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Infertility in Women

If you've been struggling to get pregnant, you've probably got lots of questions. Here, find out what causes infertility, how to reduce your risk, when to see a doctor, potential infertility treatments, and more.

What is infertility?

Infertility is a medical condition in which a couple is unable to conceive a baby. Experts don't consider a couple to have fertility problems until they've been actively trying to get pregnant for at least one year, or if the woman is older than 35, for more than six months. Some couples who experience recurrent miscarriages may also be considered infertile and should seek help from their doctor or a fertility expert.

7 Myths About Infertility

What's the truth, and what are just old wives' tales?

Infertility is a complex and often misunderstood condition, which is why there's so much confusion surrounding it. Here are seven common myths to watch out for -- and help dispel.

Myth 1: It's easy for most women to get pregnant.
While it's true that many woman conceive without difficulty, more than five million people of childbearing age in the United States -- or one in every 10 couples -- have problems with infertility. Certain health conditions and factors, such as age, can affect a woman's ability to conceive. For instance, a healthy 30-year-old woman has about a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant each month; while by age 40, her chances drop to about 5 percent a month. But infertility can affect women of any age, and from any background.

Pregnant At 53: Older Pregnancy Happened To Me

I met my pediatrician husband four years ago on an Internet dating site. He liked my profile, but he said that he was really hoping to have more children. He was 50 and I was a 49-year-old mother of three grown children -- not to mention that I'd already become a grandmother! I thought a new baby wasn't likely to happen, so, longing to be just a few years younger, I wished him luck. Months later, though, he e-mailed again, imploring me to give him another chance. The issue of children, he said, we would leave to God.

We dated long-distance for six months, before we married in 2010 and I moved from New York to Michigan to be with him. Three years later, God has given us an answer: Today I am 53 years old and pregnant with twins.

Does being older make my pregnancy high-risk?

I'm 37 and pregnant with my first baby. I'm healthy, but does my age make my pregnancy high-risk?

More and more women are becoming moms later in life these days. While being 35 or older does increase your chances for developing certain high-risk conditions during pregnancy, age alone doesn't mean your pregnancy's doomed to health problems.
Some of the more common conditions that may be affected by age include miscarriage, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, diabetes, placenta previa (in which the placenta covers all or part of the cervix), having a baby in the breech position (meaning the baby is feet-first instead of head-first when it's time to deliver), and possibly preterm labor. In addition, babies born to women over 35 also have a higher incidence of birth defects, having a low birth weight, and macrosomia (meaning the baby grows very large).
But before you start to panic, you should know that if you start your pregnancy in good health, get regular prenatal care and make smart lifestyle choices, there's an excellent chance that you'll experience no complications whatsoever.

Conceiving in Your 20s, 30s, and 40s

In Your 20s

When Siobhan Bennett was pregnant with her two daughters during her mid 20s, she had an easy time of it, and she figured things would be the same when she was expecting her son at age 45. "No one sat me down to say, 'Look, your body's twenty years older now,'" says Bennett of Allentown, Pennsylvania. "I was far more fatigued this last time around -- the difference was night and day."

6 Success Stories After Having Trouble Getting Pregnant

Not pregnant yet? No matter how many TTC tricks you know and practice, pregnancy might not happen right away. Relax. Be patient. It can take a while. We found six women willing to share their stories of how they stayed positive when their tests were not.

The Fosters
Got Pregnant In: 2 years

Their Story: After getting married in 2001, Ashley and James began trying to conceive. "When we first started trying, I was obsessive and bought many pregnancy tests even if I knew my period was coming," says Ashley. "We probably spent hundreds of dollars on tests. We viewed making love as work, and it took the pleasure and enjoyment out of it." Eventually they went to a specialist and discovered that James had a low sperm count, so the couple faced the possibility that they may never have children. "I was at the point that I didn't even want to get out of bed some days. I was so depressed," she says.

The Positive: Ashley had a moment of clarity. "I just kept telling myself that when the time was right we would get pregnant," she says. "It's hard, and you often think that there's something wrong with you, and there really wasn't." Much to the couple's surprise, they got pregnant a few months after resigning themselves to the idea of being childless. Daughter Natalie was born in September 2003. They recently received another surprise: twins due in August, conceived without the couple even trying.

10 Ways He Can Have Better Baby-Making Sperm

Although you'll be the one carrying the baby for those nine months, dad-to-be has an important role too -- his sperm affects whether you'll get pregnant at all and if the pregnancy will be healthy. To keep his boys in tip-top shape, he should make these changes.

Get His Weight in Check
Being underweight or overweight can have negative effects on a man's sperm, and it can kill a couple's sex life because weight problems can affect a man's libido and performance. Sticking to a healthy diet that contains a good mix of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, grains, and dairy, and fitting in physical activity on most days of the week can help him reach or maintain a healthy weight.

8 Facts About Your Cycle and Conception

If you're like many women, you're probably still a little mystified by your cycle, and you probably haven't had to think twice about it until you decided to start a family. Once you throw conception into the mix, things can get even trickier to understand. So we asked two top doctors to answer some of the most common questions women have about their reproductive health.

How do I know if my cycle is normal?
This is one of the most common questions that Pamela Berens, M.D., professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston gets asked in her practice. Although the average cycle occurs every 28 to 32 days, some variation each month is common, says Dr. Berens. "Many women are concerned that they're not regular if their cycle is off by a few days, but most cycles will not be perfect every month," she says. In fact, it would be unusual to have a period every 28 days on the dot with no deviation. "When your doctor asks if your cycle is regular, she's really just making sure it isn't occurring every two weeks or that you're not skipping months between cycles."

Your Chances of Getting Pregnant, at Every Point in Your Cycle

Timing is everything when it comes to baby-making!

To hit the baby-making bullseye, you've got to aim for certain sweet spots of fertility in your cycle. Here's how to maximize your odds of conceiving throughout the month.

Phase 1: Your period
In essence, menstruation is the monthly shedding of the endometrium, the inner membrane of the uterus. For most women, this lasts between three and seven days. By the third day, levels of progesterone and estrogen are on the rise and working on rebuilding your endometrium.

The Truth About Babymaking Sex

Are you getting frustrated with the limited positions and scheduling sex so that it's best for conception? Find out how babymaking sex can be as hot as ever.

Basal thermometers. Ovulation predictor kits. Cervical mucus. Are you hot yet? If not, you're not alone. While babymaking sex sounds great in theory (no worrying about birth control!), couples who've been there are more likely to describe it as "mechanical," "unromantic," and "a big turnoff."

What's the problem? One husband explains, "When we threw away the condoms, I thought that meant we'd get to have spontaneous, uninhibited sex. Instead it was just the opposite. We had to schedule intercourse to correspond with my wife's ovulation, and limit ourselves to a couple of positions because they offered maximum penetration."

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