Women often expect that they should be able to get pregnant whenever they start trying. But there are some factors that greatly influence whether your attempts to conceive will be successful. Before you start pursuing fertility treatment, it’s important to understand how to optimize your fertility.
In general, you need to be in good overall physical health to conceive a baby. Your age, menstrual periods, genetics, and hormones also play significant roles as well. Our OB/GYN, Dr. Alan Patterson, explains more about these factors involved in female fertility.
Technically, you can get pregnant from the time of your first period until menopause, which officially begins a year after your last period. But while it’s possible to get pregnant during these years, your chances aren’t always equal.
Your odds of getting pregnant are better when you’re younger, but many women aren’t ready to get pregnant in their 20s. However, if you’re waiting to conceive children until you’re in your 30s, it may be more difficult. In general, by the time you’re 40 years old, you can expect your fertility to drastically decline.
The key to conception is ovulation -- your ovaries releasing an egg. It usually takes place around midway through a typical 28-day menstrual cycle. The egg begins to develop in the follicles between days 10-14 of your cycle and is released around day 14.
You need to time sexual activity to line up with ovulation for conception to occur. But you’re able to get pregnant on more than just one day a month. A general window of time is 7 days, 3 days before ovulation, the day of ovulation, and 3 days after ovulation. Since sperm can live up to 72 hours and the egg can live up to 48 hours, you can get pregnant before or after you ovulate.
However, all that changes if you don’t have regular menstrual cycles, which is one of the most common fertility problems. Approximately 40% of fertility problems are due to not ovulating. Problems during other phases of the menstrual cycle can occur, too.
If your cycles are irregular, talk to Dr. Patterson about what you can do, because oftentimes ovulation and cycle issues can be treatable.
Your genetics also play a significant role in your fertility. For example, if your mother went through menopause earlier than average (such as by age 40), you may be likely to follow the same pattern.
Ask your female relatives about their age of menopause. If your family history suggests you may go through early menopause, you may want to consider freezing your eggs while you’re younger.
Your hormones have to be in the correct, delicate balance to conceive and sustain a pregnancy. Some of the hormones involved in getting pregnant and carrying to term include:
In addition, certain conditions, like polycystic ovary syndrome -- which is reported to affect 6-12% of American women of childbearing age -- cause an imbalance of hormones. This condition may cause high levels of male hormones called androgens, which can interfere with the ability to get pregnant.
You can certainly get pregnant if you have health problems, but it may be more difficult. Certain conditions can create difficulty with conception and carrying a pregnancy to term:
If you’re having difficulty getting pregnant or want to take steps to improve your fertility, Dr. Alan Patterson would be happy to schedule a consultation with you. Contact our office in Coral Springs, Florida, or request an appointment online.
Patients may not be accompanied by other people at their appointments.