Once you’ve made the choice to try, any delay can seem like you’re waiting for something that will never happen. Every trip to the store can bring reminders of all the other pregnancies going on around you. Every monthly cycle without success can bring disappointment or feelings of failure.
You may begin to feel like there is something wrong. After all, how is it possible for babies to be born every day, but not for you to get pregnant?!?!? You may become anxious, depressed, or even desperate.
Don’t worry if you are feeling these ways, you’re not alone. Allow us to pass along some info on realistic timing, the most common fertility issues, and some ways to increase your chances.
Knowledge is power, and while we certainly can’t guarantee that you’ll be pregnant next month, knowing more may help you on a path to your own baby.
If you’re in your first months of trying for a baby, it might be surprising to you that getting pregnant isn’t happening as quickly as you expected (which was probably right away, right?).
Most healthy couples will conceive within one year if they are actively trying to conceive.
If you’re under age 35 and have been trying to get pregnant for a year, you should talk to your doctor about seeing a specialist. If you’re over 35, you’ll want to see a specialist after 6 months of actively trying.
Potential causes of infertility include:
In order to become pregnant, sperm needs to come in contact with the egg during ovulation. Not every day of the month is fair game for this!
If you’ve just started trying or haven’t narrowed in on an exact ovulation window yet, you could just be trying to get pregnant at the wrong time during the month. Tracking menstrual cycles can help address this issue.
It’s important to remember that even if you’ve determined when you ovulate it’s not a guarantee that sex during that time will result in pregnancy. A healthy 30-year-old has about a 20 percent chance of pregnancy each month.
If you’re not ovulating it can be nearly impossible to become pregnant. In this case, you’ll want to speak with a fertility specialist about additional tests and procedures they can offer to help regulate and identify why ovulation isn’t occurring.
While it’s true those who do so can produce sperm their entire lives there is also a question of sperm quality. The number, shape, and motility (movement) of sperm can affect fertility. If there is a concern, your provider can do a semen analysis.
No matter their sex, all people can find it harder to produce children as they age.
Generally speaking, a person with a uterus in their early 20s and 30s has a 1 in 4 chance of getting pregnant each month. After age 30, the chance of becoming pregnant decreases though, and by the time they are 40, they have a 1 in 10 chance of getting pregnant each month.
By the time a person with a uterus is 45, their chances of becoming pregnant are very low.
The fertility of a person who produces sperm will also decrease with age, but that’s not as predictable as the decline of a person with a uterus.
Fallopian tube issues
If fallopian tubes are blocked, eggs won’t be able to get to a safe place for fertilization and implantation.
In order to become pregnant, the fertilized egg must implant in the uterus. A misshaped uterus or buildup of tissue in the uterus are two examples of things that can prevent this process from happening as expected.
Some types of birth control can impact or delay future fertility even if they are reversed or otherwise stopped.
Methods of birth control like condoms or the pill shouldn’t impact future fertility, but some, like the contraceptive shot, can delay fertility for months (In one study of 188 women who discontinued the contraceptive shot Depo-Provera, the median time to conception after stopping shots was 10 months).
Other methods like tubal ligation or a vasectomy can have a long term impact on your fertility that may never be fully reversible.
Other medical issues
There are many medical issues that can impact your fertility. Some common ones include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis. If you have a medical condition known to impact fertility, it’s important to speak with your doctor sooner rather than later.
You should also see a fertility specialist if you have a history of multiple miscarriages or are aware of a genetic or other medical condition that would impact your fertility.
In some cases, there may be unexplained infertility, a somewhat controversial diagnosis of exclusion. This means that even after testing there may not be an obvious cause to explain why you’re not getting pregnant.
Don’t lose hope. Working with your provider will allow you to explore your options and decide on a path that works for you.
If you’re frustrated with not being pregnant, but also not ready to see a fertility specialist just yet, there are some things you can do!
Pinpoint ovulation timing
You have your greatest chance getting pregnant if you have sex in the days before and during ovulation. If you want a baby, you’ll want to know when ovulation is occurring, so you can plan accordingly. To determine when you’re ovulating you can track your menstrual cycle:
- Take your basal body temperature, before getting out of bed — every morning, at the same time, using a special thermometer that can read to a tenth of a degree. Ovulation is typically detected by a slight temperature decrease and then a temperature increase for 3 days in a row.
- Look for changes in cervical mucus. Before ovulation, estrogen levels will rise, which can cause cervical mucus to increase and be thinner and more slippery. This is a sign that it’s a good sign to have sex if you want to conceive. When ovulation has occurred, cervical mucus will typically become cloudy, thick, and sticky.
- Use ovulation strips. These work a lot like pregnancy tests and can be purchased at your local drugstore. Tracking your ovulation by using basal body temperature and cervical mucus changes can help pinpoint when to begin using the test strips.
Request medical tests
If you’re not able to identify ovulation using the above methods, you can speak with your doctor about seeing a specialist. A fertility clinic can handle more involved testing, like blood hormone tests and ultrasounds of your ovaries to determine whether ovulation is occurring.
You may be tested over the course of your cycle to track hormones. They can also look for fallopian tube blockages or other uterine issues that may impact conception.
Use sperm-friendly lube
Think about what lubricants you are using. Certain lubricants can affect sperm negatively. You’ll want to avoid things like:
- K-Y jelly
- olive oil
If you need a lubricant, fertility friendly options you could try instead include:
- mineral oil
- canola oil
Focus on your overall health
Make lifestyle changes to get as healthy as possible and put yourself in the best position to be pregnant. If you don’t have regular periods, diet, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle can help your body to get in a better alignment. (Even if you have a regular period, these practices are linked to better birth outcomes, so it can’t hurt!)
You can actually meet with your OB-GYN before attempting to get pregnant to talk about any existing health problems and get screened for any genetic problems. Some suggestions for ways you can change your lifestyle include:
- working toward or maintaining a healthy weight
- avoiding caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, and drugs
- finding ways to manage or decrease stress
- taking prenatal vitamins
If no matter what you try, you just can’t seem to get a positive pregnancy test, the first step is identifying any potential roadblocks. Sometimes just a little tracking of your monthly cycles can result in pregnancy.
If the months keep passing and there are no signs of a baby, a fertility specialist can work with you to maximize your chances of getting pregnant and address any underlying issues.
While your road to a baby may not be a quick one, the journey that leads to a little one can be life changing. Don’t give up hope!