When it comes to a woman’s natural fertility, or ability to get pregnant, there are many misconceptions about fertility health, trying to conceive, and when to consider seeing a fertility specialist. At Shady Grove Fertility, we know it’s important to educate women about their natural fertility, so they can make informed decisions about when it might be time to consider a fertility specialist if pregnancy has been unsuccessful.
Below, Dr. Kara Nguyen of Shady Grove Fertility’s Lancaster, PA and Mechanicsburg, PA offices shares five facts you should know about your natural fertility that are important when beginning on the path to parenthood.
1. Natural pregnancy rates are about 15 to 20 percent per cycle.
At first it seems like a very low chance each cycle; however, when we consider that most couples do not achieve a pregnancy the first month they try and 90 percent achieve pregnancy after 1 year of trying, these are pretty good odds overall. As long as there are no major barriers such as blocked tubes or low sperm counts, most young couples are able to achieve pregnancy within a 1 year of trying.
2. Infertility is common.
While the majority of young couples will achieve a pregnancy within the first year of unprotected intercourse, even still about 1 in 8 couples will have difficulty conceiving. The underlying reasons for infertility can be categorized under female factor, male factor, or a combination of both (or unexplained). Unexplained infertility occurs in about 10% of couples, and is diagnosed when all the available tests come back normal. This does not mean that everything is ok but that there is a problem we do not yet have a test that can uncover it. Be cautious of comparing experiences from different people as there is no one size fits all. It is common also for couples to have no past family history of fertility issues. For this reason, it is always best to be your own advocate and discuss your fertility early on with your primary care provider, OB/GYN, or directly with a fertility specialist to get quick answers.
3. Timing sexual intercourse is not exact.
Your fertile window is about 6 days prior to ovulation, so it is best to have sexual intercourse during that timeframe. Women with regular menstrual cycles can best estimate this fertile window, however women with irregular menstrual cycles will have more difficulty determining their fertile window. Using basal body temperature to determine your fertile window only detects ovulation after it occurs, so you can miss the fertile window. Home ovulation predictor kits are useful for women with regular menstrual cycles but are highly unreliable for women with irregular cycles due to hormonal imbalances like polycystic ovary syndrome.
Therefore, having intercourse every 1 to 2 days during this time will help maximize your fertility within a given cycle.
It is a common misconception that frequent ejaculation lowers male fertility, but what it can do is add to the overall stress of trying to conceive. When using lubricants, be sure to use products that do not lower sperm motility (movement) such as mineral oil, canola oil, or hydroxyethylcellulose-based lubricants.
4. You do not need to wait to see a fertility specialist.
Couples today are much more aware of infertility issues than in the past. Many have friends or family who have struggled with infertility and may not be open to discussing these experiences. It is also more important for women to be aware of their fertility, especially with more women choosing to start their families later in life.
The recommended guidelines for when to see a fertility specialist are to try on your own to get pregnant for a year if you are 35 or younger, 6 months if you are between the ages of 35 and 39, and 3 months if you are 40 and over. There are also some warning signs that signal the need to see a fertility specialist sooner such as irregular menstrual cycles, history of endometriosis, other hormonal imbalances etc.
A fertility specialist will provide you with an individualized treatment approach based on simple diagnostic testing that will allow him/her to determine the cause of your infertility.
5. Beware of claims that certain foods and herbal therapies can improve natural fertility
We may hear advice from people with good intentions and those who had “good experiences” with certain foods, products, or herbs. Everything from pineapple core to Mexican insects to bone broths have been suggested to boost “fertility.” Claims on TV from vitamin companies also suggest they can help improve egg or sperm quality. Many products are unregulated, which makes purity, dosing, and effectiveness highly questionable. Some commonly used herbal remedies such as dong qi, black cohosh, red clover, and St. John’s wort, which may be taken for other conditions, may be detrimental if trying to achieve pregnancy and can interfere with fertility medications. It is important to let your doctor know of all supplements that you take. Just because it is herbal and natural doesn’t make it safe in all situations.
Editors Note: This post has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness as of August 2019.
To learn more or to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, please contact our New Patient Center at 1-877-971-7755 or complete this simple form.