Getting Pregnant & Your Fertility

A concern for many couples trying to get pregnant for the first time is the question of fertility. For many of us it is hard to know what to expect in terms of how long it should take to get pregnant, and whether or not you should be concerned about how long it takes to get pregnant. This article aims to answer some of these questions.

What is fertility?

‘Fertility’ is a fairly broad term which refers to a person’s ability to conceive. For men, fertility usually refers to how effective sperm are. Sperm are the male reproductive cell, they are responsible for fertilising the female reproductive cell called the egg to eventually form a foetus (unborn child). Male fertility refers to the quality of that sperm, its motility (ability to move), and number. All of these contribute to sperm’s ability to reach and fertilise an egg.

Female fertility is slightly different, and mostly refers to the presence and quality of eggs in the relevant part of the female reproductive system. Eggs aren’t always available for fertilisation by male sperm, their presence is dictated by the monthly female cycle. Eggs are present during the part of this cycle called ovulation, which is why that is the best time to engage in intercourse if you want to conceive. The regularity of the cycle is therefore important to fertility, and is affected by things like diet, weight, and drugs.

How long does it normally take to get pregnant?

There isn’t really a ‘normal’ length of time of unprotected intercourse after which you should get pregnant. Everyone’s body is different, and you will get pregnant in your own time provided that you follow the basic steps you need to take to ensure that you can conceive:

  1. Stop any contraception you or your partner are on safely.
  2. Regularly have unprotected sexual intercourse.
  3. Ensure that you are timing your intercourse during the ovulation period of the female menstrual cycle as this is when women are most fertile.

The NHS advises coupes to attempt to conceive for at least a year before consulting a GP with any concerns about their fertility. To qualify for assisted reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilisation couples generally need to have been attempting to conceive for two years.

What factors affect fertility?

Your fertility is part of your overall health, and is affected by any and all lifestyle choices you make, regardless of whether you are a man or a woman. Diet, exercise, weight, alcohol intake, drug use, and more all affect your chances of getting pregnant.

Age is actually one of the biggest factors affecting fertility for both men and women. Generally speaking, men and women over the age of 35 will tend to be less fertile, meaning that it may take longer to conceive. Or that they may need help conceiving through medical assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) like in vitro fertilisation.

There is plenty of information available from the NHS Choices website, and indeed many other sources, about the factors affecting fertility. If you are concerned about your fertility however, then consulting your GP is an important first step. If they think your concerns are valid, then they will be able to refer you on to a specialist fertility unit and suggest what you should be doing next.

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