Skip to content

Infertility & Reproduction Health Center

Font Size

Getting Pregnant Can Be Harder Than It Looks

Getting Pregnant Can Be Harder Than It Looks

WebMD Feature

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.

Recommended Related to Infertility & Reproduction

Your Guide to Female Infertility

Infertility is the inability to get pregnant after a year of unprotected intercourse. About 10% of couples in the United States are affected by infertility. Both men and women can be infertile. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1/3 of the time the diagnosis is due to female infertility, 1/3 of the time it is linked to male infertility, and the remaining cases of infertility are due to a combination of factors from both partners. For approximately 20% of couples, the cause cannot...

Read the Your Guide to Female Infertility article > >

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 was right.

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."

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Today on WebMD

Four pregnant women standing in a row
How much do you know about conception?
Couple with surrogate mother
Which one is right for you?
couple lying in grass holding hands
Why Dad's health matters.
couple viewing positive pregnancy test
6 ways to improve your chances.
Which Treatment Is Right For You
Conception Myths
eddleman prepare your body pregnancy
Charting Your Fertility Cycle
Fertility Specialist
Understanding Fertility Symptoms
invitro fertilization