppose I’m more surprised by the woman who get pregnant who didn’t think they could.
Q: So you spend most of your time explaining ovulation?
A: Yes- nearly every visit is explaining when they ovulate and historically it hasn't been easy for women to pinpoint. I’ve found that it causes too much stress to have patients track their temperature on their own and LH sticks don’t work for everyone. I’m looking forward to when Priya launches to give women a stress free and reliable option.
Q: What other questions do women come to you with?
A: My patients always try and eliminate possible reasons for why they aren’t getting pregnant. They will say “I’m taking cough medicine and I do this and do that…” They want to know if they are allergic to sperm or if their cervical mucus is too thick. It’s a completely natural thing to ask about, but the reality is that for the majority of my patients it all comes back to timing intercourse.
Other commonly asked questions are around what they can and can’t do. The hardest thing for my patients is to make decisions about what they can and can’t take. I tell them no medication is approved for pregnancy and the next question is, “so then what should I take for my allergies?” I explain that if you really don’t need it to manage a disease, than don’t take it. If you get a headache, try rest and hydration. If your headache is so bad that you feel that you need to go to the ER, then you should probably take your medication, but I’m telling you, no medication has been approved for pregnancy.
If you are trying to get pregnant and there is a chance you may be pregnant, before you take a medication ask yourself, “is this something I really need?” If it is, then talk to your doctor about your options.
Q: What about drinking alcohol while trying to conceive?
Alcohol is always a big one I get asked about. Alcohol is not approved in pregnancy - ever. But the truth is the majority of women I see drink early in the pregnancy because they didn't know they were pregnant. Drink a little bit of alcohol and the risk is minuscule, but I’m not going to tell someone it’s ok. My advice to you is that from time of ovulation to onset of the next period you shouldn’t drink. That way you don’t have a big concern. We don’t understand all the risks so it’s best not to drink.
The bottom line for women trying to conceive is to time your fertile window correctly, take prenatal vitamins and don’t drink. Most of all, enjoy the process.