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Are you ready to conceive? You’re approaching your “fertile period” during the second week of pregnancy. Remember from week one, that doctors use the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP) to calculate your pregnancy weeks.

James W. Brann, MD

Your Pregnancy MD
Pregnancy Week Two

If you have the average 28-day cycle, you’ll ovulate at the end of the week (day 14 of your menstrual cycle). If you want to increase your probabilities of conception, you don’t have to wait until the day of ovulation. You can start being intimate and make love with your partner or husband right now. Women can be fertile for five days before and 24 hours after ovulation, and sperm can survive in your vagina and reproductive tract for up to five days after ejaculation. So, having sex regularly this week can significantly boost your chance of conception.

Understanding Ovulation

Every month, a mature egg is released from one of your ovaries. (Occasionally, you may release more than one egg.) This is called ovulation, and it’s the key to becoming pregnant. If you don’t ovulate, there’s no chance that conception will occur.

Immediately following ovulation, the mature egg will enter and travel through the fallopian tube and into the uterus. If the egg is fertilized during this journey, you will become pregnant. If the unfertilized egg reaches the uterus, the egg will dissolve and you’ve missed your chance of pregnancy for that month.

{Helpful Tip} Girls are born with one to two million eggs in their ovaries, and by the time they reach puberty, they only have 300 to 400 eggs left for ovulation. When there are no more eggs, you will no longer ovulate or have periods. You will enter menopause.

How Ovulation Works

If you have the average 28-day cycle, you’ll ovulate at the end of the week (day 14 of your menstrual cycle).
ovarian cycle is divided into three stages

In order for you to understand how ovulation works, you have to learn about the ovarian cycle – the changes that occur within your ovaries to prepare it for ovulation. The ovarian cycle is divided into three stages: the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase.

Follicular Phase

The follicular phase starts on the first day of your menstrual cycle, and it ends right before ovulation. During the follicular phase, the hypothalamus (the area of your brain that maintains your hormone levels) sends a signal to your pituitary gland to start producing a follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This hormone triggers several of your follicles (a fluid-filled sac that where an immature egg grows) to develop into mature eggs.

As the follicles mature, the level of estrogen increases. Estrogen tells the hypothalamus to stop producing FSH. This will limit the number of follicles that mature. As the follicular phase continues, one follicle in your ovary will become the dominant one. The dominant follicle prevents the other follicles from maturing further, so they stop growing and die.

When estrogen levels are high enough and your egg is mature, a lutenizing hormone (LH) is released. This is known as your LH surge (which is what ovulation predictor kits measure).

Ovulatory Phase

Within 24 to 36 hours after the LH surge, ovulation takes place. The mature egg bursts out if its follicle, and the finger-like ends of the fallopian tube (called the fimbriae) capture the egg and sweep it into the tube. The unfertilized egg makes its way down the fallopian tube and into the uterus. The egg will only survive 12 to 24 hours after ovulation before it dissolves.

Luteal Phase

The luteal phase begins after ovulation. After the egg is released, the ruptured follicle is now called the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum will begin to produce a hormone called progesterone – which begins to thicken the lining of your uterus to prepare your body for implantation. If your partner’s sperm fertilizes the egg, the fertilized egg (now called an embryo) will implant itself into your uterine lining. If this happens, you’re pregnant!

If fertilization doesn’t take place, the egg dissolves and your hormonal levels will decrease. Your uterine lining will break down and be shed during menstruation (your period).

{Helpful Tip} Did you know that 250 million sperm are released at ejaculation, and only a few hundred will actually make its way to the site of the egg? And only one lucky sperm will be able to penetrate the outer lawyer of the egg and fertilize it.

Detecting Ovulation

Because ovulation is vital to conception, you will want to know when you might be ovulating. Having sex during this “fertile period” will boost your chance of pregnancy. For women with average 28-day cycles, they will often ovulate on day 14 of their menstrual cycle. However, there are many factors that can affect ovulation, including stress, hormonal problems, body weight, certain medications, illnesses, and etc. Because of these reasons, you may not want to rely solely on the “Day 14” rule. You should pay attention to the subtle changes in your body.

Increase in Basal Body Temperature

After ovulation, you can expect your temperature to increase by 0.4 to 1.0 degrees. Although you won’t feel your temperature getting any higher, you can detect this change using a basal body temperature thermometer (which is available at most drugstores for $10). This temperature spike indicates that your egg has been released from the follicle. You only have 12 to 24 hours after this temperature spike to conceive. After this point, many experts agree that it’s too late for fertilization. For this reason, charting your basal body temperature on a daily basis is a good and inexpensive way to figure out when you’ve ovulated.

You’ll want to start charting your body temperature (BBT) from the first day of your period. This allows you to see the overall pattern, not just a slight temperature pike here or there. It’s common for your basal body temperature to rise and fall as your menstrual cycle progresses, but there will be a noticeable change around ovulation. In general, your body temperatures are lower before you ovulate. After ovulation, your body temperature rises slightly and continues to stay higher until the beginning of the next cycle. If you’ve noticed your temperatures are higher for three days in a row, then you can assume that you ovulated before the first high temperature. Some women are lucky, and they notice a strong dip in temperature on the day they ovulate. Most of the time, however, it’s just a slight increase.

For best results, you should take your temperature at the same time every morning, before you get out of bed. Getting up, walking around, before taking your temperature can throw off your results. Be patient – it may take several months before you start to recognize a pattern in your temperatures. Use this information to help you predict when you should have sex during the month.

More Cervical Discharge

The consistency and amount of cervical mucus that you produce will change throughout your menstrual cycle. During your infertile periods, you may be feeling quite dry and uncomfortable. As you approach ovulation, you may have moist or sticky cervical discharge that is white or creamy in color. As ovulation gets closer, your mucus will increase in volume.

During ovulation, you may notice that your cervical discharge is clear, slippery, and very stretchy. The appearance of your cervical mucus is akin to raw egg whites. Having sex during this time is often easy, because you don’t require extra lubrication from outside sources.

When you’re trying to conceive, part of your daily ritual should be to check your cervical discharge. To do this, wash your index finger and insert it into your vagina. Circle around the cervix and collect the cervical mucus. Remove your finger and press it against your thumb.  Pull your fingers apart and see how “stretchy” your mucus is. Right around ovulation, you will be able to stretch the mucus one inch (or more) without it breaking.

If you don’t feel comfortable performing the “finger test” (described above), you can also check your cervical mucus by wiping and examining your discharge on toilet paper. Try not to be too compulsive with examining your cervical discharge. There are many factors that can affect the quantity and quality of your cervical mucous, including how well hydrated you are, STDs, vaginal infections, and etc.

Lower Abdominal Pain (Mittelschmerz)

Around the time of ovulation, some women have lower abdominal pain or mild cramping. This is called mittelschmerz
Mittelschmerz ovulatory pain

Around the time of ovulation, some women have lower abdominal pain or mild cramping. This is called mittelschmerz, which is German for “middle pain.” An estimated one-fifth of women in their reproductive years experience this ovulation symptom. Mittelschmerz can range in severity from mild twinges to severe discomfort, and it can last from a few minutes to several hours. It’s usually felt only on one side of the abdomen – depending on which ovary released the egg. This ovulation pain typically goes away within 24 hours.

Sometimes, women notice a small amount of vaginal bleeding (or spotting) along with this ovulation pain.

{Helpful Tip} Because ovulation signs and symptoms are subtle, you may want to take the easy road and buy an over-the-counter ovulation predictor kit – which measure the level of luteinizing hormone (LH). These kits are able to pinpoint your exact date of ovulation by 12 to 24 hours, and they are actually 99 percent accurate. For best results, always follow the instructions. Make sure that you use the kit at the same time each day.

Intimacy: It’s Baby-making Time

Intimacy during the second week of pregnancy is baby-making time
The end of week 2 is the perfect week for baby making

You will be ovulating by the end of pregnancy week 2, so if you want to try for a baby, this is the perfect week to enjoy sex and intimacy with your husband or partner. Have sex often, and don’t wait until the exact day that you ovulate. Remember that sperm can stay alive for up to five days in your reproductive tract, so having sex on a regular basis can improve your chances of conception.

Aim to have sex once every 24 to 48 hours. A common misconception is that the more sex you have, the better your chances of getting pregnant. This isn’t necessarily true. Having sex more than once a day can decrease your partner’s sperm count. If your partner already has a low sperm count, this can make it harder for you to conceive. For the best quality and quantity of sperm, you should wait 24 to 48 hours between having sex. But don’t wait too long between sexual encounters either. Don’t make your partner abstain for more than seven days in a row. Abstinence can decrease the motility (swimming ability) of his sperm, and the longer he abstains, the stronger this effect will be.

When you’re making love with your partner, you should also remember to enjoy the baby-making experience. Don’t make sex an obligation just because you want to get pregnant. This pressure to conceive can be counter-intuitive and work against you. When sex is more of a clinical experience, you may feel stressed and your relationship may suffer. Stress can delay ovulation, and make it more difficult to conceive. Plus, the pressure of successful conception may affect your partner’s performance, or even his ability to have sex.

It’s very important that you have open communication with your partner. Talk to him about how you’re feeling and what you’re going through. Making love should be an enjoyable and relaxing experience. You may want to go away on vacation, or enjoy spontaneous sex outside of your fertile window. Take the stress out of conception, and getting pregnant will be much easier.

{Helpful Tip} Try to avoid using traditional lubricants during sex. These can kill sperm and make conception more difficult, especially if your partner has a lower than average sperm count. There are sperm-friendly lubricants, such as Pre-Seed Personal Lubricant, which are designed to help couples trying to get pregnant.

To help boost your chances of having a baby, you should aim to have an orgasm at the same time as your partner, or shortly afterwards. One theory behind this is that the female orgasm helps move sperm into the cervix and toward the fallopian tube.

It may also help your chances of retaining semen if you remain horizontal for 15 to 20 minutes after intercourse. You may also want to lay with your legs in the air, since this just helps with gravity. Of course, there are millions of sperm released during ejaculation, so you won’t harm your chances of conception if you get up immediately.

While you’re trying to conceive, remember to have patience. Conception is a delicate process, so it may take awhile before you successfully conceive. On the other hand, it can take one try and you’re pregnant. Just stay positive. An estimated 16 percent of all couples who are actively trying to conceive must wait 12 months before they get pregnant. If you’re under 30 years old and you have been trying to conceive for over a year without any luck, you may want to talk to a fertility specialist. If you’re over 30, it’s a good idea to see a specialist after six months.

{Helpful Tip} Don’t douche after you have sex, because douching changes the pH balance of your vagina. In order for the sperm to survive, they need an alkaline pH vaginal environment. Douching also flushes out cervical fluid, which is required for sperm to have an easier “swim” towards the uterus.

Sexual Positions May Help Boost Conception Chances

When it comes to conception, timing is everything. You have a narrow fertile window during your menstrual cycle, when conception is most likely to occur if you have sex. Your reproductive health (ovulation frequency, egg quality, etc.) and your partner’s sperm quality and quantity also play a role in how fast you conceive. And if you want an extra boost, you may want to think about sexual positions.

There are no scientific research studies that indicate that any particular sexual position will help you conceive faster, but there is speculation and theories about which positions may help improve your conception chances. Up your conception odds with the following positions:

Missionary Position (Man on Top)

In general, sexual positions that deposit sperm close to the cervix (opening of the uterus) are considered the “best” positions for baby-making. For this reason, the missionary position – in which the man is on top and the woman is on bottom – is an ideal position for conception. To help the movement of sperm toward your cervix, you may want to place a small pillow underneath your hips and keep your legs raised after sex.

Rear Entry (“Doggie Style”)

The “doggie style” or rear entry position is when the woman kneels in front of the man, and the man enters from behind. This sexual position allows for deeper penetration, enabling your partner to have deeper thrusts and depositing his semen close to your cervix. For successful conception, you definitely want sperm to be near your cervix, since sperm can die an early death if it languishes in vaginal secretions for too long. Another perk of this position is that there is more friction for the guy, so he will climax faster.

Cliffhanger

Another sexual position that allows for deep penetration, while helping the sperm get close to the cervix, is the “cliffhanger.” In this position, the woman lays on the edge of a bed, and the man enters from the front in a standing or kneeling position.

“Scissors”

If you’re trying to conceive and looking for a unique sexual position, try the scissors. There are a few variations of this position, but basically, the woman lies on her side and the man lays perpendicular to her. The woman’s bottom leg is between her partner’s legs; her top leg can be lifted up or resting over the man’s side. The two of you are like “scissors.” The scissors position allows for better penetration, which helps to maximize your chance of conception.  

{Helpful Tip} When trying to conceive, avoid any sexual positions in which gravity works against you. For example, woman on top positions can cause sperm to leak out and lead to fewer sperm making their way toward your egg.

Top 10 Misconceptions About Conception

When you’re trying to conceive, you may be inundated with unwanted advice, tips, and suggestions from your peers, family, and friends. Sometimes, one well-meaning person will say one thing that another person says is false. So, how do you separate fact from reality? Here are the top 10 misconceptions about conception.

1. Drinking cough syrup can help you conceive.

There’s no scientific data that supports this idea, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests that this is worth a try. Guaifenesin, which is the main ingredient in many over-the-counter cough and cold medicines, can help you conceive by thinning your cervical mucus, which makes it easier for sperm to move through your cervix and fertilize your egg.

Guaifenesin is an expectorant, which means it helps relieve congestion in your lungs by liquefying the mucus, allowing you to cough it up and get it out of your body. Because guaifenesin works systemically (it affects your entire body), it affects your cervical mucus, too. For this conception trick to work properly, you will want to take it around the time that you ovulate.

Make sure that you find a cough medicine in which guaifenesin is the only active ingredient. Mucinex and Robitussin are two medicines that contain this ingredient.

2. Your man shouldn’t wear briefs when you’re trying for a baby.

The debate between boxers and briefs is a longstanding one, and personal preference usually takes precedence, but when you’re trying to conceive, boxers win. Wearing briefs can cause a man’s testes to overheat, which in turn can affect his sperm count. Low sperm count can make it harder for you to conceive. In order for a man’s testicles to yield sufficient quality and quantity of sperm required for successful conception, their temperature must be cooler than the man’s core body temperature.

To boost your chance of conception, you should ask your partner to wear boxer shorts at all times. Tight pants are also out of the question. He should also stay away from hot tubs and saunas, since these can also cause the testes to overheat. Make sure that he keeps his laptop off his lap as well.

3. Sperm can only stay alive for several hours in your reproductive tract.

After ejaculation, sperm can live inside your cervix and reproductive tract for three to five days, possibly longer under the right conditions. Sperm requires a warm, moist environment to survive. For this reason, sperm that is ejaculated outside your body can only survive for a few minutes or a few hours. Once sperm is dry, it is dead.

4. Eating wild yam improves your chances of getting pregnant.

Wild yam – not to be confused with sweet potato yam – is an herb that some people believe will promote fertility. Scientists have found that the root of wild yam contains a plant-based estrogen, which could be converted into the hormone progesterone. (Progesterone is the hormone that thickens your uterine lining and gets it ready for pregnancy).

Your body cannot naturally make progesterone from wild yam, however. This conversion can only be done in a laboratory setting. This makes wild yam ineffective for boosting your fertility.

5. Lubricants help with sperm motility

Traditional lubricants often work against your conception goals. Artificial lubricants contain ingredients and chemicals that are toxic to sperm, and they also alter the pH balance in your vagina. Under normal conditions, the acidity in the vagina kills off sperm, but right around ovulation, the vagina becomes more alkaline, providing a slightly friendlier environment for sperm. This natural pH balance is changed when you use artificial lubricants – because they typically have an acidic pH level. This can cause sperm death, and make it more difficult for you to conceive.

In addition, the viscosity (thickness or gooeyness) of lubricants may slow down the motility (“swimming speed”) of sperm, so more of the sperm end up died in the acidic environment of the vagina before they can reach your uterus. Currently, there is only one brand of lubricants on the market that doesn’t damage sperm. It’s called Pre-Seed Personal Lubricant.

6. Green tea will boost your fertility

Green tea has many potential health benefits – from fighting against cancer to protecting you against heart disease – and it may also give your fertility a helping hand. Green tea is full of beneficial chemicals called polyphenols, which act as antioxidants to protect your cells from damage. This antioxidant protection extends to your reproductive organs as well. Green tea’s polyphenols may help prevent cell damage to your reproductive organs, potentially making your eggs more viable.

Very few research studies have examined the link between green tea and a woman’s fertility. In one small study, published in a 2004 issue of the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, women were asked to take a supplement containing green tea extract, folic acid, chaste berry, and other vitamins and minerals. The women in the control group were given a placebo pill. After five months, a third of the women that were taking the green tea supplement became pregnant while none of the control had conceived. This was a small study, and because there were other vitamins and nutrients involved, there is no way to pinpoint green tea’s role in the women’s pregnancy.

Green tea contains caffeine and tannic acid – both ingredients can cause fertility problems when you consume it in excess. On the bright side, green tea has less caffeine than coffee, and it may be a good alternative to coffee for women trying to conceive.

7. You’ll get pregnant if you just stop worrying.

When you’re trying to conceive, you probably have many well-meaning friends and family members telling you to stop worrying about conception, and just relax. Although this is excellent advice, there is no clinical evidence that indicates that conception will be hindered by a little worry or anxiety. Extreme stress, however, can affect your ability to ovulate and can definitely interfere with healthy fertility.

The exact link between stress and fertility problems is a mystery to scientists, but a growing body of research suggests that stress hormones – cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline) – may play a role. Cortisol and adrenaline are the “fight or flight” response produced by your adrenal glands when you’re stressed. Cortisol is made from progesterone, which is the hormone that thickens the uterine lining to prepare it to receive the fertilized egg. When there are high levels of cortisol in your body (from excessive stress), your body will “steal” progesterone to make cortisol. As a result, you won’t have enough progesterone in order to easily conceive.

For this reason, it’s a good idea for you to try to relax when you’re trying to conceive. You may want to exercise on a regular basis, or find another relaxation technique to help you enjoy the process of baby-making.

8. Does love making in the morning increase your chances of conceiving faster?

Timing does matter when it comes to conception, but the time of the month (ovulation) matters more than when you have sex. No matter when you have sex, in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning, you can still conceive. But if you are taking time conceiving, you may want to have sex in the morning. Research studies have suggested that a man’s sperm count is higher in the morning.

9. You should only have sex every other day.

Again, the time of month that you engage in sexual intercourse matters more than the frequency of sex. You have a higher chance of conceiving when you’re ovulating, but don’t get obsess over having sex on the exact moment of ovulation. Just enjoy babymaking with your partner during pregnancy week 2 – when you’re most fertile.

Researchers suggests that the more frequently you try, the greater your chances of getting pregnant. You may not want to have sex more than once every 24 hours however, since this can diminish the number of sperm outputted with each ejaculation. For the best chances, you’ll want to have sex every 24 to 48 hours. This gives him plenty of time to replace his supply.

10. Something is wrong with you if you don’t get pregnant right away.

Be patient. Getting pregnant takes time, and unfortunately, no one can predict how long it can take before you finally conceive. For 59 percent of couples who are actively trying, they conceive within three months. Only 30 percent will get pregnant within the first menstrual cycle, and around 85 percent of couples will get pregnant within one year.

You shouldn’t worry unless you’ve been actively trying for over one year (12 menstrual cycles). After a year, you may want to make an appointment with a fertility specialist. If you’re over age 35, you may want to get help sooner – within six months of trying to conceive.

Boy or Girl?
Myths about Diet and Your Baby’s Gender

Some couples have their heart set on a certain gender. Maybe you want to have a boy first, or perhaps you want to have a daughter. Can a mother’s diet influence whether you’ll conceive a boy or a girl? It’s possible. There are many theories that link certain diets to specific genders. Of course, there is much controversy surrounding the theories as well.

For example, if you’re dying to have a baby boy, you might want to eat breakfast cereal and a lot of bananas. According to a 2009 article in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, which examined the diet of 740 pregnant women, researchers found that moms-to-be who enjoyed breakfast fears and potassium-rich foods (like bananas) were more likely to give birth to boy babies. These mothers typically enjoyed high calorie diets.

The link between this high calorie diet and boy babies is highly debated. Some experts suggest that this is just a correlation; the study doesn’t prove cause-and-effect. You may remember from your high school biology class that the man contributes a Y chromosome to produce a boy baby. So, perhaps it’s all by chance that these women had boy babies.

On the other hand, some scientists have seen this association in other animals, with well-fed animal mothers giving birth to male infants and the underfed mothers delivering female offspring.

But how exactly does diet influence your baby’s gender? The mechanism isn’t understood, but in the case of this study, it’s possible that the extra calories the women consumed affected vaginal secretions, and probably helps give the Y sperm a healthy boost. Plus, breakfast cereal is plentiful in folic acid – a B vitamin that may actually help boost conception and prevent birth defects in early pregnancy.

{Helpful Tip} Theories about diet and gender are fun, but you shouldn’t get your hopes up. You can eat breakfast cereal and bananas all day long, but at the end of the day, the chance of changing the sex of your baby is small. It’s all a matter of chance, and whether a Y sperm penetrates your egg.

Commonly Asked Questions – Week 2

Some of the more common questions asked during week 2.
Commonly Asked Questions

Q. I had a miscarriage five weeks ago. When can I try for another baby?

A. Having a miscarriage is a heartbreaking experience, so it’s best if you take your time to recover physically and emotionally from this traumatic event. There is no perfect amount of time that you need to wait, but most experts highly recommend that you wait at least a few months. Some doctors recommend that you wait six months before attempting again, but other physicians don’t feel that there is a medical reason to wait so long.

How long you wait depends on you and your partner. You need to be emotionally ready for another baby, and your uterus needs time to recover. Don’t rush into trying for another baby. Allow yourself time to grieve and heal first.

Q. Can you still get pregnant if you don’t have an orgasm?

A. Yes, you can still conceive even if you don’t have an orgasm. However, if you’ve been having trouble conceiving, an orgasm can help improve your chances of a baby. During a female orgasm, your pelvic muscles, vagina and uterus have rhythmic contractions – which helps carry sperm into the cervix. When you don’t orgasm during sex, you will retain less semen.

Keep in mind that a man ejaculates between 200 and 500 million sperm. As long as you have sex during your fertile period, your risk of getting pregnant is high, regardless of whether you had an orgasm or not. Orgasms help, but they don’t stop you from getting pregnant.

Q. I’ve been using ovulation prediction kits, but they have all been negative. Did this mean I didn’t ovulate?

A. Maybe. There are a number of possible reasons why you didn’t see a positive test result in this menstrual cycle, one of them being that a LH surge did not occur (you didn’t ovulate this month).

You can also get negative results if you used the test too early or too late in your cycle. (This is often the case with women with longer than average menstrual cycles). Negative results can also occur if you did not correctly follow the instructions in the package insert of your ovulation prediction kit. Sometimes, there may be a kit error, which means that you did have a LH surge but the kit didn’t detect it.

In the event that you don’t ovulate that month, you may notice that your period is missing that month. Sometimes, you can still bleed without ovulating, but your flow will be different than normal. It may be lighter, or heavier than your regular menstrual bleeding.

Q. How safe is dieting when you’re trying to conceive?

A. If you’re overweight and trying to conceive, dieting is perfectly safe. (You do not want to start dieting once you have conceived, however.) Your chances of conception are higher if you are close to your ideal weight. Even losing a few pounds can boost your likelihood of pregnancy.

For your overall health, you will want to choose a diet that focuses on “good” carbs – whole grain breads, pastas, and rice. Make sure you also include lean protein, fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. Eating whole grains and drinking plenty of water can make you feel full.

When losing weight, aim to shed those pounds slowly. One or two pounds a week is the safest way to go when you’re trying to conceive. Fast weight loss is not recommended, since it depletes your body of its nutritional stores – which can be detrimental in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Q. Is there a certain body type that’s associated with increased fertility?

A. Fertile women come in all sizes and shapes. But there is an interesting study from Harvard University, published in The Proceedings of the Royal Society, which suggests that women with narrow waists and large breasts are more likely to be fertile than women with other body shapes. These women have higher levels of progesterone and the hormone 17-b-estradiol (estrogen) – the female hormone that plays a crucial role in conception. Estradiol is believed to cause the LH surge during ovulation. You cannot control your body shape. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t get pregnant. To increase your chances of conception, stay healthy and eating right.

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