Whether it’s because you’re on the cusp of your childbearing age, you’ve had a miscarriage, or you’ve been living with a chronic condition such as endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you probably want to know how long it will take to get a big fat positive.
Every woman’s body is remarkably different from person to person. Some of the tell-tale indicators of when to see a fertility specialist may be different for each person. You may have already tried getting pregnant on your own using different methods such as changing your diet, adding supplements like vitamin B6 or myo-inositol, taking a mucolytic, or trying acupuncture. If these methods have not been successful, it may be time to visit a fertility specialist.
In addition, if you or your partner fall into any of the following categories, you may want to see a fertility specialist sooner rather than later:
- You are a woman under 35 and have been having unprotected sex frequently for over a year without getting pregnant.
- You are over 40 and have been having sex frequently for at least half a year without getting pregnant.
- You have had two or more consecutive miscarriages.
- You are in need of microsurgery or treatment for endometriosis or blocked or scarred fallopian tubes.
- You have a history of irregular ovulation or irregular periods, genital infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, undescended testicles, or you are a DES mother (you’ve taken diethylstilbestrol while pregnant).
- You and your partner have completed fertility tests that have come back normal.
- You and your partner are considering in-vitro fertilization (IVF), gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT), or other reproductive methods to conceive.
- Your partner’s semen analysis indicates that his sperm count is low or has poor movement or structure.
It’s important to note that fertility specialists for women are usually reproductive endocrinologists who specialize in hormonal disorders affecting reproduction. Depending on the severity of the challenge, you may also need to see a reproductive surgeon to deal with anatomical challenges.
Fertility problems for men are usually addressed by a urologist or an andrologist.
Some women decide to start a family later in life. Getting pregnant after 40 becomes increasingly difficult as each year goes by. However, it’s not impossible and comes with pros and cons that should be given due consideration.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a woman between the ages of 40 and 44 has about a 30 percent chance of infertility. These odds increase significantly after the age of 45. In addition, the chance of miscarriage also increases after the age of 40, and fertility treatments are less effective after this age. Although the odds may be stacked against intrauterine insemination (IUI), IVF treatments have proven to be more successful at this age and even more so for egg donation IVF treatments.
There is ongoing research to suggest that women who have PCOS may have a higher chance of conceiving in their late 30s and early 40s. This is because the abnormally high hormone levels that usually come with PCOS and make it difficult to conceive decline to “normal” levels as the woman gets older. Research is still being carried out in this regard, so discuss your plans with your OB-GYN.
If you become pregnant after age 40, pregnancy is certainly no walk in the park. You are at higher risk of:
- gestational diabetes
- high blood pressure and preeclampsia
- cesarean section delivery
- premature labour
Don’t let this scare you, though, if you’re over 40 and want to get pregnant. Instead, use this information as a valuable tool to make a more-informed decision. Some advantages of getting pregnant after age 40 include:
- You are more likely to be financially stable than in your formative years.
- You are more likely to have become well established in your career.
- You have enjoyed your youth without hindrance and now have time to spend with your growing family.
Having a miscarriage can leave you feeling withdrawn, confused, angry, and a whole host of other emotions that you may not even understand. It’s best to give yourself time to grieve and refrain from sexual intercourse for at least two weeks after a miscarriage to minimize the chance of infection. After having a miscarriage, the chances of miscarrying again right after are quite low — about 1 percent. These risks increase the more subsequent miscarriages that follow, but miscarriages are usually a one-time occurrence for most women.
Research indicates that women who conceive within six months of miscarrying in their first pregnancy usually go on to have less-complicated pregnancies than those who wait longer to conceive. If you have had more than one miscarriage, speak to your OB-GYN so they can recommend further testing to detect any possible underlying issues.
Infertility is usually a condition that can be treated, but it may not necessarily be curable, despite any claims to this effect. Around 80 percent of couples suffer from irregular ovulation, blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, or problems with semen. Less than 15 percent of couples have fertility tests that return normal, where the cause for infertility remains unknown.
Infertility challenges for women are usually treated with IUI, IVF, GIFT, surgery, or fertilization drugs and hormones. Infertility for men is normally treated with antibiotics, hormone treatment, surgery, or medication and counselling.
Infertility comes with a lot of questions that sometimes cannot be answered. Nonetheless, ensure that you speak with your partner, your OB-GYN, and, if necessary, your fertility specialist to determine a plan of action to reach your desired goal of conceiving.