Women’s fertility is influenced by many factors, including age. Some measures can help nature to make your dream of becoming pregnant a reality.
Do you want to have a child? Women’s optimal fertility period is between the ages of 18 and 30, and the chances of becoming pregnant are about 20% each month (on average).
Fertility in women decreases from the age of 30 and even more so after 35, when the number of eggs declines. Additionally, the risk of miscarriage increases with age. Women over the age of 40 have a 40% risk of experiencing a fertility problem. If they do become pregnant, the risk of miscarriage is of roughly 40%. In any event, a good understanding of the menstrual cycle and thorough knowledge of your body can help you determine the best time to conceive.
The menstrual cycle
The menstrual cycle consists of three phases:
- follicular phase (before ovulation)
- luteal phase (after ovulation)
Day 1 of the cycle corresponds to the first day of menstruation.
The period of maturation of the ovum, called the follicular phase, varies. The luteal phase normally lasts 14 days. If the menstrual cycle is regular, ovulation will occur in the middle of the cycle, that is, 14 days after the start of the last period. However, if the cycle is irregular, it is more difficult to predict ovulation. The period of high fertility begins about five days before ovulation and fertility is at its peak on the day of ovulation and the day preceding it.
The fertile window
A menstrual calendar is useful to determine the best days to become pregnant, assuming that ovulation occurs 14 days after the start of the last period. This method is appropriate for women whose menstrual cycle is regular.
After ovulation, basal body temperature, which is measured by placing a basal thermometer under the tongue in the morning, upon awakening, before drinking and eating, increases by 0.2 °C to 0.5 °C. This temperature rise indicates a 24-hour window favourable to conception. Your pharmacist can provide advice on the subject. Note that body temperature can increase due to other factors including a lack of sleep, infection or alcohol consumption. Consequently, the basal body temperature method is generally used in combination with the ovulation calendar.
Cervical mucus is a vascid substance secreted by the cervix. Its consistency changes throughout the menstrual cycle. About five or six days before ovulation, cervical mucus becomes more translucent, liquid and slick. It takes on an egg white-like texture. Vaginal discharge becomes more abundant. The cervical secretion observation technique requires thorough knowledge of one’s body.
Urine ovulation tests detect a spike in the luteinizing hormone (LH) that predicts ovulation. The tests help to determine when peak fertility will be, that is, the day of ovulation and the day preceding it (some tests can detect up to three days before). They must be done for several consecutive days during the estimated ovulation period.
The fertility monitor is a device that helps to identify up to six fertility days for each cycle. It does this by detecting the urine concentration of two key hormones, LH and estrogen. This type of monitor detects both the peak fertility period and the maximum number of fertile days.
Considering fertility treatment
As a general rule, it is recommended that couples seek medical advice if they have not been able to conceive after one year of sexual relations without contraceptive methods.
It is also preferable to seek medical advice if you have been unable to conceive after six months without contraception, and if any of the following descriptions apply to your situation:
- women over the age of 30
- irregular or no periods
- problems with repeated miscarriages
- prior use of an IUD
- history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- previous abdominal surgery
- surgical sterilization reversal in either men or women
- breast secretions
- woman affected by hirsutism (acne and excessive body hair)
It is likely for pregnancy to occur sooner or later. Note that after an unsuccessful first year, more than 60% of couples successfully conceive the following year without fertility treatment. That said, fertility treatments can accelerate the occurrence of pregnancy by stimulating ovulation. Your pharmacist can offer information on the available options.
If you and your partner feel uncertain about your fertility, psychological help may be helpful to keep a positive attitude until you receive the big news that your long-awaited baby has begun to develop.