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How to Start Your Fertility Journey

Covering the basics on when couples should start their fertility journey and how to go about doing so.

July 24, 2020
Maura McLay

Picture this: You and your partner have been engaging in regular, unprotected sex for almost 12 months and so far, you’ve had no luck getting pregnant. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services -- about 90 out of 100 couples will be able to get pregnant within the first 12 months of trying. Additionally -- out of 100 couples, 12 to 13 will have trouble becoming pregnant. 

To break this down even further -- couples 35 and younger, who have been unsuccessful in achieving a pregnancy after 12 months should consider beginning their fertility journey. Couples 35 and older, who have been unsuccessful in achieving a pregnancy after 6 months should consider beginning their fertility journey. 

Starting your fertility journey can be scary -- especially because there is always the possibility you may find an answer that you weren’t prepared to hear. A comforting bit of information -- infertility is common. One-third of infertility cases are caused by problems with the woman, one-third are caused by problems with the man, and the last one-third is a mixture of combined problems with the woman and the man, or infertility causes that cannot be determined. 

Timeline of female fertility in relationship to age
Female fertility timeline. Image courtesy of Healthline.

A number of issues may be the cause of infertility and they can vary from simple life habits that may need to be changed to medical conditions that may require treatment. It can also be a combination of issues. Some factors that can decrease your ability to get pregnant: 

  • Being 30 or older 
  • Being significantly over or underweight 
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use 
  • Stress
  • Poor diet
  • Diabetes
  • History of STD’s, PID, endometriosis, health conditions that cause changes in hormone levels in a woman’s body 
  • Radiation or Chemotherapy treatments for cancer patients

In some of these cases, lifestyle changes can increase your chances of becoming pregnant. In other instances, medical conditions can be a cause of infertility: 

  • Problems ovulating 
  • History of irregular periods/cycles 
  • Blocked fallopian tubes 
  • History of pelvic surgery 

These are some possible causes for fertility problems, but your doctor may find other medical issues. 

To begin your journey it is important that you and your partner seek out a fertility clinic and specialist. Once you have selected your fertility doctor, you will go in for an evaluation and both partners will be examined. 

Woman at doctors visit speaking with nurse
Be prepared to provide your doctor with a complete medical history.

First, you will need to have a complete idea of your medical history and be willing to provide this information to your doctor. For the female -- your exam will look something like this: a physical exam, external and internal -- checking the pelvis, vagina, cervix, and uterus, the hormonal system, and ability of the ovaries to provide adequate egg cells. For the man -- sperm count, quality, and abilities will be measured. 

Once a diagnosis is made, your doctor will begin discussing appropriate treatment options. Recommendations will be made on a case by case basis -- meaning they will be the best options for your lifestyle and financial situation. Your doctor will also explain any risks associated with these options. 


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