When you’re trying to get pregnant, it can be hard to know what’s going on at first. You spend so much time as a teenager being warned that you can get pregnant easily, at any time, and then sometimes you start trying as a grown-up and realize that isn’t always the case!
While there’s a lot we seem to take for granted about fertility, it’s worth knowing a few key facts that will help increase your ability to conceive (and help you understand your own body better, too)! We’re here to share some of those with you today and help you get started on your TTC (trying to conceive) journey.
Here are 5 things you should know about fertility:
1. You can only get pregnant a few days each month.
Assuming your menstrual cycle lasts approximately a month (the average is 27-31 days), you can only get pregnant for about six days, during a time called the fertile window. The fertile window is the time leading up to and including ovulation, or the time that your ovaries release an egg.
Ovulation only occurs once per cycle. You are fertile during the time of ovulation, which is 12-24 hours, as well as approximately five days before that, since sperm can live 3-5 days.
Other than the fertile window, though, you can’t actually conceive, since there’s no egg available to fertilize! That’s why it’s important to know when you’re actually fertile to time intercourse. In fact, mistiming intercourse is considered a primary cause of infertility.
2. Ovulation is not a yes or no event.
Now you know that ovulation only happens once a cycle, but did you know that it also isn’t just a yes-or-no, happened-or-didn’t sort of event?
Anovulation, or the absence of ovulation, is of course an additional challenge if you’re trying to get pregnant. This can happen sporadically, or it can be due to PCOS, poor diet and nutrition, stress, or other conditions. You also may not ovulate for a few months if you’ve just come off birth control.
It is also possible, though, to be ovulating but not successfully. Successful ovulation has two parts–the first is the release of the egg itself, but the second is the formation of the corpus luteum, which makes progesterone.
Once an egg is fertilized, it still needs to implant in the wall of the uterus. This happens during the implantation window, and it requires that progesterone levels be high enough to support implantation. So you can ovulate, but without high enough progesterone, ovulation won’t be successful or able to sustain a pregnancy.
3. There is more to getting pregnant than knowing when to "try."
Timing intercourse correctly is really important, but there are many other factors that go into conceiving. Some of these include:
Cervical mucus quality
For sperm to fertilize an egg, they have a long journey through the uterus and into the fallopian tube! Cervical mucus, a hydrogel that your cervix secretes, actually proves channels to guide sperm through the cervix.
Unfortunately, low quality cervical mucus can be a cause of infertility. This can be due to low estrogen or a number of other factors, including age and hydration.
As we discussed above, ovulation isn’t just a yes-or-no event, and even though you may know when ovulation is supposed to happen, usually based on luteinizing hormone tests, it’s important to confirm that it actually did happen.
It is possible to get a positive ovulation test and not ovulate, and it’s also possible to ovulate with a negative ovulation test! While these things are rare, if you’re trying to conceive you’ll want to know that you’re actually ovulating.
You can confirm ovulation by testing PdG, a urinary metabolite of progesterone, with Proov Confirm. Progesterone only rises after ovulation, so that will help you make sure you’ve been trying at the right time after the fact.
For the best possible egg quality, likelihood of ovulation, and implantation, you’ll likely want your hormone health to be optimal! There are a number of factors that go into this, but this includes nutrition, good sleep, your supplement or prenatal routine, and even the health of your vaginal microbiome!
There are a few ways to approach improving hormone health. A good place to start, though, is to figure out what your hormones are actually doing. Proov Complete tests four key hormones and gives you a full report to help you understand your options!
4. His fertility matters, too!
While you might be spending a lot of time thinking about how to optimize your own hormone health, don’t forget about the other half of the equation! Both good sperm count and sperm quality are crucial to ensure at least one sperm makes it to the egg and increase your chances of pregnancy.
In fact, male factor infertility alone can account for up to 30% of infertility cases and a combination of both male and female issues can account for up to 60%. This can be due to environmental factors, genetic causes, or disorders or infections that cause low sperm count.
To understand both your fertility and your partner’s, Proov has partnered with YO Sperm to bring you the His and Hers Fertility Starter Kit! You can predict and confirm ovulation, as well as test the two major factors of sperm health.
5. Your age can impact your fertility.
Finally, while people in the US are, on average, waiting longer to have children, this does come with some complications. The older you get, especially if you’re older than 35, it can be more difficult to get pregnant, and pregnancy may come with additional risks.
While perimenopause doesn’t typically start until your late 30s or early 40s at least, your ovarian reserve, or the number of possible eggs remaining, decreases significantly as you age. If you’re on the older side, or even if you’re younger but you’re having difficulty conceiving or want to understand your fertility better, it’s worth testing your ovarian reserve.You can do this easily with Proov Reserve, which tests your FSH levels to help you understand how many eggs you may have left or if you’re at risk of diminished ovarian reserve.