Let’s start at the basics; we all know how babies are made. So far, so good! But, of course, it’s not always as straightforward as the textbooks teach us. We’ve put together 9 surprising facts about fertility to prove it. Did you know, for example, that fertility may be hereditary? And what does your BMI have to do with getting pregnant? The answers to these questions might surprise you!
Fact 1: You have about 30% chance of getting pregnant each cycle.
This means, that even if you and your partner have sex at the perfect time in your cycle, there is still no guarantee that you will get pregnant. That’s because so many stars have to align to make a baby: it has to be the right time of your cycle, the number and health of the sperm, the health of the egg, the lining of the womb … all play an important role. Every pregnancy is actually a little miracle! That is why it is so important to narrow down your fertile window window e.g. with femSense and increase the chance of getting everything right.
Fact 2: It is more difficult for women over the age of 35 to get pregnant.
By the age of 35 fertility has started to decrease. For some women this happens more slowly for others more quickly, but the fact of the matter is, that the biological clock is ticking, regardless of whether you want a baby or not. This does not mean that the train has already left the station at 35 but it does mean that from now on it gets more important to pay close attention to your cycle. It also means that if you are experiencing difficulty getting pregnant you should ask for medical advice sooner rather than later.
Fact 3: Hormonal contraception can influence fertility even after you have stopped using it.
Around 50% of women experience irregular cycles after stopping the pill or other hormonal contraceptives. This can manifest itself in different ways: for some women their cycles shorten or lengthen unnaturally, while others have spotting or, in rare cases, no ovulation at all. It is worthwhile to to monitor and keep a record of your cycle more closely, especially after you have stopped taking synthetic hormones. This way you can determine at an early stage whether your cycle is going to recover right away - or whether you should seek advice from your doctor.
Fact 4: A woman already has all of her eggs at birth.
Now that is truly amazing! The developing female fetus has about 7 million eggs, weeks before they are even born! The body absorbs most of the eggs before birth but about 2 million eggs are still there when a baby girl is born and about 500,000 are still there when she enters puberty and starts to menstruate. A woman’s remaining egg supply, capable of producing a baby, is known as her “ovarian reserve”.
Fact 5: Around 1,000 eggs are lost in each cycle.
This is not unusual; it is a normal process. Each cycle sees many eggs mature - but only one (occasionally a second) reaches the point where it is released from the ovary. All the others die and are absorbed by the body. A woman can expect to ovulate about 500 times in her lifetime, until all her eggs are used up and she enters menopause.
Fact 6: If your mother got pregnant quickly, then you might too.
There is scientific research which shows that a woman’s fertility is hereditary. The fact is that some women get pregnant more easily than others. A hereditary component or genetic predisposition may play a role. There is no watertight proof of this yet, but your family history might give you some indication of whether or not you will get pregnant quickly.
Fact 7: Being underweight or overweight can affect fertility.
Don’t worry, we are not going to tell you what BMI you need to be to get pregnant! But the fact is, that women with very low or very high body fat, can have difficulty getting pregnant. This is because of the metabolic function of fatty tissue, which converts testosterone into estrogen. If there is too much fatty tissue the levels of estrogen produced will be too high - and vice versa when there is too little body fat. Both of these extremes can lead to cycle disorders or irregularities. A balanced, healthy lifestyle is therefore all the more important if you want to have children. It is also a good idea to track your cycle to see if ovulation takes place.
Fact 8: You can get pregnant while breastfeeding.
In the past, breastfeeding was actually considered a “contraceptive”. This is because babies used to be breastfed much longer and more often. The more intensive breastfeeding is, the more prolactin is released. This hormone prevents the developing eggs from maturing. You cannot depend on breastfeeding as a form of contraception though, if you take breaks from breastfeeding or combine bottle with breast it is likely that ovulation will begin again soon after the birth. You should use a form of birth control if you do not want to get pregnant again.
Fact 9: Sex during your period can lead to pregnancy.
You can’t get pregnant if you have sex during your period. Have you ever heard that? Well, that is myth we have to debunk! You actually can get pregnant if you have sex during your period. There are some women with very short cycles who ovulate early, combined with the time that sperm survive in the womb “waiting” for an egg this means that fertilization could theoretically occur. The likelihood is not nearly as high as during the fertile window, but it cannot be disregarded altogether. Tracking your cycle will help you identify when you ovulate and need to use a form of contraception if you don’t want to get pregnant.
Whether you want to get pregnant or use birth control, you can see that your fertility is a very complex issue that is dependent on many different factors. But neither genetics nor nutrition can predict exactly how fertile you really are or the best time to get pregnant. This information is still best provided by your own body - for example by tracking your cycle with the femSense® App for iPhone or Android and observing your body’s signals. Because despite all the facts, every cycle is individual, just like every woman and every body!