Trying to conceive
Once you are fit and ready for pregnancy, it is time to start trying to conceive. The decision to abandon contraception may produce a mixture of emotions: excitement, anxiety, happiness or apprehension. Do not get too anxious about counting days and time-tabling intercourse - studies show that you are more likely to conceive if you are relaxed and happy!
Your ovulation time
There are a number of ways of working out the exact time of ovulation.
Keep a calendar
Note the day your period starts and how many days it lasts. If you have a straightforward 28-day cycle, you probably ovulate on day 14. Otherwise, it is a little more complicated because ovulation generally occurs 14 days before the start of your next period, and this can be difficult to predict if your cycle is irregular.
Keep a temperature chart
Just after ovulation, your body temperature increases very slightly and stays at this level until after your period. By taking your temperature at the same time every morning and plotting the readings on a chart, you can pinpoint when ovulation occurs (just before the temperature rise). You will need to take readings for a few months in order to work out an average pattern for your cycle.
Monitor your cervical mucus
The mucus that your cervix produces to help sperm swim up to the uterus is often discharged from your vagina. By noting any changes in its texture, you can spot when you are ovulating. When you are fertile, the mucus looks like egg white and is stretchy.
Most pharmacies sell ovulation-predictor kits. These are quite easy to use: you simply urinate onto a test-stick each day around the middle of your menstrual cycle.
The test, which is 99 per cent accurate, detects the increase in luteinizing hormone (LH) that predicts when you are about to ovulate.
Remember to have sex
The key to getting pregnant is to have sex at least every 48 hours during your fertile period. This ensures that there are plenty of sperm available whenever there is an egg ready to be fertilized. It may help to stay in bed a while after having sex. Although sperm are designed to swim towards your cervix, you can help them on their way by lying down - or even sticking your legs in the air!
Timing your pregnancy
Timing your pregnancy is tricky because it is impossible to predict how long it will take you to conceive. Every couple is different, and all sorts of things, such as age, general health and the type of contraception you have been using, affect conception. Generally, you should allow at least a year: 3 months for trying to conceive and 9 months for the pregnancy. If you want to improve your health and fitness (see page 10) beforehand, you should allow a further 6 months.
Barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms or a diaphragm, allow you to conceive as soon as you stop using them. Once you stop taking the contraceptive pill or using an intra-uterine device (IUD, or coil), you should aim to have at least one'normal'period before trying to conceive. Some women have a burst of fertility as soon as they stop taking the pill, while others find their menstrual cycle takes a few months to settle down. If you want to wait until you are completely fit and healthy, you could stop taking the pill or have your coil .removed and use a barrier method until the time you want to get pregnant.
Your due date
Your midwife will use a chart similar to the one shown above to give you an estimated date of delivery (EDD). This date will be used to check your baby's growth and development.
Your EDD will be 40 weeks from the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP), not from the day you think you conceived. This is more accurate because not all women ovulate at the same stage of their cycle. However, because the date is based on an average 28-day cycle, only 5 per cent of women actually give birth on their EDD. To work out when your baby is likely to be born, look up the day and month of the first day of your last period, then look at the line below to find your Edd.