You’ve decided that you’re ready to welcome a baby into your little family, so not only have you ditched your contraceptives and been doing the deed… Now what?
No one can say exactly how long you’ll take to conceive. According to SmartParents expert and Gleneagles Hospital obstetrician-gynecologist Dr Christopher Chong, a fertile couple in their mid-20s who has sex regularly has a one in four chance of conceiving each month.
In general, about 80 per cent will get pregnant within six months, and 85 per cent will conceive within a year.
Dr Chong notes that couples are usually advised to see a gynae to check on their fertility if they’ve been trying to conceive for a year without any success. “But I often tell my patients, come back in 6 months. It depends on their age, too. The older one is, the less time one has.”
It’s never too early to see a gynae, he adds, even if you were to only receive counselling.
“It depends on their age, too. The older one is, the less time one has.”
The age factor
If you are older, your biological clock will be ticking. All women are born with a certain “basket of eggs, and the number of eggs decreases with every menstrual cycle. “Her egg quality also declines from the age of 25, and drops sharply after she hits 40,” Dr Chong adds. By the age of 45, practically no woman will be able to get pregnant naturally. On the other hand, a man’s fertility doesn’t seem to decline till he’s around 50 years old.
However, the older the couple is, the more likely they will be dealing with medical problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes. And these can lead to fertility issues. An older mother also faces additional pregnancy risks. For example, the risk of Down syndrome increases with age ― at age 35 the risk is one in 330, at age 40 one in 100, and women who are aged 45 have a one in 40 chance of giving birth to a Down syndrome baby.
Dr Chong adds, “Plus, the risks of foetal abnormalities increase with age and the embryo may not be formed at all because of the abnormal egg.”
He also points out that this does not mean that getting pregnant at, say age 15, is good. A very young expectant mum struggles with issues like her education, the stress of building a career, the financial burden and being too emotionally immature, there’s also an “increased risk of miscarriage, and intrauterine growth restriction (which can lead to smaller and malnutritioned babies).
Is age the only factor to consider? Plus, tips on how to get pregnant faster…up next!
The health factor
If you are taking longer than expected to conceive, you may want to look into your health. Here are several common medical conditions that could affect how long you take to get pregnant, Dr Chong says:
* Being overweight Prior to trying to conceive, you may need to change your lifestyle in terms of diet, exercise, or even go on medication. Surgery may be needed in some rare cases.
* Irregular periods This may be caused by conditions like PCOS, or environmental factors like stress.
* Endometriosis Once your diagnosis is confirmed, you can start treatment that ranges from taking medication to surgery.
* High blood pressure and diabetes You may need to make adjustments to your diet, lifestyle, or go on medication.
* Past abortions or miscarriages Find out what caused the miscarriage. “Once you are pregnant again, see your gynae as soon as possible. Your gynae may give you hormonal support, or aspirin.
* Others Thyroid problems and high prolactin levels can affect ovulation. If you have a vaginal infection, it can affect the survival of your husband’s sperm before fertilisation can take place. If you have an autoimmune disease, your body may be producing antibodies that may reject the baby.
Get pregnant faster with these tips
If you are eager to get pregnant fast, or if you are planning for a baby within a specific year or time frame, here are ways to boost your chances of conceiving quickly.
* Schedule sex Studies show that if you schedule sex to coincide with ovulation, you’ll get pregnant faster. You can use an ovulation kit to determine the best time of month. “Once you are ovulating, have intercourse on ovulation day, the next day and the day after,” says Dr Chong.
* Reduce stress “Stress decreases ovulation, as well as sperm and egg quality,” Dr Chong explains. So, make time to relax as a couple, and don’t make sex a chore ― keep it fun.
If you schedule sex to coincide with ovulation, you’ll get pregnant faster.
* Correct medical problems If you have any of the above mentioned medical issues, it’s important to get medical advice from a gynae or doctor.
* Lifestyle changes A normal BMI is important for ovulation, notes Dr Chong. “Severe obesity and malnutrition can cause non-ovulation and render the eggs immature.” So, watch your diet, and cut down smoking and drinking. Alcohol and cigarettes may reduce a woman’s fertility, cause the sperm count to fall, give rise to more abnormal sperm and result in a lower proportion of motile sperm in men.
* Take supplements Women should take folic acid about three months before trying to conceive. Recent studies have shown that men, too, can take folic acid to boost fertility. Vitamin E also helps by reducing age-related ovarian decline in women. It has also been known to combat free radicals, which can lower sperm count in men.
* Start early Dr Chong advises couples to start trying early. “I have patients who delay starting a family for many years, only to find they have problems conceiving later. Even if you go for fertility treatment, the success rates fall with age.”
SmartParents expert Dr Christopher Chong is an obstetrician-gynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital.
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