It’s ironic that women spend so much time and money on avoiding pregnancy–and then, once we want a baby, we want it right now! Unless you or your partner have fertility problems, conception will happen, eventually, but sometimes it seems to take much longer than we’d like. There are all kinds of ways to speed things along that don’t include fertility drugs. Here are some tips on how to get pregnant, faster.

1. Go to the doctor. If you’ve decided to start a family, or try for baby number two, three, four, or whatever, you need to get checked out, thoroughly. According to numerous studies, there are many physical conditions that hinder conception. The Mayo Clinic lists things like endometriosis, irregular ovulation, blockages in the Fallopian tubes, fibroids, thyroid problems, low body weight, diabetes, certain medications, STD’s, and many others that can lower your fertility. This is especially necessary for older moms-to-be, as a thorough checkup can pick up on issues that weren’t present when they were younger. Discuss any medications you’re taking, and if infertility is a side-effect of one of them, see if there is an alternative.

2. Go off birth control early. This may seem like a “duh” suggestion, but it’s a fact that certain birth control methods, especially those that manipulate your hormones, take time to get out of your system. If you’ve been on the Pill, Depo-Provera, Nuva-Ring, or other hormonal birth control methods, you may need an extra couple of months to be fertile. With that in mind, when planning a pregnancy, give yourself some time, and don’t get discouraged if you haven’t gotten pregnant the first month after you threw your pills away. It’s not abnormal for it to take as much as a year or more for your body to get ready to conceive.

3. Keep track of your cycle. The fact is, you are only fertile for a brief window during the month, and that window is during ovulation. Keep a calendar, and use an ovulation detector kit to find out your fertile times. Eggs only last between 12-24 hours after ovulation, and sperm can survive up to 72 hours in the reproductive tract. So, it’s a pretty narrow window, so you’d better plan properly. If you have more money to spend, some companies like ClearBlue Easy make actual fertility monitors, which measure hormone levels of all kinds, making pregnancy planning much simpler.

4. Do the Do…At the right time. Once you know your cycle and when you ovulate, well…take care of business! However, remember this: frequent sex lowers a man’s sperm count. If you’ve had problems getting pregnant and your doctor says you and your partner are OK, physically, it could be that you just need to abstain for a few days prior to ovulation. Allow those little swimmers to accumulate, it increases your likelihood of getting pregnant! Also, if you’ve been keeping track of your cycle and know when you’ll likely be ovulating, have sex the day before. Remember, sperm can live up to 72 hours, so if the boys are already present when the egg is released, it increases your chances of conception. Bonus tip: sperm can be found in the cervical tract seconds after ejaculation, so don’t feel you have to lay on your back after sex to increase your chances of getting pregnant. Just relax and enjoy the glow.

5. Take your temperature. Did you know that your body temperature drops slightly while you’re ovulating? To help chart your cycle even better than with a calendar, start monitoring your basal body temperature every day. In the morning, before you’ve even gotten out of bed, take your temperature and chart it. Why before you get out of bed? Because once you’re up and moving, your body temperature will fluctuate for all kinds of reasons, so those first few moments of consciousness are the only ones during the entire day that your body temperature can be relied upon to be consistent. Also, your temperature goes back up the day after you have ovulated, and stays that way if you’ve conceived. If you’re monitoring your BBT and note that your temp has not dropped by the time you’re normally supposed to be ovulating the next month, you could be pregnant!

6. Cervical mucus monitoring. If you’re not squeamish about bodily fluids, you can monitor your cervical mucus to help determine when you’re ovulating. You’ve probably noticed that the quality/consistency/amount of your vaginal discharge changes through the month. After your period, you won’t usually have much in the way of discharge for a couple of days, then you’ll notice a cloudy, sticky discharge for a few days, which changes to a slippery, egg-white-like discharge. This kind of discharge is produced by the cervix, and it is an indication that your body is preparing for a possible pregnancy prior to ovulation. However, remember that certain medications, such as antihistimines, and breastfeeding, can dry up cervical mucus.

7. Leave the lube in the drawer. Sexual lubricant is one of those things that almost everyone uses at some time in their sex lives, whether to correct a chronic vaginal dryness problem or just to add some zip to your sex life. However, lubes can interfere with your cervical chemistry and can actually prevent sperm from reaching their destination–it can even damage them! If you need lube to enjoy sex, stick to a strictly natural one, such as canola oil, mineral oil, or special lubricants like Pre-Seed.

8. Stop smoking! If you ever needed another reason to quit smoking, the news that it decreases both male and female fertility should be enough. The evidence against cigarettes is mountainous, even in the reproductive area: smoking decreases sperm motility in men, and damages ovaries and causes egg loss in women…it even has been linked to increased risk of miscarriage and reduction of children’s future fertility! Whether it’s first- or second-hand smoke, it’s bad for you. Not to mention, babies born to cigarette smokers are smaller and more prone to respiratory problems than those of non-smokers. You and your partner are giving yourselves and your child a huge gift by saying goodbye to cigarettes.

9. Cut down on the caffeine. Coffee is packed with antioxidants and other good things, but caffeine in excess has been linked to lowered fertility and increased risk of miscarriage. Be moderate about your caffeine consumption, just to be safe.

10. Eat well, and drink your water and milk. Studies show that women who have a very low body-fat ratio and those with high BMIs have more reproductive problems. Keep yourself at a healthy weight and eat a diet rich in fruits, veggies, lean protein, and calcium. Your body needs lots of calcium during pregnancy (for developing the baby’s bones) and nursing, so it’s best to beef up your intake; many prenatal vitamins include extra calcium. Lots of water keeps your body well hydrated and your metabolism flowing smoothly. Avoid too much seafood and other foods high in mercury and other heavy metals, such as tuna, shark, mackerel, and swordfish, as mercury decreases fertility and can contribute to complications in pregnancy and even potential birth defects.

11. Relax!! Stress has been demonstrated to decrease fertility–it’s a vicious cycle for couples with fertility problems. They angst about getting pregnant, and the stress they’re under makes it all the harder to do so. How many of us have heard anecdotal stories about couples who had problems conceiving and gave up on the whole thing, deciding to adopt…and then they got pregnant! It’s true: stress lowers sperm count and can cause chemical imbalances in the female reproductive system, making conception much more difficult. It’s normal for it to take a year or longer for a couple to conceive; don’t sweat it if you haven’t gotten pregnant the month after you went off birth control. Relax, have fun, enjoy your time with your partner–because once you do have a baby, you’ll remember those relaxing times pre-baby and yearn for them!