“Just enjoy yourselves.”
“It will happen when you're ready.”
“People have made babies without doctors for millions of years.”
If you're trying to get pregnant, prepare yourself for the onslaught of well-meaning advice suggesting that getting pregnant is easy. The truth is, for many couples, it's anything but. Even when you're both perfectly healthy, it can take up to a year of timed intercourse to get pregnant. And if you're not? It could take significantly longer, and might not even happen without medial assistance for infertility.
Don't listen to people who tell you that fertility is the most natural thing in the world. More people now than ever before struggle with infertility, primarily because people are waiting longer and longer to have babies. By the time they start trying, they may have been exposed to a variety of health and environmental concerns that impede fertility.
Fertility is a part of the continuum of normal circumstances of human life, and the fact that it's easy for some people does not necessarily mean it will be easy for you. Stack the odds in your favor by keeping a fertility calendar. (We put together a list of the best fertility apps to get you started!)
Fertility calendars and apps can be incredibly supportive along your journey. Here’s why:
Fertility is Complicated
Fertility is about a lot more than sperm meeting egg. A complex cascade of interactions must be perfectly timed, and if they are not, pregnancy becomes impossible. The woman's body must produce a healthy egg, maintain that egg, safely move the egg from the ovaries to the uterus, and then maintain sufficient hormones to produce a healthy pregnancy. A man must have adequate sperm, healthy sperm, and sperm that can quickly swim to the egg.
And even if those sperm reach their destination, if they do so at the wrong time—even by a few minutes—a pregnancy will become impossible. Moreover, the man's and woman's bodies must interact in a way that fosters a healthy pregnancy. If the woman is allergic to the man's sperm or her vaginal pH kills sperm, pregnancy will not be possible.
It's absolutely true that people get pregnant without trying every day. But many of those same people have had months or years of unprotected sex without a pregnancy, and only get pregnant on a day where everything is just right. Even if you're both healthy and you correctly time intercourse, you only have a 25% chance of getting pregnant each cycle. A fertility calendar helps you pick the day when you're most likely to get pregnant, so you can avoid wasting time and get closer to holding your newborn baby with each cycle.
Pinpointing Ovulation and Timing Intercourse
You've probably heard that ovulation typically occurs on day 14 of a woman's cycle. That's only an average. You might ovulate on day 7, day 21, or on a different day each month. If you rely on a counting-based method, then, you might never get pregnant.
Even more important is the fact that you're actually more likely to get pregnant if you time intercourse a day or two before ovulation than a day or two after. An egg only survives 12-24 hours after it is released, and it takes time for sperm to journey to the egg. This gives you a vanishingly small window if you wait until you've already ovulated. Though sperm can live in the reproductive tract up to seven days, they're more likely to fertilize an egg if they make their appearance just before ovulation.
Tracking your cycle allows you to use clues such as cervical fluid and basal body temperature changes to predict ovulation, maximizing your chances of a pregnancy.
Detecting Fertility Issues
Most couples don't know they have a fertility issue until they've tried for months to get pregnant with no success. This delays treatment and can increase the stress of infertility. You can detect some fertility issues by monitoring your cycles. For example, there is a clear issue if you are never able to track a point of ovulation. Or, if your luteal phase is too short to sustain a pregnancy, this provides your doctor with valuable information about what might be wrong, and cycles that differ greatly each month suggest a hormonal or other imbalance. You deserve to know as soon as possible if you have a problem, and charting your fertility makes this possible.
Providing Your Doctor With Data
When you to to the doctor with no symptoms other than the inability to get pregnant, he or she has to play the role of sleuth, gathering a veritable avalanche of data. This can mean weeks or months of testing. But if you have key information about your fertility, you can narrow down the number of things that might be wrong. For example, if you get a spike in your basal body temperature each month after a positive ovulation test, you are almost certainly ovulating. If your cycles are only 12 days, then you are probably not ovulating, and may have a number of hormonal issues.
Medicine is a science, and science thrives on data. Charting your fertility in all of its intricate detail gives your doctor data that could otherwise take months to gather.
Getting to Know Your Body
Knowledge of sex and reproduction is tragically lacking in this country. Most people don't know that pregnancy begins with implantation, that progesterone is vital to sustaining a pregnancy, and that it's possible to get pregnant even with the “pullout” method. And many don't know how ovulation works, what triggers it, or that it's impossible to get pregnant without it.
Charting your fertility puts you in touch with your body, offering you a crash course in how fertility works. This knowledge can serve you well for the rest of your life. Rather than relying on useless averages, you get to use data about your own body. For example, if your cycle length suddenly gets much shorter and you stop ovulating, you know something has changed. If your basal body temperature is suddenly stagnant after years of reliable spikes, you know you are probably not ovulating. And once you know your most common ovulation cues or the signs that you're about to get your period, you can end a lot of useless speculation about whether you're pregnant. It's your body, and you deserve to know how it works so you can become its expert and its advocate.
Do you have questions about what’s important to measure during your menstrual cycle? Download our free guide, The Simplified Guide to the Complicated World of Infertility and take charge of what’s going on with your body.