Nancy Karabaic and her husband Chris LaChat of Wheaton, Md., are
self-professed "late bloomers." They courted for five years before
deciding to tie the knot, but they never expected the pattern to follow them
into parenthood. It did. They tried to conceive a baby for a full three years
before Karabaic finally got pregnant.
"It was a surprise because I fully expected, like every woman does, that
when the birth control was gone, it would happen next month," she says. The
couple had even begun some initial infertility testing to make sure everything
was OK, although Karabaic got pregnant shortly thereafter.
Today, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is practically a household word. But not so long ago, it was a mysterious procedure for infertility that produced what were then known as "test-tube babies." Louise Brown, born in England in 1978, was the first such baby to be conceived outside her mother's womb.
Unlike the simpler process of artificial insemination -- in which sperm is placed in the uterus and conception precedes otherwise normally -- IVF involves combining eggs and sperm outside the body in...
Their story is common. Maybe we all learned our lessons too well back in
junior high, squirming uncomfortably in our desks as our sex ed teacher
ominously warned how easy it was to get pregnant. Many of us certainly
devoted enough effort trying to avoid it all these years until the time
The fact is, however, that getting pregnant is often more difficult than
we've assumed, especially the older we get.
"Many people think that human reproduction is a much more efficient
process than it really is," agrees Dr. Robert Stillman, medical director of
Shady Grove Fertility Centers in the Washington, D.C., area.
So to avoid the surprises -- and disappointments -- that might come with
failure in those first few attempts, here's the lesson you probably never heard
from your parents or teachers on how to get pregnant.
The Odds Are in Your Favor
First of all, rest assured that the odds are definitely with you. About 85
percent of all couples will get pregnant within a year, but it's also wise to
have some realistic expectations. The average time it takes to conceive, for
instance, is about six months, and women under 35 should wait until they've
tried for a year before they consider calling their doctor or a fertility
specialist with concerns, says Dr. Stillman.
For older women, the picture changes. Not only could it take longer to
conceive, but there are fewer chances of succeeding.
"Women 35 and older who think things aren't quite right, maybe their
menstrual cycle is off, should bring that to someone's attention fairly quickly
-- within three months if they're not pregnant yet," says Dr. Michael
Zinaman, director of reproductive endocrinology at Loyola University Medical
Center in Chicago. "If things seem absolutely fine, then they should
contact someone after six months."
The problem is that many women nowadays who are postponing children until
later in life for a variety of reasons often don't realize until it's too late
about the reduced odds, says Dr. A.F. Haney, chairman of the division of
reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Duke University Medical
"There's this Susan Sarandon effect -- everyone sees a 42-year-old woman
getting pregnant, and they think there's no problem waiting," Dr. Haney
says. "They need to understand the biological realities that go along with
those life choices -- that by waiting, there's an increasing risk they'll
stumble or be unsuccessful -- and many people, had they known that information
beforehand, might sequence things differently."