TW: This article mentions infertility statistics.
To date, we have moved away from the view of women as “baby-making machines”—and that’s a great historical achievement. However, as many of us feel increased pressures to prioritize and advance our careers, we tie our identities tightly to what we do at work. The concept of being a mother may not always feel fully aligned with the identity of being an ambitious professional. The consequence? We undervalue motherhood and push the thought of fertility health to the back of our minds until the moment we’re ready to get pregnant.
As the healthcare system progressed alongside a societal prioritization of work and productivity for decades, fertility has become separated from our overall health and wellbeing. Today, there seems to be no preventive care when it comes to fertility health, only reactive treatments. The result? We don’t really acknowledge our reproductive health until the day we’re ready to try for a baby, or worse when we’ve started to try and face problems that feel out of our control.
Fertility, conception, pregnancy, birth, and parenthood are matters that can deeply affect our entire lives - from relationships with our partners, family and friends to our careers and how we see ourselves and feel inside our bodies. Each of these experiences can be incredibly overwhelming, especially because we rarely ever feel fully in control. The truth is: yes, information is power but very often our fears hold us back from seeking proactive information about our reproductive health.
We hear you, fertility can be a scary word but it doesn’t have to be. At Rita, we believe that we can turn reproductive fears into curiosities and curiosities into a more proactive, informed and empowered path forward. With personalized and comprehensive information, we can help you make more informed lifestyle choices and experience increased confidence and reproductive autonomy.
Why is there so much fear around fertility? With today’s post, we begin a series of articles that attempt to take us on a journey through the deepest fertility worries and fears that many of us carry. We asked our community to open their hearts and help others through the journey to motherhood by sharing their personal experiences. 50% answered that ‘trying for too long’ and ultimately ‘not being able to get pregnant’ is the thing that scares them the most.
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Trying for too long
If you haven’t already Googled it, you might be wondering, “how long does it take to get pregnant?” When we ran our fertility study (IRB #20215734) at the beginning of the year, study participants included individuals who had already become parents or were still trying to conceive.
After analyzing initial data, we found that the average time to conceive among our study participants was 1-3 months. However, time spent trying varies widely: 15% of women in the study got pregnant naturally after 12+ months of trying. Accordingly to the American Pregnancy Association:
30% get pregnant within the first cycle (about one month).
60% get pregnant within three cycles (about three months).
80% get pregnant within six cycles (about six months).
85% get pregnant within 12 cycles (about one year).
92% get pregnant within 48 cycles (about four years).
While we don’t believe in viewing 35 as a fertility cliff, age can of course impact your chance of conceiving. In your 30s, there’s a 20% chance of getting pregnant each cycle - if there are no fertility issues. In your 40s, the chance of getting pregnant each cycle is only 5%. So what does this mean? Let’s say we have two groups of women willing to conceive; one group is in their 30s and the second is in their 40s. Each cycle, 20 women out of 100 in their 30s will be successful vs. only 5 women out of 100 in their 40s.
Beyond age, there may be countless other factors influencing the time it will take for you to get pregnant. Stress, lifestyle, hormonal imbalances or other issues can all affect your menstrual cycles and thus impact your chances of conceiving.
Being in the limbo between being ready to have kids and waiting to successfully conceive can be incredibly difficult, we know. This is why we are building Rita’s self-assessment, so we can understand our reproductive health and our options to improve or maintain it much earlier on.
Not being able to get pregnant.
For those who fear not being able ‘to get pregnant one day’, we totally hear you. It can be nerve wracking to hear more about infertility and assisted reproductive technologies than about fertility. But, the reality is, 1 in 5 American women of reproductive age are not able to get pregnant in one year according to CDC data and 1 in 4 in this group have difficulties getting pregnant. Sounds like a lot, right?
Most experts suggest that women younger than 35 with no apparent health or fertility problems and regular menstrual cycles should try to conceive for at least one year before seeking medical help. However, women aged 35 years or older should see a healthcare professional after 6 months of trying unsuccessfully. This said, keep in mind that in one third of infertility cases, infertility is due to male issues. In another one third of infertility cases, doctors are unable to diagnose the cause. It’s important to be mindful not to carry the burden of fertility fears on your shoulders alone.
Even before you’re ready to try to conceive, you can schedule an appointment for preconception health and family planning with your healthcare provider. With perhaps a little insistence on your part, they can outline how the path to parenthood might look for you and help you understand common DOs and DON’Ts to optimize overall health and fertility health.
Stay tuned for the next article in our Fear of Fertility series where we’ll dive even deeper into common fertility fears and as always, do our best to give you the right information to be proactive about your fertility health.
1. Gnoth C, Godehardt D, Godehardt E, Frank-Herrmann P, Freundl G. Time to pregnancy: results of the German prospective study and impact on the management of infertility. Hum Reprod. 2003 Sep;18(9):1959-66. doi: 10.1093/humrep/deg366. PMID: 12923157.
2. Palomba S, Daolio J, Romeo S, Battaglia FA, Marci R, La Sala GB. Lifestyle and fertility: the influence of stress and quality of life on female fertility. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2018 Dec 2;16(1):113. doi: 10.1186/s12958-018-0434-y. PMID: 30501641; PMCID: PMC6275085.
3. Turner KA, Rambhatla A, Schon S, Agarwal A, Krawetz SA, Dupree JM, Avidor-Reiss T. Male Infertility is a Women's Health Issue-Research and Clinical Evaluation of Male Infertility Is Needed. Cells. 2020 Apr 16;9(4):990. doi: 10.3390/cells9040990. PMID: 32316195; PMCID: PMC7226946.
4. “Optimizing Natural Fertility: a Committee Opinion.” American Society for Reproductive Medicine, ASRM, Oct. 2013, https://www.asrm.org/globalassets/asrm/asrm-content/news-and-publications/practice-guidelines/for-non-members/optimizing_natural_fertility.pdf
5. “Infertility FAQs.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, 1 Mar. 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/infertility/index.htm.