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Fertility
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Conception facts

The reality

This may be surprising to hear, but 10% of Canadian couples will have a difficult time conceiving. For this group, additional tests or treatments may be required.

While there are many factors that can affect fertility, the most significant is often the female partner's age. At 30, a fertile woman's chances of conceiving each month are approximately 20%. By 40, it drops to 5%. Over a one-year period, a woman in her 20s has a 75% to 90% chance of conceiving. Over that same time period, a woman 40 or older has a less than 50% chance.

Success rates for conception at different maternal ages are depicted in the chart below. If you and your partner have been trying to conceive for over a year (or over 6 months if the female partner is 35 or older) you should talk to your doctor or contact a fertility specialist.

Maternal age and fertility

Maternal age and fertility

The myths

It's time to debunk some fertility myths.
Let's face it: myths abound when it comes to fertility and conception. Some myths may be harmless, but others may actually work against you as you try to conceive. It helps to be knowledgeable. So let's shed some light on a few common misconceptions.

Myth: It's easy to get pregnant.
For many people, it's not easy. Yet friends and family often still put undue pressure on couples with the "What's wrong with you?" syndrome. In truth, there are many factors that can affect one's ability to get pregnant. These include the correct timing of intercourse, the female partner's age, and a range of other variables. Some of these factors are outlined in the basic biology section.

Myth: Having sex every day will increase our chances of conceiving.
The truth is that timing sex during the most fertile days of a woman's monthly cycle will increase your chances - not how many times you have sex. Generally, the best time to try to conceive is during the 11th to 17th days of a woman's menstrual cycle, based on a 28-day cycle. Since a man's sperm can live for 48 to 72 hours in a woman's reproductive tract, intercourse every other day during this period is recommended. A study found no difference in pregnancy rates between couples who had sex daily and those who had sex every other day.

Myth: A woman's menstrual cycle begins when she starts spotting.
Close, but wrong. If you're trying to time intercourse, it's critical to identify the first day of your reproductive cycle. Start counting on the first day of normal bleeding or full flow, not when spotting begins. Being off by just a day or two can make a big difference.

Myth: A woman can't get pregnant if she doesn't have an orgasm.
Getting pregnant has nothing to do with a woman having an orgasm. Conception occurs when a man's sperm fertilizes a woman's egg. In most cases it is necessary for the male to have an orgasm to release the sperm, although some semen can be released during intercourse prior to ejaculation. The sperm travels to fertilize the egg that has been released during ovulation in the woman, a process not affected by orgasm.

Myth: I can wait until I'm 40 to conceive. Everyone's doing it.
When you choose to start a family is up to you. But as you make your decision, you should be aware of some basic fertility facts. A healthy woman at age 30 has about a 20% chance per month of conceiving. By the time she reaches 40, her chances drop to about 5% per month. While a man's fertility also declines with age, the decline is less significant than a woman's.

Getting pregnant - at any age - is not an automatic. And as you get older, it may become increasingly more difficult to conceive - despite all the stories you've heard in the media. Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after regular, unprotected intercourse after 12 months (or 6 months if a woman is over 35). It's important to talk to a health care provider whenever you're concerned about your ability to conceive. Some people talk with their family doctor, others with an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN), and some go directly to a fertility specialist, also called a reproductive endocrinologist (RE). The graph above highlights the role of age in fertility rates.

Myth: We've already had one child, so conceiving again will be easy.
Perhaps, but it's no guarantee. Many individuals experience secondary infertility, or difficulty conceiving a second or subsequent child. This problem is often caused by age-related factors. If you are having problems conceiving, talk to your doctor or a fertility specialist.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg...

If you're wondering if something else is fact or fiction, you can visit the "Ask an Expert" section in this channel or talk to your health care provider.

Reference: Fertility LifeLines™



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