When Is A Woman Least Fertile
Medically reviewed on January 12, 2022. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
Family planning can be a joyous thing, but pregnancy can be deeply complex. As straightforward as the process can seem, pregnancy relies on numerous factors such as personal health, age, and general elements in lifestyle.
Timing can be one of the most difficult factors to get right, but itâs also one of the most important when it comes to pregnancy. Women arenât always fertile, and depending on the time of the month, you may have a higher chance of getting pregnant. Read on to learn more about the menstrual cycle and when women are less fertile .
In Your 30s: Gaining Maturity Vs Waning Fertility
Many women who’ve rounded the bend of 30 may feel they’ve made great strides professionally and personally, making them more emotionally prepared for pregnancy. “For me, being in my 30s became all about having a family,” says Mary Lindewirth of Gillette, New Jersey. “I had a great job, my husband and I were fixing up a house that we had bought, and we took wonderful vacations — but I knew that if we didn’t have kids we’d look back someday and wonder what we had really achieved.”
The catch: While you were gaining life experience, your eggs continued to mature as well — and now they’re showing their age. The average woman is born with half a million available eggs, but those most sensitive to ripening are released first, leaving you with the slower specimens as you get older. So even if you conceived at the get-go last decade, don’t expect the same speedy results now. You’ll probably be trying for another three to six months, says Dr. Berry, even if you’re in great shape and have no medical issues that affect fertility .
Waning fertility is most noticeable after the mid 30s, as Lindewirth can attest. “I was 35 when I conceived my first son, and it didn’t take that long — just four months,” she says. “I wanted to have another baby as soon as possible afterward, but it didn’t happen. I gave myself until 40 to conceive, and I just made it at age 39.”
What Can You To Do Increase Your Chances
If youd like to become pregnant, there are many things you can do to optimize your chances:
- Track your menstrual cycles and ovulation windows. For most people, the first step to becoming pregnant is having sex when youre ovulating. It makes sense to have an understanding of your menstrual cycle and ovulation windows to make sure youll fertilize an egg. This information can also be useful if youre trying to avoid becoming pregnant without using physical forms of birth control.
- Use ovulation strips. While ovulation strips cant guarantee your pregnancy, they can help to determine your peak fertility periods. If you decide to use ovulation strips, youll probably want to do this in combination with tracking your menstrual cycle, so that you dont need to use as many testing strips.
- Adjust your diet. Believe it or not, just changing your diet has been tied to increasing your chances of conceiving. While it may not be fun to consider giving up some of your favorite foods, the joy of a baby might just make it worth it.
- Maintain a healthy weight. This can be especially important if youre dealing with PCOS. A
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Tracking Ovulation With Irregular Periods
If you experience irregular menstrual cycles, tracking ovulation could be helpful using several different tools.
If your cycle is irregular, try tracking it on your calendar for a few reasons. You might notice a pattern, and you can share the information from your tracking efforts with your gynecologist or fertility specialist.
Your cervical mucus changes when you ovulate. Cervical mucus is minimal during the first few days after your menstrual cycle. Then, it will start to increase. As you approach ovulation, your cervical mucus will become more plentiful, clear, slippery, and sticky. A lot of people compare its consistency to egg whites.
The Lowest Chance Of Pregnancy
Because of how unpredictable the human body can be, and all of the factors involved, you can ostensibly get pregnant at any point in the cycle, which also means that the exact point of least fertility is hard to gauge.
Some theorize that you are least likely to get pregnant immediately after ovulation, just before the beginning of your next period. Right after ovulation, you donât have a viable egg for a sperm cell to fertilize, and you are far enough away from the next ovulation that you donât have to worry about sperm cells surviving long enough to fertilize a mature egg. However, this can get more complicated for those with shorter cycles .
The generally understood idea is that you are less likely to get pregnant on your period. This usually applies to people with cycles lasting 28 days or longer. For shorter cycles lasting 21 days, itâs still possible to get pregnant. For example, if you have sex on the last day of your period and the sperm cell survives for five days, it may fertilize an egg following early ovulation. However, the probabilities are low .
According to the Human Reproduction Journal, you are least likely to get pregnant on day 4 of your cycle, which suggests a 2 percent possibility of pregnancy. This aligns with the idea that your period offers the lowest chance of pregnancy .
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Using Ovulation Predictor Tests
Ovulation predictor testswork a lot like pregnancy tests, except they tell you when you’re likely about to ovulate. They come as test sticks or test strips that react with your urine. To use these, you can urinate into a cup and then dip the test strip into the collected urine. You will get your result based on color changes or digital reading.
At-home ovulation tests detect the luteinizing hormone in your urine. LH surges just before you ovulate, so when the test reads positive, this indicates that your body is attempting to trigger the egg release from the ovary and that it is probably your optimal time to become pregnant.
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.
If youre over the age of 40, you might need to see a doctor throughout the whole process. Its harder to get pregnant at this age without some medical consultation.
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Medical Factors Making It Hard To Get Pregnant
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of trying or six months of trying . Some medical causes of infertility, such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome , are clear, but many are not. Almost one-third of couples facing infertility are diagnosed with unexplained infertility, meaning there is no clear medical reason why they cannot conceive. The good news is that many couples in this camp are able to go on to conceive naturally however, an unexplained infertility diagnosis can be difficult news to digest.
Endometriosis is a reproductive disorder in which tissue similar to that of the uterine lining, or endometrium, grows elsewhere in the body. This foreign tissue can cause widespread inflammation it also bleeds during your menstrual period, just like the endometrium. As a result, women with endometriosis can experience debilitating pelvic pain, heavy periods, painful sex, and other unpleasant symptoms.
If endometriosis grows on or otherwise blocks the ovaries or fallopian tubes, it may impact your ability to conceive naturally . Laparoscopic excision surgery can help your doctor assess how much endometriosis may affect your fertility and remove the endometriosis tissue, which can sometimes help you get pregnant more easily. If you suspect you may have endometriosis, talk to your OB/GYN about your symptoms to begin the path to diagnosis.
Blocked Fallopian Tubes
Partners Medical Issues
You’re On Your Period
While it’s not impossible to get pregnant while on your period, your chances are pretty slim. If you consider what’s happening inside your body, it’s easy to see why: The egg that was released from your ovaries wasn’t fertilized, and, as a result, your uterine lining, which thickened in preparation for pregnancy, sheds . In other words, your body flushed the unfertilized egg during your period.
Your lowest chance of getting pregnant while on your period is during the first day of bleeding. But the chances increase with each passing day as you get closer to your ovulation window. If your typical menstrual cycle is close to the average 28- to 30-day cycle, then the likelihood of getting pregnant while on your period is low. But if your cycle is shorter, your chances of getting pregnant while on your period go up.
The only way you can get pregnant on your period is having a particularly short cycle with ovulation that occurs soon after menstruation. “Sperm can live in the uterus for up to five days, so if you have intercourse towards the end of your period, sperm can still hang around long enough to fertilize an egg that is released days after your period ends,” explains Dr. Brauer.
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What Are Other Ways That Pcos Affects Your Physical Health
PCOS does more to the body than you might imagine. People with PCOS are at increased risk of metabolic syndrome a group of conditions that includes elevated blood pressure, increased waist circumference, high blood-sugar levels, reduced high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and elevated triglyceride levels, explains Malik.
Because of this PCOS effect, metabolic syndrome increases a person’s risk of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and stroke. “As such, women with PCOS are at increased risk of insulin resistance and diabetes, as well as heart disease,” Malik adds.
She advises that “women with PCOS should be routinely screened for these health conditions in addition to their regular maintenance health exams.”
The condition also affects fertility. According to the Office on Women’s Health, PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility in women. That’s because the hormonal imbalance affects ovulation by interfering with the growth and release of eggs from the ovaries.
In Your 40s: Older Yes But Also Much Wiser
There’s no getting around it: From a medical standpoint, this is the toughest decade for pregnancy. By now, you’ve run through your highest-quality eggs, making conception slower than ever. “You’re left with those eggs that have not only taken the longest to respond to the body’s cues for release, but they also don’t function well during fertilization,” says Dr. Berry. This further raises the risk of chromosomal abnormalities and miscarriage. Meanwhile, your menstrual cycle may grow increasingly irregular well before menopause, which also compromises fertility.
Interestingly, while it’s now hardest to get pregnant, this is also when you’re most likely to carry multiples — itself a high-risk pregnancy — even without medical intervention. “It may be that shifting hormone levels during menopause stimulate the release of more than one egg at ovulation — like a natural fertility drug,” says Dr. Berry.
Standard blood work that estimates the risk of chromosomal defects such as Down syndrome is usually considered a waste of time and money, says Dr. Swamy. Screening will invariably reveal risk, which now accelerates more rapidly, from about 1 in 86 at age 40 to 1 in 21 at age 45. Women at 40-plus who opt for testing usually go straight to the definitive tests — amnio or chorionic villus sampling , which involves removing a bit of tissue from the placenta and carries about a 1 percent risk of miscarriage.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, February 2004.
Its Not Just Fertility
When we talk about the difficulty of getting pregnant over the age of 35, its important to remember that its not just about conception rates.
The older you are, the higher your chances of miscarriage or stillbirth.
The risk of a baby with serious birth defects, which might lead you to consider an abortion, also rises over the age of 35. According to one study, 10% of pregnancies end in miscarriage for women in their early 20s, but that rises to 18% for women over 35, and 34% for women in their early 40s.
That means that you have a 40% risk of losing your baby when youre 40, but only a 15% risk when youre in your 20s. This is mainly because as you age, the quality of your eggs drops as well as the quantity. With a drop in egg quality comes a higher risk that a fertilized egg wont divide correctly, leading to chromosomal defects.
Woman thinking fertility after 35
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 youre trying to get pregnant. Weve outlined some of them here, along with ways to solve them.
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How Can You Boost Your Chances Of Having A Baby
If you’re looking to conceive, the time to have sex is a few days before and a few days after ovulation.
The egg released by the ovaries only lasts about 24 hours before it’s no longer viable for pregnancy, so make sure you are having sex on all the days you think you could ovulate.
Other ways you can boost your chances of having a baby include have more sex – studies have shown that couples who have regular sex have high pregnancy rates.
The Odds Are In Your Favor
First of all, rest assured that the odds are definitely with you. About 85 percent of all couples will get pregnant within a year, but it’s also wise to have some realistic expectations. The average time it takes to conceive, for instance, is about six months, and women under 35 should wait until they’ve tried for a year before they consider calling their doctor or a fertility specialist with concerns, says Dr. Stillman.
For older women, the picture changes. Not only could it take longer to conceive, but there are fewer chances of succeeding.
“Women 35 and older who think things aren’t quite right, maybe their menstrual cycle is off, should bring that to someone’s attention fairly quickly — within three months if they’re not pregnant yet,” says Dr. Michael Zinaman, director of reproductive endocrinology at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago. “If things seem absolutely fine, then they should contact someone after six months.”
The problem is that many women nowadays who are postponing children until later in life for a variety of reasons often don’t realize until it’s too late about the reduced odds, says Dr. A.F. Haney, chairman of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Duke University Medical Center.
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But You Still Should Have A Birth Control Plan
Though your chances of unexpectedly getting pregnant are greatly reduced if you fall into one of these categories, they aren’t nonexistent. Therefore, if you want to avoid pregnancy, it’s best to have an effective birth control method that you will use correctly and consistently.
And since no form of birth control method outside of abstinence is 100% effective, you may also want a backup such as emergency contraceptives on hand.
Getting Pregnant In Your 20s
Many sources, including the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, still believe that a womans best years to have a baby are her 20s. A healthy couple under 30 has approximately a 95% chance of getting pregnant after a year of having unprotected sex. Unless you have a health condition impacting fertility, such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome , you can reasonably expect to get pregnant in your 20s with relative ease. Your risks of miscarriage, pregnancy complications, and genetic problems with your baby are also lowest in your 20s, given that you are overall healthy.
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Faqs About Not Getting Pregnant
Being unable to conceive when you want to get pregnant is one of the most difficult and confusing things you can go through as a couple. If you are struggling in your TTC journey, you might still have a lot of lingering questions about what exactly is going on in your body.
In this section, well answer some of the most commonly asked questions regarding difficulties getting pregnant.
How Natural Family Planning Works
Natural family planning involves identifying the signs and symptoms of fertility during your menstrual cycle so you can plan or avoid pregnancy.
If you’re interested in learning natural family planning, make sure you’re taught by a qualified fertility awareness teacher. Find a fertility awareness clinic in your local area.
There are 3 different fertility signals you can monitor and record for natural family planning. These are:
- the length of your menstrual cycle
- daily readings of your body temperature
- changes to your cervical secretions
It’s best to record these measures together to give you a more accurate picture of when you’re likely to be most fertile.
You can use fertility charts to record and track your measurements over the course of each menstrual cycle. You can download fertility charts from the Fertility Education and Training site, with information on how to use them.
You can also download smartphone apps to track this information.
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