Getting pregnant seems fairly easy to accomplish. But couples who have been trying unsuccessfully can tell you it’s more than just having regular sex. Essentially, there are three physical requirements to getting pregnant:
- the female must ovulate;
- the male must ejaculate sperm; and
- They must have regular, unprotected sexual intercourse.
In reality, getting all these factors in place at the right time is a delicate dance. Any disruption to this dance, no matter how slight, can throw off your chances of getting pregnant.
For many couples, resolving infertility requires simply limiting stress (including pressure to become pregnant in the first place), eliminating tobacco, alcohol, recreational drugs and unnecessary medications, tackling medical conditions including hypertension, diabetes, poor diet and weight issues (being underweight is as problematic as being overweight) and monitoring your ovulation cycle to engage in intercourse during your most fertile periods.
Address these factors first, ideally for a year before you try to get pregnant, to maximize your chances of getting pregnant naturally and carrying a healthy baby to term.
If you’ve done all this and your partner’s sperm is viable, it may be time to consider what other factors may be preventing you from getting pregnant.
- Ovulation—the normal menstrual cycle is, on average, 28 days. If your cycle frequently runs to 35 or more days, or 21 or fewer days, you may have increased difficulties getting pregnant. Ovulation disorders are caused by irregular reproductive hormone production and are divided into four basic categories:
- PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) where too many male hormones are produced which impacts ovulation. This can also be linked to obesity and blood sugar/insulin resistance disorders.
- LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) secretion abnormalities, brought on by physical or mental/emotional stress, substantial over/underweight conditions, where the pituitary gland’s excretion of these ovulation stimulating hormones is disrupted. Other pituitary complications may also be factors. Irregular or skipped periods are often an indicator.
- Premature ovarian failure, an autoimmune dysfunction where your body’s immune system malfunctions and attacks your ovarian tissue, compromising both eggs and estrogen production.
- Luteal phase defect, when your ovary fails to produce sufficient progesterone after you ovulate, which impairs the development of the uterine lining necessary to host the fertilized egg.
- Fallopian Tube Blockage or Damage—when an obstruction occurs in the fallopian tube, sperm is prevented from entering and/or the egg is prevented from exiting. These can be caused by prior pelvic or abdominal surgeries, prior ectopic pregnancy (where the fertilized egg develops in the tube rather than the uterus), or tubal inflammation caused by gonorrhea or chlamydia.
- Cervical Stenosis—when the cervix narrows or becomes completely blocked, either preventing the sperm from reaching the egg or affecting production of the mucus required to move the sperm more efficiently toward the unfertilized egg.
- Uterine Complications—benign fibroids or myomas (tumors) or polyps can block the fallopian tubes; uterine scarring impairs the fertilized egg’s ability to implant itself in the uterus; genetic abnormalities such as an oddly shaped uterus can make it more difficult to become pregnant.
- Endometriosis—uterine tissue travels and grows in other sites; both the tissue and the surgery to remove it can cause scarring which reduces fertility.
- Age—both the quality and quantity of eggs begins to decline when a woman approaches her mid-30s. Women in their late 30s run a greater risk of miscarrying or carrying babies with abnormal chromosomal defects.
Most infertility is reversible without expensive medical intervention. The first step is to give your body the loving care it deserves.