Falling pregnant often seems like it should be easy, but the reality is that it can take time and effort for many couples. Here are 10 surprising facts about conception and early pregnancy that are useful to know when you’re trying for a baby.
1. Your fertility declines faster than you may realise
As you enter your 30s, your egg count and quality start to drop dramatically. By age 30, around 30% of a woman’s eggs will have genetic abnormalities. This rises to 40% by 35 and over 90% by 40. So try not to leave it too long if you want the best chance of conceiving easily.
You are born with around 2 million eggs, but by puberty this has already dropped to 300,000-400,000. Your egg count continues to decline as you age. Lifestyle factors like smoking and being overweight can also impact egg quality and development.
2. It takes most couples longer to conceive than expected
Even for a perfectly healthy couple at peak fertility, there’s still only a 20% chance of conception per cycle. Don’t panic if you don’t get pregnant immediately. After 6 months of trying, couples have a 60% chance of success and after a year it’s 90%. But do see your GP if you haven’t conceived after a year of unprotected sex.
3. It’s possible to get pregnant while on contraception
No contraceptive method is 100% effective. You can still potentially conceive on the pill, especially during the 7 day break, as your body may ovulate. An IUD can even occasionally get pushed out of position. So be aware contraception doesn’t make you completely immune to pregnancy.
4. Early pregnancy tests aren’t always accurate
Home pregnancy tests can give false negatives, meaning they suggest you’re not pregnant when you actually are. If your period is late and you have pregnancy symptoms, get a test from your GP to confirm, as these are more sensitive. Don’t rely on just one home test.
5. You have a multi-day fertile window
You don’t just have 24 hours to conceive after sex. Sperm can survive for up to 3 days while eggs are viable for 24 hours. So you have between 1 and 3 days after intercourse to conceive in each cycle. Timing sex 2-3 times around ovulation boosts your chances.
To maximise your fertile window, start having regular sex from day 10 of your cycle and continue every 2-3 days until around day 14-17. Don’t worry too much about techniques like tracking basal body temperature and cervical mucus unless you don’t conceive after 6 months of well timed sex.
6. Avoid lubricants when trying to conceive
Lubricants can hamper sperm’s ability to swim through the cervix, making conception less likely. When trying for a baby, it’s better to avoid lubricants and rely on natural secretions. Consult your doctor if you need advice about suitable conception-friendly products.
7. Early miscarriage is common
Around 30% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, usually in the first trimester. But because this often happens before anyone else knows about the pregnancy, there’s a perception miscarriages are rare. In reality, it’s common but rarely discussed. Don’t blame yourself if it happens.
8. Spotting in early pregnancy is usually normal
Light bleeding in the first weeks of pregnancy, known as implantation spotting, is very common and usually nothing to worry about. Even heavy bleeding doesn’t always mean miscarriage. But do contact your doctor or midwife for advice if you have any concerns about bleeding.
9. Being overweight or underweight can make conception harder
Having a BMI outside the normal range of 18.5-24.9 can affect ovulation and make getting pregnant more difficult. Losing excess weight if you’re overweight or gaining weight healthily if underweight can help regulate cycles.
10. Stress affects fertility more than you might expect
High stress levels can interfere with ovulation, sperm production and even implantation after conception. Practicing relaxation techniques when trying to conceive may help improve your chances.
When you’re trying to get pregnant, it helps to have realistic expectations and an understanding of the process. Whilst nature finds a way in the end for most couples, it often takes longer than you may hope and there can be ups and downs along the way. Stay positive, look after your health and seek medical advice if you have any concerns.
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