Maybe you already have a baby and want to add to your family, but you’re finding that getting pregnant a second time is proving difficult.
How does pregnancy happen?
Before we get into the ways you can increase your chances of getting pregnant, let’s find out exactly what takes place on the road to conception.
The journey to pregnancy begins with ovulation. This is when your ovaries release an egg in anticipation of fertilization. Your uterus also prepares its inner lining, called the endometrium, for the fertilized egg to attach. All this happens over a monthly sequence — your menstrual cycle. When no sperm is available within 12–24 hours of the egg being released, it degrades and you get your period.
However, when you have sex around the time of ovulation, sperm makes its way up your vagina, through your cervix, and into the uterus.
Usually one sperm fertilizes one egg, resulting in one baby. When sperm fertilizes an egg, and the resulting embryo splits into two, you get monozygotic (single zygote) twins. Sometimes two eggs are fertilized, and dizygotic (two zygotes) twins are formed.
After fertilization, a thick coat, known as the zona pellucida, forms around the egg and denies entry to the other sperm cells. This fertilized egg will begin splitting into many cells and stays in the fallopian tube for around three or four days.
It will then begin to descend into the uterus, where it implants into the inner lining. You will sometimes experience some spotting when this happens. Your body will then flood your system with a number of hormones to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Why is it so hard to get pregnant? Common causes and how to handle them
Now that you understand the process, you might be asking yourself, “How hard is it to get pregnant?” Depending on the circumstances, sometimes it can be quite hard! There are a number of factors that can work against you if you’re trying to get pregnant. We’ve outlined some of them here, along with ways to solve them.
During your menstrual cycle, there is a window of a few days when you’re very fertile. If your cycle is regular, you can almost always tell when this window is open. Getting pregnant is much easier if you have sex during this period. If you’re having unprotected sex, you have around a 30 percent chance of getting pregnant within one month.
If your cycle is irregular, you might miss the window of time when there’s a viable egg in the fallopian tube.
To make sure that you’re having sex at the optimal time, try tracking your ovulation. There are ovulation predictor kits that will let you know when you’re ovulating. Your body temperature also rises a bit during ovulation. If you check your temperature every morning, and it rises for three consecutive days, you might be ovulating.
Is it hard to get pregnant when you’re stressed? It certainly is. When you’re stressed, you may disrupt the brain processes that are responsible for releasing the hormones that control ovulation. If it’s your partner who is stressed, the same part of their brain — the hypothalamus — controls the production of testosterone.
When you’re really stressed, your ovaries might release eggs irregularly, or they might not release an egg at all, a condition known as anovulation.
Even if you’re ovulating normally, stress can also dampen your sex drive. This can also make it hard to get pregnant.
If you or your partner are stressed, the most effective course of action is to identify the stressor and try to reduce it. This will make it easier for you to conceive.
Just like your ovaries, fat cells also produce the hormone estrogen. When you’re overweight, you could have an excess of natural estrogen, which may result in anovulation.
On the other hand, being underweight also affects your ability to get pregnant. This is because being underweight sometimes means your body produces little or no estrogen. Not having enough estrogen can also lead to anovulation.
Maintaining a healthy body weight by exercising regularly and eating a balanced, nutritious diet can help increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Unhealthy lifestyle choices
Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol can hurt your chances of conceiving. The chemicals and toxins in alcohol and cigarettes alter your hormone levels, potentially throwing your pregnancy plans off track. The same applies to caffeine (such as in coffee and certain soft drinks).
Before you start trying to conceive, try making a change in these lifestyle choices. Stay away from cigarettes, alcohol, and caffeine.
Many people these days are waiting longer to have children. However, the longer you wait, the more difficult it can be to get pregnant. So, how easy is it to get pregnant when you’re older?
It becomes more difficult for women to get pregnant as they get older because the number of viable eggs reduces with age. It starts to become harder to get pregnant beginning in your late 30s, and harder still when you reach menopause in your mid-to-late 40s.
If you want to conceive through intercourse, your best shot is to try when you’re younger.
Sometimes the reason you’re not getting pregnant lies with your partner.
If you’re having trouble getting pregnant, go for a checkup with your partner so that the doctor can get to the root of the problem.
When to ask for medical advice
If you are relatively young — in your 20s or 30s — and regularly have unprotected sex, you should be able to conceive within a year or so. If you have trouble getting pregnant, talk to your doctor to figure out what might be going on.
Your doctor can help you find any underlying causes of infertility, like blocked fallopian tubes or sexually transmitted diseases. The doctor can then give you options to help you conceive.
If you’re over the age of 40, you might need to see a doctor throughout the whole process. It’s harder to get pregnant at this age without some medical consultation.