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Jean M. Twenge, Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University, is the author of more than 90 scientific publications and two books based on her research, Generation Me and The Narcissism Epidemic. Her research has been covered in Time, Newsweek, the New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post, and she has been featured on Today, NBC Nightly News, Fox and Friends, Dateline, and National Public Radio. She received a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband and daughters.

About The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant: A Q&A with author Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D.

Why did you write The Impatient Woman’s Guide?

When I was trying to get pregnant, I never found a book about natural conception that was fun to read and had all of the right information. I wanted a book written by someone who had been there, who understood what it was like to worry about getting pregnant even before you started trying – and who had peed on as many ovulation sticks and pregnancy tests as I had. I also wanted the best, most up-to-date information, but, especially after I started reading the actual medical research, I noticed that much of what I read online and in books was wrong, half wrong, or from a questionable source. As a researcher myself, it bothered me that so many women were getting false information. I told as many friends as I could about what I found, but soon realized I could reach so many more women by writing a book. Since I’d written two books before (Generation Me and The Narcissism Epidemic) and loved the experience, it sounded like a great opportunity.

What did you find online or in books that turned out to be wrong, according to the current research?

Many examples are featured in The Impatient Woman’s Guide. Here’s one: Lots of websites and books say that only 2/3 of women over 35 will get pregnant within a year, and thus 1 out of 3 will have fertility problems. This sounded pretty scary, so I tracked down the original medical journal article. Guess where the researcher got his data? Birth records from 18th century rural France. Kind of different from the modern world where we have ovulation prediction, modern medicine, and soap.

Fortunately, studies on more current populations are more encouraging and optimistic.These last two studies also suggest that the books and websites saying you only have a 20% chance of conceiving each cycle even when you’re under 35 are also too low.

I’d like to conceive naturally as fast as possible. What’s the most important information to know?

Two things: When you ovulate (in each cycle, not just usually), and when to have sex in relation to ovulation. The Impatient Woman’s Guide gives precise instructions for three different methods of ovulation prediction, and reveals the best two days to have sex – and they’re NOT the two days most books or even fertility monitors say they are.

Doing everything possible sounds good, but doesn’t “trying too hard” and stress cause infertility? (Or: Should I listen to everyone who tells me to “just relax?”)

In a word: No. Extreme stress can delay ovulation and mess up your cycle, but worrying about getting pregnant and predicting your ovulation is unlikely to make you infertile. One caveat: Moderate to severe depression can negatively impact fertility. So if your stress has developed into deep sadness that lasts more than two weeks, then it’s time to get help.

OK, so stress probably won’t keep me from getting pregnant. But it’s still driving me crazy!

I know – it drove me crazy, too, and I was lucky enough to conceive all three of my children naturally within a few months. But I started stressing before we were even trying! The whole process is stressful for so many reasons, mostly because having a baby is a very important life goal that, ultimately, is out of your control. You can do your best to up your odds, but in the end it’s luck or fate that determines whether you get pregnant in any given cycle. That drove me nuts! That’s why the book has a whole chapter (and more throughout the book) on how to manage your anxiety.

I’d like to have a boy (or a girl). What can I do to up my odds?

Don’t follow the usual advice of having sex far away from ovulation for a girl and close for a boy, the technique advocated by the late Dr. Landrum Shettles and others. Several studies have shown it doesn’t work. In The Impatient Woman’s Guide I’ll tell you what does work – and yes, you can tip the odds in your favor without going to a fertility clinic.

When can I take a pregnancy test?

You can take a pregnancy test anytime you want, but when should you take one to find out as soon as possible, yet not waste money and emotion by testing too early? Don’t listen to the advice on some websites saying you should start testing 7 days after ovulation (7 DPO). Virtually no embryos implant that early. Others say you should wait until you miss your period – that’s decent advice, but today’s sensitive tests mean you can find out earlier than that. In the book, I’ll tell you, based on current research, the best DPO to start testing.

Someone on a message board, my friend, or my friend’s friend got pregnant only after she started taking a certain supplement. Should I take it?

Probably not. Most supplements, even many described in other fertility books, have not been tested to show that they actually work. Hearing one story about one person doesn’t mean they work! It could have just been their lucky cycle. In the book, I describe the supplements and vitamins that have been tested and shown to be effective by research. Some are well-known, and others are not. One that is: folic acid. Every woman thinking about trying to get pregnant should take a folic acid supplement at least one month before she starts trying. Folic acid can prevent certain birth defects and increases fertility, but is much more effective if it’s taken ahead of time (because the defects happen very early in development).

Do I have to eat differently when I’m trying to get pregnant?

Some research suggests that you might get pregnant faster if you have a healthy diet. In The Impatient Woman’s Guide, I describe the SOS diet, an IW exclusive: Spinach, olives, and salmon. It’s not that this is all you eat – each of these stands in for a whole list of healthy foods. Spinach means the fruits, vegetables, and whole grains we already know are good for us. Olives mean what’s sometimes called a Mediterranean diet. Salmon means low-mercury, high-omega-3 fish, with some other lean protein thrown in. How do you eat this way if your idea of good food is – like mine – pizza and cookies? A lot of tricks and a lot of finding the healthy foods you will actually eat, especially those that are easy to make. I describe these techniques in the book … as well as describing my addiction to eating frosting out of the can. But I eat a lot better than I used to using a few fairly easy tricks.

Copyright 2012 Dr. Jean Twenge
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