July 23, 2019
Sure, it’s possible to get pregnant without planning (there’s a whole MTV show about it), but that’s not usually the ideal. Pregnancy is a time of extraordinary change and significant growth – literally and figuratively – in your body and your life. Going into that with optimal health, nutrition and support can help you have the best possible experience.
So many factors play into this. Your age, your fertility status, your overall health, your method of conception (sex vs sperm donor vs IVF etc…). It’s an important conversation to have with your personal healthcare provider. I felt so frustrated that it took nearly 6 months to get pregnant with my first baby even though I was young and ‘healthy’ (I was a resident physician working 70-90 hours a week, so healthy is relative). Then, I was surprised by getting pregnant the second month with baby #2 and then shocked when I conceived the very first week off contraception with baby #3. Here are some facts to get that conversation started.
On average, women 32 years old or under have a 20-25% chance of conceiving each menstrual cycle. This means most will conceive within 3-5 menstrual cycles, but it is considered “normal” for it to take up to 1 year. Of women in that age group, infertility affects approximately 1 in 8. The rates increase as you get older. By age 35, the likelihood of conceiving each cycle drops to 12%, by 38 it’s 5% and at 40 you are down to 3%. The rates are a little higher if you are trying for a second or third child since your body has proven you don’t have some of the anatomical issues that decrease fertility.
Other factors affect fertility as well. Your overall health, including your BMI (or body mass index, a measure of weight compared to height), your diet, toxin exposures, medications, and of course frequency of intercourse and quality of sperm affect your rate of conception. Timing fertilization within your menstrual cycle to optimize conception is a whole other aspect (tune in for more info on this in a future blog post).
If you’re pursuing egg freezing, artificial insemination, IVF or surrogacy, there are additional factors to consider. We will talk more about optimizing this in another post.
WHEN TO START TRYING TO CONCEIVE (TTC)
In general, you should wait to “try” until you’re ready to be pregnant. It’s impossible to know in advance if you’ll conceive the very first week you stop using contraception or if it will take months. This can be one of the more maddening unknowns in the whole parenting journey. If you have a more narrow window of when conception needs to happen, you might want to consider going off any hormonal contraception a few months in advance and using condoms while you track your cycle to be ready to go. Sometimes it takes 3-6 months for hormonal birth control to “wash out” of your system.
WHAT THIS MEANS
You can do things to try to time conception within a certain window, however there’s no way to fully control when you get pregnant once you start trying. It remains one of the mysteries of life (for now). If you are starting your family later, you may need to seek a fertility consultation sooner. You can talk to an experienced obstetric provider about fertility reserve testing if you’re concerned – even if you’re not in the age group typically tested. All women should optimize their fertility with a healthy lifestyle. Our next blog post will go over more details on this, so make sure you’re signed up to get it!
Your Village guide can help you with a personalized plan.
As with all posts, you should always consult your personal health care provider. This is meant to provide information, never as your own medical advice or treatment recommendations.
Female age-related fertility decline. Committee Opinion No. 589. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2014;123:719–21.