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Trying to conceive? Nancy O’Dell has advice

In her new book, the "Access Hollywood" co-anchor shares insights on motherhood, from tips on how to have fun getting pregnant to the unexpected changes that happen to your body once you do. An excerpt.
/ Source: TODAY books

In her new book, the “Access Hollywood” co-anchor shares insights on mommyhood, from tips on how to have fun getting pregnant to the unexpected changes that happen to your body once you do. An excerpt.

Chapter one: Pre-conception
My husband, Keith, and I always knew we wanted to have kids. So after we had been married for a while, we wanted to expand our family. Keith already had two beautiful boys — Tyler and Carson, whom I adore — from his first marriage; they have their mom, and I’m their “Nommy,” their Nancy mommy. But ever since I was young, I always knew I wanted to have a baby of my own. So there I was. I had met the man of my dreams, we had gotten married, I was beyond happy, and it felt like all the pieces were falling into place. So, let’s do it, I thought. Let’s have a baby!

The first thing I did after Keith and I decided to try to get pregnant was make an appointment with my gynecologist. “What do we need to do?” I asked. “Well,” he said, laughing, “you need to have intercourse. And a lot of it.” Yeah. I knew that one. But all kidding aside, I had questions ... many questions.

The numbers game
I asked my doctor, “How long does it take for women to conceive?” The answer: Typical fertile couples (and I already knew Keith had swimmers) have a 20 percent chance of becoming pregnant with each cycle and an 85 percent chance of becoming pregnant within one year. It’s true that a year is a long time, and can feel much longer when you’re waiting for that little line to appear on a pregnancy test. But those odds seemed pretty good to me.

Peak time During that first visit, I also learned from my doctor when women are most fertile. In most cases, you’re at peak fertility one to two days before ovulation and up to twenty-four hours after. The doctor explained that this had to do with the fact that while sperm cells can live two to three days inside of you, an egg survives for only twenty-four hours. Of course, as the doctor told me these things, I was taking meticulous mental notes. Pregnancy, or at least getting pregnant, suddenly seemed much more complicated than I’d initially thought. And to top it off, every celebrity I was covering for Access Hollywood seemed to be pregnant or had just given birth — Angelina, Britney, Katie Holmes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mariska Hargitay. I could feel the pressure mounting.

Prep work
One thing that didn’t surprise me during my visit to the ob-gyn was when my doctor prescribed a prenatal vitamin for me. As a spokesperson for the March of Dimes, I know how important it is for all women who are even considering getting pregnant to take a prenatal vitamin. Here’s why: Prenatal vitamins are high in folic acid, which can prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord (such as spina bifida). Not to mention, a prenatal vitamin helps provide extra amounts of iron and calcium. While a vitamin isn’t a substitute for a healthy diet, it goes a long way toward making sure that women receive sufficient levels of the right minerals to create a healthy child.

Charting ovulation
Back to the business of getting pregnant: we needed to have sex and we needed to have a lot of it. Doctor’s orders! My husband wasn’t complaining. But after weeks of diligently trying, when, at the end of the month, I’d get my period, I couldn’t help but feel vaguely disappointed. Common sense told me there was nothing to be concerned about. I had read the websites and knew the statistics. And yet, I still felt defeated.

Several months into actively trying to put a bun in the oven, I decided to get serious. I was determined to address whatever was happening (or not happening) head on. So I began to chart my menstrual cycle meticulously. I bought an ovulation calculator, those pee sticks that can tell you when you’re ovulating; a basal body thermometer to chart my fertility; and — I kid you not — a “fertility scope” (a mini-microscope type of device that you put on your tongue), which supposedly can detect whether you are ovulating based on the composition of your saliva. If there was a product on the market that could help me conceive, chances are I had it. Meanwhile, whenever my husband and I went out, we’d see pregnant women everywhere. And I swear it felt as if every other story I read for Access was about the “Hollywood Baby Boom.” It was starting to feel personal. Why wasn’t I pregnant?

The buddy system
If you’re feeling discouraged, my advice is: find a friend and buddy up. It helps to have sisterly support in your baby-making efforts, as well as someone to make you feel as if you’re not alone in your quest to get pregnant. This really helped me. By happy coincidence, my very close childhood friend Abby was also trying to conceive at the same time. She and I would compare notes and share tips. That way, when another month rolled by and neither of us had a positive EPT stick to show for ourselves, we’d lift each other up with words of encouragement. “It’ll happen next month. You’ll see.”

Abby had become my pregnancy partner in crime. The funny thing is that when I learned I was pregnant, I sat down at the computer to e-mail her my good news, only to discover an e-mail from her: she was pregnant, too! So, you see, the buddy system can work. Find a friend and partner up. Just be sure to pick someone with whom you can be open and honest. And if you don’t have a buddy in your circle of friends who is trying to get pregnant, there are many pregnancy websites with forums where women can share their experiences.

The sex-a-thon
While we were trying to conceive, I spoke to another one of my childhood friends, Jan. I was telling her about how Keith and I had been trying and it wasn’t working, and she stopped me midsentence and said, “I’ll totally tell you how to get pregnant.” And there, sitting on the beach in our hometown of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with both of our husbands next to us, Jan shared her method. She leaned in and said, “So here’s what you have to do: have sex ten days in a row.” Keith nodded with a big grin. Jan continued. “You have to have sex five days before your suspected ovulation date and five days after. And you have to do it at approximately the same time every day.” Basically, it’s like a sex-a-thon. The key, Jan explained, was committing to the rules. Keith and I looked at each other. We were in. So we followed the “ten days in a row” method. It didn’t always result in our most romantic nights, but we stuck to the schedule. And you know what? It worked!

Just relax
Looking back — and this is an important note — even though we followed the ten-day method, at the time I really didn’t think I was going to get pregnant. I had started to believe we’d have to turn to science, which somehow took the pressure off and helped me to relax. The next thing I knew ... BOOM! I was pregnant. We ended up conceiving 100 percent naturally. (Thank you, sex-a-thon!) I really believe it’s because we were finally able to relax. So, try to relax! I know it’s not easy, but I think it truly helps.

Hey, lady! Turn down those headlights
I knew that nausea, tender boobs, and exhaustion were possible signs of pregnancy. But I had never heard anything about hard nipples. It wasn’t in any of my books, and none of my friends had mentioned they’d experienced it, which left me to discover this one on my own. Apparently, the elevation of the tiny glands around the nipple is one indication of pregnancy. However, I didn’t know this when Keith and I were keeping our fingers crossed that we’d gotten pregnant. So, basically, I spent an entire week with my headlights on high.

The first time I noticed my extroverted nipples was in the shower. Why were they hard? I wondered. The water wasn’t cold. And I certainly wasn’t aroused at 6:00 A.M. Then I noticed them again when I was getting dressed for Access. I walked into Wardrobe, convinced they’d given me the wrong bra. “Where’s the thicker bra? You know, the one I usually wear?” Of course, everyone thought I was crazy. “Nancy, this is the bra you always wear.” And when I got home, my husband took one look at my high beams and figured his wife was in the mood. Little did we know that I had a bun cooking in the oven.

Are you positive?
Home pregnancy tests have become so advanced that you can pee on a stick five days before you get your period and learn if you’re with child. Which is exactly what I did. I couldn’t wait until the first day of my missed period — I needed to know as soon as possible.

So I peed on the stick and waited for the results. I tried to be Zen about it, but I swear, three minutes have never felt longer. When the time was up, I took a deep breath, turned the stick over, and there, smack dab in the middle of my EPT stick, was a very faint line. I called Keith in and said, “Am I crazy or is there a line there?” Keith thought he saw something, but he wasn’t sure. I took two more tests — same faint line results, but we both agreed that it looked like something was there. What it meant, if anything, was another story. I had to go to work, so I stuffed the remains of my various home pregnancy tests in my purse and ran out the door.

I was so excited I called my sister, Karen, and my mom with the “Guess what? I think I might be pregnant” news. My sister was cautiously optimistic and said, “I think maybe that’s good news that you think you might be pregnant.” I quizzed her on whether she thought the faint line meant I was pregnant, but she didn’t know. Finally, I called my doctor for him to weigh in on what an almost-maybe-possibly line on a pregnancy test meant. He explained that the way the tests work is by detecting the presence of the pregnancy hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) in the urine. So even though the line was faint, there was a good darn chance it meant I was pregnant! My doctor then told me to take the test again in the morning, when the presence of the pregnancy hormone would be even stronger. Turns out that that hormone (the one that produces a positive result) doubles itself every twenty-four hours. He suspected I would have a much darker line the next day.

I woke up at 5:00 A.M. to pee on a stick. My doctor was right. There was no question — the line was dark. I was definitely pregnant!

Excerpted from "Full of Life" by Nancy O’Dell. Copyright (C) 2009, reprinted with permission from Simon and Schuster.