When you and your partner decided it was time to start a family, chances are you believed — or hoped — you’d become pregnant shortly after you stopped using birth control. While many couples think they’ll be able to conceive relatively quickly, reality can be quite different.
For about 60% of couples, it takes at least six months of active trying before pregnancy occurs; it takes anywhere from six months to a year to conceive for just over 15% of couples. For all other couples, conception takes longer than a year.
Up to 15% of couples experience fertility problems, with all the accompanying emotions and frustrations, at some point in their journey to build a family. Infertility is formally defined as the inability to become pregnant after 12 months of having regular, unprotected intercourse (or just six months of trying if you’re past the age of 35).
So if you’re younger than 35 and haven’t been able to conceive after a year of trying, or if you’re older than 35 and haven’t become pregnant after six months, it’s time to get help. Here are the first steps you should take.
Step 1: Visit your OB/GYN
The first thing you should do when faced with possible infertility is make an appointment to see your gynecologist. Although each physician has their own method of evaluating infertility, Dr. Weyhrich likes to begin by gathering as much information as possible.
This includes taking a complete health and reproductive history for both you and your partner, as well as performing a comprehensive gynecological exam. It may also include having a blood test, diagnostic ultrasound, or semen analysis.
To ensure you don’t forget to mention anything important, it’s best to write down the following ahead of your appointment:
- The dates of your last six periods, even if your cycle is very regular
- A list of any symptoms or known risk factors you or your partner may have
- A record of all medications either you or your partner take regularly
When discussing your symptoms, don’t be tight-lipped about any problems you may find embarrassing, such as heavy periods, pain during intercourse, or excess facial hair (a common indication of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Getting a complete picture of your symptoms can go a long way in helping Dr. Weyhrich pinpoint a potential underlying medical problem more quickly.
Step 2: Get your timing right
If your initial evaluation doesn’t reveal any likely cause for your fertility problem, simply monitoring your own cycle more closely and taking specific actions to maximize your chances of getting pregnant may be the best next step for you.
Dr. Weyhrich may recommend that you monitor your cycle with temperature charts or over-the-counter ovulation predictor kits to find out when — or if — ovulation is taking place. These easy monitoring activities also serve to verify the exact days of the month when you should be having intercourse to increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
By calculating when you’re ovulating based on your menstrual cycle, basal body temperature, and changes in cervical mucus (vaginal discharge), you can determine when your body is most fertile.
If you have a regular cycle, it’s usually possible to figure out when you’re ovulating simply by subtracting 14 days from your average cycle length. If you’re on a 28-day cycle, for example, you’ll probably ovulate on day 14 of your cycle; if you’re on a 26-day cycle, you can probably expect to ovulate on day 12.
To maximize your chances of becoming pregnant based on your body’s unique ovulation cycle, you should plan to have intercourse three or four days prior to your ovulation day, as well as on ovulation day itself.
Step 3: Change certain habits
Whether the cause of your infertility remains unknown or you eventually find out that low sperm count or an ovulation disorder is to blame, chances are there’s still at least one lifestyle change you can make to help support optimal fertility.
Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight is of primary importance, as infertility is often linked to being overweight or significantly underweight, either of which can affect your estrogen levels and disrupt normal ovulation.
If either you or your partner smokes, quitting cigarettes is one of the best things you can do to boost your fertility. Why? Because smoking can cause your ovaries to age prematurely, reduce the number of healthy eggs you have left, and damage your cervix and fallopian tubes. If your partner smokes, the habit may affect both the quality and quantity of his sperm.
You can also support optimal fertility by:
- Eating a nutritious, balanced diet that fuels your body
- Aiming for moderate, rather than intense, exercise
- Limiting caffeine, which may affect the hormones that control ovulation
- Avoiding alcohol, which can interfere with normal ovulation
- Avoiding lubricants, which may contain sperm-killing chemicals
Dr. Weyhrich can give you detailed recommendations on changes you can make to increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
Step 4: Create an action plan
Even when the precise cause of infertility can’t be pinpointed, it can often be treated successfully through better timing and lifestyle changes. Other helpful treatment options include fertility medication, artificial insemination, gynecological surgery, or advanced fertility treatments.
Your personal “fertility action plan” depends on your unique situation, and you can be confident that Dr. Weyhrich is here to guide you every step of the way. Call our office in Boise, Idaho, today or schedule an appointment online any time.