10 Facts Every Woman Needs to Know About Her Fertility
Surprising facts about fertility (and infertility) you might not know—but should.
Be informed about your fertility
Many of us spend a good chunk of our fertile years trying not to get pregnant, so that when we finally decide to try to conceive, there’s a good chance we haven’t thought much beyond ditching our birth control method of choice. If only it was that easy. As the conversation around pregnancy and fertility continues to become louder, it’s becoming more and more obvious that getting pregnant isn’t always as easy as “trying”. In fact, many women face roadblocks and complications that they hadn’t considered before deciding to become parents.
In order to dispel some of the myths of infertility, we’re sharing the facts, including statistics about age and fertility, what to expect when you think you might be having trouble conceiving and where to find resources that can help. Whether trying to conceive is imminent, or you haven’t quite given it a lot of thought yet, reproductive health is an important part of your overall health, and knowing the facts can help you make better-informed family planning decisions.
Problems with fertility are more common than you think
“One in six couples will suffer from infertility and one in four pregnancies will end in miscarriage,” says Dr. Kaajal Abrol of reproductive care clinic TRIO Fertility. Those statistics can be quite alarming, especially if you've just started thinking about having a family. The truth is, both infertility and miscarriage are very common, and knowing that ahead of time makes you better equipped to tackle any issues you might have. Here's more on what women don't know about miscarriage.
When should you be concerned?
“Infertility is defined as trying to conceive for at least one year without success or for six months for women 35 and older,” says Dr. Abrol. After a year, it’s a good idea to reach out to a fertility specialist to learn more about your own fertility and what support is available to you. The good news is doctors and clinics can help—so make sure to be in touch as soon as you suspect a problem.
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Age does matter
Unfortunately, age isn’t just a number when it comes to fertility. Women are most fertile in their twenties and after thirty-five fertility begins to decrease rapidly. “Both egg quality and egg quantity decline with advancing age,” says Dr. Abrol. Knowing this has led a large number of women to consider freezing their eggs in their twenties and early thirties, especially if they are unsure about having kids, or want to wait until they are older to consider having them. And be sure you're not keeping these secrets from your gynecologist.
There are only six days in your cycle when you can get pregnant
“The truth is you can only conceive for six days of your cycle,” says Dr. Maureen Cronin, CMO at Ava, a company that makes a fertility tracking device. “So, if you’re trying to conceive, 80 percent of the time is waiting until you can try again.” This is why it’s so important to track your fertility and cycle if you’re hoping to get pregnant. Making sure you’re having sex on the days you are most fertile is going to help increase your chances significantly. Some women have found success with acupuncture; here's what to know.
Issues with ovulation is one of the most common causes of infertility
“A woman who has an irregular menstrual cycle and is trying to conceive should seek medical advice right away,” says Dr. Abrol. “Fertility can be boosted by treating the specific cause and by using medications that help induce ovulation.” Some indications that you have an irregular menstrual cycle include pain with periods and irregular bleeding or spotting, all of which can indicate a problem that could lead to issues with ovulation. A positive pregnancy is just one of many reasons behind a missed period.
Infertility isn’t just about women
“Infertility is not just a female issue,” says Dr. Abrol. “A large number of infertility cases are due to male factor alone, or a combination of factors from both the female and male partners.” If you are unable to become pregnant, make sure to seek out help for both you and your partner. Dr. Cronin even recommends getting the male partner checked first: “Testing male fertility is generally cheaper and less invasive then testing female fertility,” she says.
Reproductive health is a critical element of overall health
“Even if you don’t want to get pregnant today, it’s still helpful to know when you’re fertile and to understand your menstrual cycle,” says Dr. Cronin. “Understanding how your hormones and your cycle affect your overall health is key.” Your health includes your reproductive health and so taking the time to understand it and speaking to the professionals who can help you learn more about your fertility is a holistic way to help understand your health overall. “A consultation with a fertility specialist will allow you to consider a basic work up and be educated on your options for building a family, now and in the future,” says Dr. Abrol. Even if you’re still on the fence about kids, or want to wait a few more years, understanding your reproductive health will help you make more informed decisions, overall and shouldn’t necessarily be just left to the future.
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There can be some financial setbacks
Although diagnosis can be simple and potentially covered by provincial or company health care plans, treatments like IVF can be very expensive. “The average cost for one IVF cycle in Canada is about $20, 000, and some people may not be successful on their first cycle,” says Conceivable Dreams board member Tara Wood. It’s important to keep in mind that treatment for infertility or opting for a service like IVF that will help you become pregnant can be prohibitively expensive. Although some companies, like Ontario-based non-profit Conceivable Dreams are hoping to change that fact, there’s a good chance you will pay for some services out of pocket.
You need to be your own health advocate
“Do you own research, ask questions, trust your gut,” says Wood. “If something doesn’t seem right, double check.” If you are concerned there is an issue, don’t hesitate to get the ball rolling on checking your fertility. “At the end of the day, you have nothing to lose by starting fertility testing if you think there’s a problem,” says Wood.
The process can (and likely will) be very emotional
“People put undue pressure or blame on themselves which can be very isolating, even if you are part of a couple,” says Wood. “Each month or cycle with “unsuccessful” results can be heartbreaking.” Remember that there are ways to work through infertility hardships and struggles. These include more support systems and resources than ever before to help you understand fertility and to give you a community of people going through something similar.
Check out these resources for more info
Conceivable Dreams advocates for public funding for infertility treatments and hopes to raise awareness about infertility issues in Canada. “We hope to see a national fertility strategy in our country where provinces share best practices and work together to ensure every Canadian has access to affordable fertility treatment, and infertility treatments and drugs are standard inclusion in employer benefits,” says Wood.
Faces of Fertility
Last year, Knix, the brand known for its made-for-women underwear and bras, launched a Faces of Fertility campaign that aimed to share stories of miscarriage, infertility, motherhood and pregnancy. The feedback was deafening—turns out women want to talk about these issues—and so Knix founder and CEO Joanna Griffiths and health journalist Katherine Flemming decided to start a podcast too. “We wanted to create a space where women and men could continue to share their vulnerabilities, their stories, and get thoughtful, researched and relevant information about their bodies so they feel empowered about their fertility,” says Griffiths and Flemming via a press release. Tune in starting April 22.
Tracking Apps and Ava Fertility Bracelet
Tracking your period and fertility has become commonplace thanks to apps like Clue and Glow, which make tracking easy. “Women aren’t taught to properly understand their menstrual cycles or how the process of conception actually works,” says Dr. Cronin. “Understanding your menstrual cycle, and more specifically when you’re fertile, is key to getting pregnant.” These apps can definitely help you become more in tune with your reproductive health, but if you’re serious about getting pregnant, you might consider a more exact method of identifying your fertility window each cycle. “I encourage any woman who is trying to get pregnant to use a method that identifies the beginning of the fertile window like tracking cervical mucus or using Ava,” says Dr. Cronin. By wearing the Ava fertility bracelet at night, and tracking your resting heart rate Ava can determine the very beginning of your fertile window (which the brand claims is more accurate than using LH tests which only detect the last two days of your fertile window).
“At the very least, a consultation with a fertility specialist will allow you to consider a basic work up in order to be aware of your ovarian reserve and other factors that may affect chances of conceiving,” says Dr. Abrol. Opting to head to a fertility clinic sooner rather than later if you’re planning to start a family is a good way to understand any issues you may come across and the potential outcomes.
Next, find out 15 things your gynecologist secretly wants to tell you.