What Affects Fertility in Women?

Whether you’re considering a pregnancy now or in the near future, the number one question that’s gone through your mind is most likely, “Can I get pregnant?” The second question is probably, “How long will it take to get pregnant?” Before we discuss what factors can affect your fertility or ability to get pregnant, let’s take a look at what’s normal:

Now let’s talk about what can affect your fertility or ability to get pregnant, whether you can do anything to improve your odds, and what to do if you don’t become pregnant.

  • Age: Age is a big one. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) has a great FAQ sheet on infertility. In the FAQ sheet they explain that each month when a healthy, young woman tries to get pregnant she has about a 20 percent chance of actually getting pregnant in any single menstrual cycle. This rate begins to decrease at age 32 and decreases more rapidly at age 37.
  • Smoking: Tobacco use has been associated with decreased fertility. When you quit smoking, the affects from it can be reversed within a year. Added bonus: it’s easier to quit before getting pregnant than after. That’s because some nicotine replacement products and medications can’t be used while pregnant. (If you or someone you know is ready to quit, the Wisconsin Tobacco Quitline is a great place to start)
  • Alcohol: Alcohol consumption is another lifestyle choice to evaluate. Having two or more drinks daily may also stall your ability to get pregnant. Plus, drinking while pregnant can harm the baby. (You may be pregnant for a while before you realize it.)
  • Weight: Being underweight or overweight may make it harder to get pregnant. A body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9 is ideal. (Calculate your BMI by using a BMI calculator.) Now is the perfect time to reevaluate your diet and make sure you’re getting exercise – both are important for a healthy pregnancy.
  • Frequency of Intercourse: Beyond evaluating your lifestyle, the most practical consideration is how often you are having sex. Couples having sex every one to two days have the highest rates of pregnancy. Sex two to three times a week beginning shortly after your period also improves your chances. (Baby Center offers an ovulation calculator that can help predict the time of month you’re most fertile)

The factors discussed above are the basics when trying to get pregnant. Because there are many different situations, visiting with your healthcare provider is a good idea if you’re concerned about how long it’s taking you to get pregnant. Additionally, preconception visits, which can be scheduled with an OB/GYN or a Certified Nurse Midwife, are a great opportunity to discuss your general health, any medications you may be taking and lifestyle changes you may want to consider prior to achieving a pregnancy.

When to Seek Help

Trying to get pregnant can cause you to feel excited, nervous or even a little scared. Try not to worry and know there are resources available to help you during this time. While the majority of women will not have a hard time becoming pregnant, it’s important to consider an infertility evaluation if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • After one year of regular sexual intercourse without birth control, you’re still not pregnant
  • You’re over age 35 and haven’t had any luck after six months of trying
  • Your menstrual cycle is not regular
  • You or your partner has a known fertility problem

Meet the Author

Katie Buser, CNM is a Certified Nurse Midwife at Aurora Health Center in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

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The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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