With often-hostile mucous, wayward, sluggish or just plain lost sperm and a conception window of just a day or two, it's amazing anyone ever gets pregnant.
Type the words "miracle pregnancies" into your Internet search engine and you'll find story after real-life story of babies conceived or born despite great odds. But dig a little deeper and you'll discover that every pregnancy is truly a miracle all of its own.
The human reproductive system wasn't designed, it seems, to enable women to get pregnant at the drop of a hat. There are all sorts of physical impediments, from unreceptive cervical mucous to the very short time a woman is actually fertile, that get in the way. Throw into the mix a whole lot of sperm who can't swim the distance, are deformed or even dead before ejaculation and ever conceiving a baby becomes an even more miraculous event.
One of the most frustrating parts of deciding to have a baby is waiting to get pregnant. Most women trying to conceive wonder, how long will it take for me to get pregnant? What are my chances? What if there's something wrong? How long should we try before we get help? Should I skip the trying and just get help now?
While there are steps you can take to improve your chances of getting pregnant (as outlined in the previous section), it's good to be aware of the average length of time it takes couples to conceive.
What's the average?
One of the biggest fertility myths is that a fertile, healthy couple aged under 35 should take just a couple of months to conceive.
The Internet is filled with a wide range of statistics and many studies have been undertaken in this area. So here are some figures:
- On average, 15-20 percent of all couples trying to get pregnant will not conceive in the first year of trying.
- If the timing is perfect, the mucous is receptive, the egg is ready and the sperm are healthy, there is a 20-25 percent chance of getting pregnant naturally in any given month.
- According to one study, 25 percent of couples get pregnant in the first month of trying, while 60 percent of couples trying to get pregnant do so within six months. This study also said that up to 90 percent of couples will conceive within 18 months of trying.
However, a variety of factors can affect your chances of getting pregnant, including your diet and lifestyle and how physically fit you are. Experts say that mental health factors such as depression and stress levels can also affect your odds of getting pregnant.
Fertility expert Dr Kelton Tremellen confirms that couples should try for a year before investigating their fertility.
"If the couple are in their late thirties or early forties, I would recommend seeing a GP after six to nine months in order to start conducting tests, such as ultrasounds, testing for sperm quality and ovulation, to check for any possible infertility issues," he says.
But Dr Tremellen is very upbeat about couples' chances of conceiving, saying that while 85 percent will get pregnant naturally within a year, for those who go on to seek help, many will end up with a baby in spite of what nature has thrown at them.
A fertility equation
If 100 couples try to get pregnant in January, about 20 will conceive, leaving 80 to try again in February. If another 20 percent (or 16 couples) conceive, then 66 will be trying again in March. Continuing the one-in-five success rate, by the end of April roughly half will have successfully conceived. At this rate, after seven months 78 couples would have conceived (leaving 22 not yet pregnant).
Average time to conception
- Early twenties: four to five months
- Late twenties: five to seven months
- Early thirties: seven to10 months
- Late thirties: 10 to12 months
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