6 Facts About Fertility You Probably Didn’t Know

Whether you're trying for a baby right now or not, here are some things every woman needs to know.
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Whether you're trying for a baby right now or not, here are some things every woman needs to know.

fertility, menstrual cycle

Art Credit: Island Moon Photography

Most of us know by now that it’s more difficult to get pregnant as we get older—especially into our late 30s—but infertility is not an exclusively age-related issue. In fact, approximately 1 out of every 7 couples trying to conceive today experience difficulty. Whether you are hoping to conceive now or might consider it down the road, understanding your fertility can be a huge step towards adding a little bundle of joy to your family. Here are 6 facts about fertility that may come in handy.

1. The optimal female BMI for conception is 20 to 24.

You may want to rethink your weight loss resolutions if you’re of average build and are trying to conceive. Your ideal body mass index, or BMI, while trying to conceive is between 20 and 24. That is, a woman who is 5’4” would reach an optimal BMI weighing around 116 to 140 lbs and a woman who is 5’8” would ideally weigh between 131 and 158 lbs. A woman whose BMI drops into the teens may start to have irregular cycles, or stop seeing them altogether. As always, it’s important to live a healthy lifestyle with exercise and a well balanced diet, but healthy fats are crucial when it comes to fertility.

2. It can take 6-12 menstrual cycles to conceive.

It can take couples of normal fertility who are correctly targeting the fertile times up to six cycles to conceive, or up to twelve cycles for couples not closely monitoring times of fertility. Don’t get anxious if you started trying 2 months ago and it hasn’t happened yet! A great resource in understanding your times of peak fertility is Taking Charge of Your Fertility, by Toni Weschler.

3. Your libido is at its highest around ovulation.

In both men and women, libido is directly linked to testosterone levels. A woman's testosterone level—and with that her sex drive—is at it’s highest right before ovulation and at its lowest the following week. An increased libido around ovulation is helpful when trying to conceive! Fun fact: an average woman’s testosterone levels—at their peak—are only 10% of the average male’s.

4. In cases of couple infertility, 30% are due to male infertility.

Since the female reproductive system is considerably more complex than the male’s, it is often assumed that the cause of infertility is related to the woman’s health. But approximately 30% of the time, the cause is found to be due male infertility. Here are a few ways to improve male fertility naturally:

  • Avoid excessive alcohol intake and cigarette smoking.

  • Eat a well balanced diet.

  • Avoid processed foods.

  • Exercise regularly—this improves overall health and reduces stress.

  • Take nutritional supplements—there are several formulated specifically for male fertility.

  • Avoid excessive heat (hot tubs, restrictive clothing), as high temperatures are shown to reduce sperm count.

5. It can take your menstrual cycle 3-6 months to regulate after quitting the pill.

If you’re currently taking oral contraceptives and hope to conceive sometime in the near future, keep in mind that it can take 3-6 months for your cycle to regulate after stopping the pill. The pill works by suppressing your natural hormones—which are responsible for ovulation—and it can take a few months for your hormones to balance out, even after all of the medication is out of your system.

Some women will ovulate soon after quitting the pill, but if your period hasn’t returned within 3 or 4 months, give your gynecologist a call. They can help get your cycles back on track. If you are currently using contraceptives and hope to conceive in the near future, or would like a natural alternative for avoiding pregnancy, Taking Charge of Your Fertility is also a great resource in understanding your body’s natural signs of fertility and infertility.

6. The ideal time to have sex to conceive is in the 3-4 days leading up to ovulation.

Once ovulation occurs the egg will only live for 12-24 hours if not fertilized, so the window of fertility after ovulation is very small. But during the days leading up to ovulation, sperm can actually survive after intercourse for up to four or five days and would then be present once ovulation occurs.

(Photo via Island Moon Photography )