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Focus on Fertility: The What, When and How of Getting Pregnant

Focus on Fertility: The What, When and How of Getting Pregnant

After thinking long and hard, you have finally decided that time is right to start—or expand—your family. So snap your fingers and you’re pregnant, right? Well, not exactly!

For some women, it really does seem to be that easy. But for others, it can be a long journey of ups and downs, trials and tribulations and utter frustration. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five women, aged 15 to 49, who have had no prior births, are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying.

So what is the deal? It all boils down to fertility. Read on to learn more about the what, when and how of getting pregnant.

What is fertility?

Fertility is a woman’s natural ability to conceive. Fertility is dependent upon a number of factors, including:

  • Healthy egg production by you
  • Healthy sperm production by your partner
  • Open and accessible fallopian tubes that allow the sperm to reach the egg
  • The sperms ability to fertilize the egg
  • The ability of a fertilized egg to implant in your uterus
  • The quality and health of the embryo
  • Your hormones, which must promote healthy development of the embryo

If any of these factors is out of balance, infertility—a condition in which the reproductive system prevents conception—may result.

It is important to note that infertility can impact both women and men. Additionally, it can take upwards of a year of consistently trying to finally conceive. If after a year of trying (or after six months if over the age of 35), and you are still not conceiving naturally, it is recommended that you and your partner consider consulting a physician or going through fertility testing.

For women, fertility testing may include a physical exam, urine test to determine when, and if, you will ovulate along with blood tests to measure progesterone levels, thyroid function, prolactin levels and egg supply.

For men, testing—often done by a urologist—may include a semen analysis to assess the amount, shape and movement of sperm, in addition to blood tests to measure male reproductive hormones, such as testosterone.

When am I most fertile?

You are most fertile within 12 to 24 hours of an egg being released from the ovary, and ovulations occurs two weeks prior to the start of your period.

Keep in mind that an egg only lives about 24 hours once released from the ovary; however, sperm can live in fallopian tubes for up to five days. So your “fertile window” encompasses six to seven days in total—between two to five days before you ovulate and the day you ovulate.

How can I boost my fertility?

Fertility can be impacted by a number of factors, including:

  • Age: fertility declines with age, as the quality and quantity of eggs declines over time and as other potential health conditions can cause problems with fertility.
  • Weight: being underweight, overweight or obese may impact your fertility as well as extreme weight loss or gain.
  • Stress: whether physical or emotional, especially if excessive enough to cause absent periods (amenorrhea)
  • Lifestyle: healthy lifestyle choices (e.g., diet and exercise) can contribute to fertility, while unhealthy lifestyle choices (e.g., smoking and excessive use of alcohol) can negatively impact fertility.

Here are seven ways you can boost your fertility (and that of your partner, too):

  • Maintain a healthy weight: exercise and eat a healthy diet. Try to avoid foods that contain trans fats (margarine, fried foods, processed foods, etc.), while balancing your plate with lean proteins and foods that are rich in antioxidants (dark chocolate, blueberries, kale, spinach, etc.). Try to limit caffeine, as well.
  • Avoid tobacco and limit alcohol: tobacco use can decrease fertility, as can excessive consumption of alcohol (in both women and men) and drug use, including recreational marijuana.
  • Take a multivitamin: being deficient in some vitamins may impact ovulation, so taking a multivitamin at least three times per week may help create some balance.
  • Relax: Learn how to reduce and manage any physical and emotional stress in your life.
  • Limit environmental toxins: Exposure to some ingredients in household cleaners—even antibacterial products and laundry detergents—can impact fertility. Try to avoid products that contain pesticides, triclosan, phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA).
  • Monitor ovulation: There are a number of ways to track your ovulation cycle, including: tracking your menstrual cycle, taking your basal body temperature, monitoring your breasts for sensitivity and paying attention to changes in your cervical mucus. You also can purchase over-the-counter ovulation tracking kits.
  • Seek medical advice: If you continue to struggle with getting pregnant, seek the advice of a medical professional who may be able to provide additional recommendations, including prescription medications that may contribute to fertility.

What resources are available to me?

There are a number of resources and blogs online to help you navigate the world of ovulation and fertility as well as mobile apps that can help track fertility to improve your chances of getting pregnant. Additionally, there are ovulation tracking kits and wearables you can purchase that help track your cycle and predict ovulation.

Modifying your lifestyle and using trackers may help boost your awareness around your fertility, but there is no foolproof method—getting pregnant takes the right mix of timing, conditions and patience. And, remember, if at first you don’t succeed, keep trying!

If you are ready to start your pregnancy journey or are having trouble conceiving, our SGMG OB/GYNs are available to help—from preconception to conception to delivery and beyond. To find a physician, click here.