Whether you are trying to conceive at the moment or not, you may be wondering if you will be able to get pregnant, now or in future. There are many reasons people have questions or doubts about their fertility, from lifestyle to health conditions, but luckily there are a number of ways you can find out. If you have questions about your ability to conceive, here’s how to find the answers you need.
All About Ovulation
The first thing to consider when trying to conceive? Ovulation. It’s when an egg is released from your ovaries, and is when you are most fertile in the month. Potential other issues aside, understanding the ovulation stage of your cycle can help increase your chances of getting pregnant.
We have a whole blog on ovulation here if you want to learn more, but the main indicators of ovulation come with paying attention to the length of your menstrual cycle, body temperature, and consistency of your cervical mucus… fun! These can provide signs that you are ovulating, but the best way to know for sure is to use an at-home test - the kind where you wee on a stick and it tests your hormone levels, which increase during ovulation.
Regular ovulation doesn’t guarantee you are able to conceive, so if you have concerns about your fertility, it’s usually best to visit your GP to find out if there’s anything stopping you from getting pregnant.
How Soon Is Too Soon?
It can be tempting to jump to conclusions after a few months of trying, assuming that something must be wrong. It’s stressful, but remember that every couple is different so not conceiving now doesn’t mean you will never conceive. It is recommended that you see your GP if you haven't had any luck after a year of trying, so they can check for any issues affecting your fertility.
You may wish to do this sooner if you are aged 36+, as fertility starts to decline around this age. Again, this certainly doesn’t make pregnancy impossible. If you suspect any other reasons for not being able to conceive, such as having had cancer treatment, or a sexually transmitted infection (STI), you should visit your doctor.
Things Your GP Might Ask
Your GP will likely want to ask both you and your partner a series of (possibly embarrassing) questions about your sexual history and health. They may ask you about:
- Previous pregnancies or children of both partners, and any birth complications
- Previous miscarriages
- Length of time trying to conceive
- How often you have sex
- Characteristics of your period
- Previous contraception used and when you stopped
- Medical history of both partners
- Previous STIs
- Medications taken, including herbal medicines
- Lifestyle (smoking, drinking, stress, weight, etc.)
The good news is, according to the NHS more than 80% of couples will conceive within a year if the woman is under 40 and the couple has regular sex (every 2 to 3 days) without contraception. Of those who don't conceive in their first year of trying, about half do in their second year. If your GP recommends a physical exam to further test your fertility, here’s what you need to know.
For women, these tests can include weighing you to check your body mass index (BMI) and examining your pelvic area for signs of fibroids, endometriosis and anything affecting fertility. For men, it’s an examination of your testicles and penis to check for any abnormalities. You may be referred to a fertility specialist for further tests, which could include:
- Blood tests - for gonadotropins, which stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs
- An ultrasound scan - to check your ovaries, womb and fallopian tubes
- A transvaginal ultrasound scan or ‘hysterosalpingogram’ - an X-ray of your womb and fallopian tubes to check for blockages or abnormalities
- A Laparoscopy - keyhole surgery where a small camera on a thin tube is inserted into your lower abdomen to examine the area
What Are The Main Causes of Infertility In Women?
Infertility in women is primarily caused by issues with ovulation, which can often be as a result of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), thyroid problems, Endometriosis, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, and more. Some other issues include problems with the cervical mucus, which can stop the sperm being able to travel to the egg, or fibroids preventing a fertilised egg attaching to the womb.
Trying to get pregnant, especially when you suspect issues with your fertility, can be an emotional time. It's important to support each other as a couple as much as possible, as stress can often be a huge factor affecting fertility. Speak to your GP to get the advice you need, and stay positive throughout the process to give yourself the best chance. Do you have questions about your fertility? Chat to us over on Instagram @itsyoppie!