The answer to this question depends on many factors and is very personal. Some people get pregnant the first month they try. For others, it takes longer. If you have been trying to conceive for a few months, you may just need more time. Most couples who try to get pregnant do so within one year. It may not happen immediately, but the odds are it will happen soon.
But if you have been trying to get pregnant for more than a year (or six months if you are 35 or over) and have not conceived, your health care provider may suggest you consult a reproductive endocrinologist. A reproductive endocrinologist is an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) who specializes in diagnosing and treating infertility.
Infertility means that the body’s ability to perform the basic function of reproduction is impaired. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 8 couples of childbearing age have difficulty conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term.
There are many possible causes of infertility. If you do see a reproductive endocrinologist, both you and your partner will most likely need to undergo testing. Infertility affects men and women equally. And 25% of infertile couples have more than one factor that contributes to their infertility.
There are a number of risk factors for infertility. Many of them are the same for both men and women. They include:
- Age. As you get older, your fertility will start to decline. Each woman is born with a set number of eggs. As you get older, you have fewer and fewer eggs, and the eggs you have aren’t easily fertilized by a man’s sperm. All this makes it harder for you to get pregnant. And men over age 40 may be less fertile than younger men.
- Weight. Women who weigh too much or too little can have difficulty conceiving. And a man’s sperm count can be affected if he is overweight.
- Smoking. Smoking reduces fertility for both men and women. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), up to 13% of female infertility is caused by cigarette smoking and women who smoke have an increased risk of miscarriage.
- Alcohol use. There is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy. If you are trying to get pregnant, avoid alcohol. Heavy alcohol use in men can decrease both sperm count and motility (the ability of the sperm to swim towards the egg and fertilize it).
There are several kinds of fertility treatments. You, your partner, and your reproductive endocrinologist can decide which treatment gives you the best chance of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy. Treatments include:
- Surgery to repair parts of your or your partner’s reproductive system. For example, you may need surgery on your fallopian tubes to help your eggs travel from your ovaries to your uterus.
- Controlled ovarian stimulation (also called COS). COS uses certain medicines to help your body ovulate and make healthier eggs.
- In vitro fertilization (also called IVF). IVF is the most common kind of assisted reproductive technology (ART). In IVF, an egg and sperm are combined in a lab to create an embryo which is then transferred to the uterus.
You may be concerned that consulting a reproductive endocrinologist means you will need IVF. Usually, this is not the case. In fact, 85-90% of infertility cases are treated with conventional therapies.
If you’ve been struggling to conceive, talk to your health care provider to learn about what you can do.