Let’s face it, one of the most intriguing questions women often ask themselves is, “How hard is it to get pregnant?” Some couples can conceive at first try. Others have to undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF) multiple times. There are also women who develop fertility problems. Find out more about the answer to this question, including why it matters to women’s health.
How Hard Is It to Get Pregnant? Things to Consider
In This Article:
- Pregnancy Rates Differ by Age
- Understanding the Menstrual Cycle’s Role in Fertility
- Timing Ovulation Correctly
- What Happens After Fertilization
- Factors Affecting Women’s Fertility
- Men’s Fertility Concerns
- When to Consider Asking a Specialist
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Pregnancy Rates Differ by Age
“How hard is it to get pregnant?” In the ideal world, the answer should be — not hard at all.
Any fertile woman could get pregnant in any given cycle. In reality, most women do not, even if they are trying.
Your ability to conceive is dependent on a number of factors, including:
- Condition of your reproductive system
- Sex practices
Fertility decreases with age. Women who are in their 20s have about a 20% chance of conceiving during one cycle. By the time a woman reaches 35, however, her odds may be around half that. At 40 and over, less than one in ten women get pregnant.
Understanding the Menstrual Cycle’s Role in Fertility
Menstruation is another reason why the question “How hard is it to get pregnant?” is not easy to answer.
There are four stages of your menstrual cycle. You are probably familiar with menstruation and ovulation, but you may not have heard of the others.
Knowing how your cycle works will help you understand how each phase plays an important role in your ability to get pregnant.
On average, women’s cycles run about 28 days from the start of one cycle to the beginning of the next. Yours may be shorter or longer, but as long as it’s consistent, then more than likely there is no issue.
The cycle starts with menstruation, which is the shedding of the uterine lining. During this period, you enter the follicular phase, which prepares the ovaries to ovulate.
When the follicles on the ovary start to grow, your uterine lining begins to thicken to accommodate a fertilized egg. Ovulation releases the egg into the fallopian tubes. If a sperm doesn’t fertilize it within 24 hours, the egg is no longer viable.
The luteal phase is the last step, promoting the production of progesterone to help support the pregnancy.
Timing Ovulation Correctly
Because the egg cell will die within 24 hours of its release, it’s important to time intercourse correctly. Sperm can take several hours to reach the egg, depending on how fast they move.
This means you have to know when you are ovulating. That way, you can make sure there are sperm cells waiting for the egg. It may take a few months of tracking to know what your cycle looks like, but it’s good information to have.
Some women chart their cervical mucus, which changes quality as they approach ovulation. Others like to record their basal body temperature and watch for a jump right before ovulation.
There are even ovulation apps you can use. You may also try an ovulation predictor kit that works like a pregnancy test, only it measures how close you are to ovulating.
Sperm can survive in the fallopian tubes for as long as seven days, although you may want to plan to have intercourse less than three days before you ovulate.
What Happens After Fertilization
If the sperm doesn’t reach the egg in time, nothing else you do in the cycle will make a difference. That said, a fertilized egg still has a few obstacles to clear before you enter conception.
The cell travels through the fallopian tubes (and hopefully it doesn’t implant there, or else, you may develop an ectopic pregnancy, which can be painful and dangerous). Once the fertilized egg reaches the uterus, it needs an ideal balance of hormones to encourage implantation. Some women notice a bit of spotting during implantation.
If your body recognizes the pregnancy, it will stop menstruation from happening.
Factors Affecting Women’s Fertility
The information above indicates what should happen during an average cycle and provides some answers to “How hard is it to get pregnant?”
Every reproductive system is unique, though. In some cases, reproductive issues may be easy to spot such as a late ovulation date or a luteal phase that’s too short. Other problems may be more challenging to correct.
Outside of their age, women sometimes have to deal with other underlying causes or risk factors that can lead to fertility problems, such as:
- Uterine Fibroids
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
These issues often hinder a woman’s ability to ovulate since they often result in irregular periods. She may also struggle with sustaining a pregnancy and is, therefore, more prone to miscarriage.
Men’s Fertility Concerns
It’s not only the women who have to deal with the question “How hard is it to get pregnant?” Men should think about it too. After all, pregnancy requires a healthy sperm. In fact, evidence suggests male-factor infertility may account for as much as half of all infertility cases.
Although people tend to focus on a man’s sperm count to establish fertility, sperm quality is also an important aspect.
In some cases, a man has plenty of sperm, but they do not move quickly enough to reach the egg. At other times, the sperm has an abnormal morphology, which means the cells do not follow normal development. These conditions may result from infection, too much heat, or exposure to toxic chemicals.
When to Consider Asking a Specialist
Sometimes getting pregnant can be a complicated experience. You may go for months of waiting with nothing noticeable happening.
If you are in your 20s or early 30s, generally healthy, and have no reason to believe you will have trouble getting pregnant, you can probably wait a year. Women in their late 30s may try for up to six months, then call. If you are over 40 and hoping to conceive, you may want to ask for help from the beginning.
It may be best to look for a health care provider or a doctor who specializes in reproductive medicine. They may be a fertility specialist or reproductive endocrinologist if the problem is possibly related to your hormones, such as thyroid hormone.
PCOS is one of the possible causes of infertility in women, but what is it really? Stuff Mom Never Told You – HowStuffWorks shares:
“How hard is it to get pregnant?” is not an easy question to answer since many factors can affect fertility. These can include the menstrual cycle, underlying health conditions, and even stress. Women who want to have a baby, though, should not despair. There are fertility treatments available, and one of them may be able to help you.
How long did it take you to get pregnant? Did you have a hard time conceiving? Let us know in the comments section below.