Conception 101: The Factors That Need To Work in Order for a Woman To Conceive
Sometimes, the basics of a concept we think we have a firm grasp on are actually surprisingly allusive. Based on years of conversations with our patients who’ve come to our practice seeking help conceiving, we know that there are some information gaps we could help fill. Please understand that this missing knowledge or misunderstandings do not bear any reflection on our patients – not everyone has had equal access to solid education on sex, anatomy, menstruation, ovulation, or conception. Plus, many myths still persist across all of these topics, which are spread across family and friends from one generation to the next.
We thought it would be helpful to lay out some of the core basics of conception as well as why conception can be difficult and require treatment in certain situations. Female and male fertility both contribute to a successful pregnancy, so we need to reset our perceptions and consider what it takes for a woman to conceive.
Conception 101: What you may have missed growing up
Though it is technically true that a woman can get pregnant at any point during the month, there is a very specific time period in which conception is far more likely. This is known as ovulation, or when a woman’s body releases an egg for the possibility of said egg becoming fertilized by sperm in order to form a pregnancy. Ovulation occurs 14 days after the first day of a woman’s period. The best time to attempt a pregnancy is the day of ovulation as well as the 3-4 days leading up to it. After this time has passed, it is less likely for a pregnancy to occur.
This is why women who are trying to conceive (TTC) are directed to carefully track their periods so they can determine the date of ovulation; it is also why ovulation test kits are sold alongside pregnancy tests.
If there are issues with a woman’s menstrual cycle, such as irregularity or severe symptoms, then it can lead to issues with ovulation, which means difficulty conceiving. Additionally, there are a number of reproductive conditions that can also impact a woman’s fertility such as endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), fibroids, cysts, and more.
For heterosexual couples, if the female partner is age 35 or older, then it is advised that a fertility consultation is sought after TTC for six months. If she is younger than 35, it is typical that a couple tries to conceive for a year before booking a consultation. However, if a known reproductive condition is present, then the female partner should consult with her gynecologist upon the decision to try for a pregnancy. He or she can advise if any proactive measures need to be taken.
On the male side, things are somewhat more straightforward. Sperm is healthy if it falls within specific motility, volume, and concentration. In the most basic terms, this means sperm has an ideal total count, is well-shaped, and can move properly. If there are any issues with these functions, then it is possible for a male-factor fertility issue to be present. A semen analysis is the standard test to determine the health of a man’s sperm, and its result will shed light on if a lack of conception is male-factor infertility based.
If you have questions about issues trying to conceive or would like to discuss male fertility testing, please contact our staff today.