There are a lot of stories, myths, and even legends surrounding the time between deciding that you want to have children and actually holding them in your arms. It’s affected by factors like your health, your partner’s health, your fertility, your partner’s fertility, timing, the regularity of your cycle, whether you’ve been on birth control, whether your partner is a cyclist, and so, so many other factors.
Suffice to say that the process is very rarely linear and quite often longer than people think. Today we’re going to look into the journey from the decision to have children to conception.
“I did what was in my control.”
Ashleigh, business owner and soon-to-be mom, says, “I wanted to fall pregnant quickly so I did what was in my power. I did loads of exercise, stopped drinking and my social smoking, took supplements like selenium, calcium, vitamin D, a multivitamin, and so on. Then I fell pregnant the first month! Got the shock of my life.”
For some women, that’s how it goes. You think it will take forever, and the next thing you know you’re planning the nursery. For others, it’s not that simple.
“I had PCOS and had to completely overhaul my health”
“After my PCOS diagnosis, we were worried I might never fall pregnant. So I took control and completely overhauled my health. Going off the pill a year before we wanted to fall pregnant helped because it allowed me to see how haywire my hormones were. Once I had excluded sugar and processed food, I felt much better and we started trying. Because my hormones were so unreliable, my doctor recommended we treat every non-period day as a potentially fertile day. After four months, I fell pregnant and we were overjoyed!” commented mom and business owner, Michelle S.
By anticipating the problems that a PCOS diagnosis could cause for conception, and doing what she was able to do Michelle and her husband were able to have two beautiful boys within five years. “The tip about treating each non-period day as a potentially fertile one was the key, I think,” she reckons. “I was never ovulating when the calculators told me I should be. My body was just too unpredictable.”
“We tried for 15 years.”
Preschool teacher and new mom, Michelle R., says, “We tried for 15 years. We always wanted to have kids and didn’t think there would be a problem. But nothing happened. Then we tried IVF [in vitro fertilisation] and I fell pregnant once and lost the baby in the first couple of weeks. Were devastated but kept trying. Eventually, after 15 years, we were chosen to adopt and that’s how we reached our dream of having a child.”
Fertility isn’t predictable and conception rarely linear
As you may have realised by now, there are averages and there are outliers. In general, a woman is most fertile in her 20s and slightly less so in her 30s. From the age of 45, fertility drops off quite steeply. That said, “I met with a 25-year-old struggling with infertility and a 46-year-old who found themselves unexpectedly pregnant despite contraception,” says OBGYN, Heather Rupe.
The risk of miscarrying and birth defects also increases with the age of the mother, and being healthy doesn’t, unfortunately, help all that much. Dr Rupe says, “Sadly, your ovaries do not care if you are a vegan, gluten-free marathoner. Each woman is born with a finite number of eggs — and with age, both the number and quality of these eggs decreases.”
Infertility and age
That said, there are many young women who struggle to fall pregnant. “Before I fell pregnant with my first baby, we tried and tried and tried, but I just couldn’t conceive. And I was young, just 25. All my doctors said I ‘shouldn’t’ be having problems. And yet, there we were, ” said physiotherapist and mom of two, Karen. “I was eventually able to fall pregnant on our second round of IVF. Then, a few years later, just as we were gearing up for another round, I discovered I was pregnant again!”
Infertility is defined by “not being able to get pregnant after one year of trying (or six months if a woman is 35 or older),” according to this definition. Infertility can come from both men and women, with about one-third of infertility issues coming from each, and the remaining one-third for combined or other reasons.
Age is also a factor in infertility, as in women have fewer eggs as they get older and the quality of those eggs also declines. There is also the problem of increasing health issues with age, such as diabetes and obesity, which are shown to also affect fertility.
How to increase your chances of conceiving
If your menstrual cycle is regular and you know for sure that you are ovulating, and when you are ovulating, then you should make sure you have sex with your partner in the seven days before and after ovulation. There are many apps available to help you track your period which also predict ovulation based on your cycle and symptoms.
That said, if you find after a few months that you’re still not pregnant, you can also busy ovulation tester kits which can help pinpoint more accurately exactly when you are ovulating. If you are not ovulating, or if you are but still aren’t falling pregnant, then you might want to check in with your doctor to explore any possible issues.
You can also do as Ashleigh did, and take beneficial supplements, take care of your physical and mental health, and hope for the best. It might happen! But don’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t. Most doctors will tell you that it can take up to a year to get all the timings exactly right and fall pregnant.
There are things that you can do to increase your fertility, but sometimes it is outside of your control. A lot is up to timing and luck. When it comes to medical interventions, many couples end up trying fertility medication, IVF, IUI (intra-uterine insemination), and more. There are also fertility tests that are performed on men to test their fertility.