Couples that turn to fertility treatments are not only anxious to become pregnant but also anxious about how long it might take for them to successfully conceive. While infertility is complicated and there isn’t one easy answer, there are many factors that can affect the timing: type and success rates associated with the fertility treatment prescribed by your physician; age, lifestyle factors; and a patient’s medical history.
Fertility Treatments and Success Rates
The most common fertility treatments are intrauterine insemination (IUI) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
IUI is a single procedure where sperm is placed directly in the patient’s uterus when she is ovulating. IUI may be performed in sync with a women’s natural cycle or timed with fertility pills (eg. Clomid) to help ovulation occur. IVF consists of several stages and requires more than one procedure: first the ovaries are stimulated using approximately 9 days of fertility medications; second, the patient undergoes egg retrieval under a mild anesthetic; third, the embryos are grown in the lab, and then the embryo is transferred into the patient’s uterus.
IUIs occur during the first 14 days of your menstrual cycle, and could be the quickest route to pregnancy if your first cycle is successful. An average IVF cycle takes about 6-8 weeks from consultation to embryo transfer, and it often takes couples more than one treatment cycle to get pregnant. However, statistically, IUI has lower success rates than IVF, and the gap widens as women age. To understand success rates, it is important to remember that the success rate of natural conception in couples not undergoing fertility treatments is approximately 20% per month. If you have been trying for more than 1 year without conceiving (or 6 months if over 35), the natural success rate can drop as low as 2% per month. Average success rates for IUI range from:
- 5-15 % per cycle for patients under 35,
- 2-5 % for patients over 40
IVF (per cycle) average success rates range from:
- 40-45 % for patients under 35;
- 15 % or less for women over 42
- 80% (at our clinic), regardless of age, if a genetically normal embryo is transferred
Because of the gap in success, some patients in their late 30’s and early 40’s may get pregnant faster by going directly to IVF.
How Age Affects Fertility
When trying to get pregnant, age matters. Women have the largest number of healthy eggs and best odds of getting pregnant in their 20’s. As women age, the fertility window is shortened – both the quantity and quality of eggs is greatly reduced, and the eggs that are ovulated are more likely to have genetic abnormalities. By age 35, women have just a 12 percent chance getting pregnant within any given three-month period, and by age 40 that number drops to 7 percent. A man’s fertility also declines with age, and his sperm is also more likely to have genetic abnormalities.
Lifestyle Factors and Reproductive Health
Many factors—nutrition, weight, exercise, stress, environmental exposures—can affect fertility in both women and men. But daily lifestyle changes can help increase the odds of fertility treatment success.
Being overweight or obese affects fertility and success with IVF, so achieving or maintaining a healthy weight and regular exercise routine is a good place to start. Eating certain foods and avoiding others can help improve ovulatory function. Avoiding trans fats (eg. processed junk food) and eating more plant-based fats (eg. nuts and avocados), along with raw fruits and vegetables (both watermelon and asparagus contain glutathione, which is important for egg quality) can help increase fertility. Women should also take a prenatal vitamin to make sure they’re getting plenty of folic acid.
Both men and women should try to reduce stress (yes, this one is hard), stop smoking, and limit alcohol consumption. Drinking four or more drinks per week prior to an IVF cycle is associated with a higher risk for failed fertilization and a lower chance for live birth, and smoking both decreases fertility and increases the risk of miscarriage. With men, smoking and alcohol can alter sperm count, size shape, motility, and lower testosterone levels.
A Patient’s Medical History
A number of underlying health issues can compromise both a man and woman’s ability to get pregnant. Endometriosis, uterine fibroids, hypothyroidism, STDs, cancer treatment, autoimmune disorders, pelvic inflammatory disease, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are all common conditions that affect a woman’s fertility. PCOS, characterized by menstrual irregularities, excess hair growth and obesity, is a very common – and also very treatable-cause of infertility.
Male infertility is becoming increasingly more common, with conditions including infection of the prostate, cancer treatment, sexually transmitted diseases, surgical sterilization, or other environmental exposure or injury that could reduce sperm production.
Incinta’s Individualized Fertility Treatment Plans
At Incinta, our goal is to help patients become pregnant as quickly and safely as possible. We are committed to creating individualized treatment plans that into account factors affecting each patient’s specific infertility issues.