Research conducted for Clearblue, home pregnancy testing company, has revealed that two in three UK women don’t know there is only a small window of opportunity (two ‘peak’ fertile days) in which they can conceive each month . Many women wrongly believe that they can fall pregnant at any point in the month.
The results have identified a shocking knowledge deficit amongst those who are most likely to consider trying for a baby (aged between 25-40 years), which could be costing some women months or in worst cases years of unnecessary frustration, because they could be trying to conceive at the wrong time.
Social trends confirm that women are increasingly putting off having babies until later in life , the ‘knowledge-deficit’ or lack of understanding about their bodies may also be jeopardising the chance of conceiving naturally in the future. For television presenter Anna Richardson, the harsh wake-up call came whilst filming a fertility segment for the Channel 4 ‘Sex Education’ show she presented last year.
“It came as a complete shock to be told that at 38 my fertility had been rated at 0.75 where 0 is deemed infertile. After much discussion and further testing, my age was coined as the single contributing factor. I’m an educated intelligent woman, but this was complete news to me – had I been better informed about fertility in general I would have never left it this long. I now live with the reality I may never have children.”
Amplifying the misconception is the commonly believed myth, upheld to this day by many GPs and biology teachers, that all women have a 28 day cycle. In fact every woman is unique and cycles not only differ from woman to woman but also from cycle to cycle, making it complicated to calculate your most fertile period.
So when can women fall pregnant?
When oestrogen reaches a critical level in the menstrual cycle it causes a rapid rise in the level of Luteinising Hormone (LH) which is known as the LH surge. This in turn triggers the release of an egg from an ovary (ovulation) approximately 24-36 hours after the LH surge. It is from intercourse during this one-to-two day period that a woman has the highest chance of conceiving.
Time is of the essence
Trends within society are steering toward women deciding to have fewer children later in life, choosing to prioritise education and career above starting a family.
With fertility in women declining from about 27 years, and with many career women opting to have children in their mid to late thirties, time is really of the essence. Optimising your chances of conceiving by identifying your ‘peak’ window of opportunity each month could considerably increase your chances of falling pregnant sooner.
Leading fertility expert Zita West is confronted daily with the harsh reality of this ‘knowledge-deficit’.
“Many of my patients have spent years trying to conceive naturally without success to the detriment of their fertility long-term. Through discussion it is frequently revealed that what may have been nothing more than a problem conceiving as a result of lacking the knowledge to know how to optimise their chances, years have been wasted and what they are now faced with is infertility due to the woman’s age.”
According to Zita West, “knowledge is power, as a woman having the knowledge to optimise your chances of conceiving is the most empowering thing you can do in planning your pregnancy. Identifying your best window of opportunity (1-2 days) each month is essential if you want to conceive naturally. Once you have the knowledge, it is important to bear in mind that sperm can live for up to five days so having sex for up to five days before or after your ‘peak’ window can result in a pregnancy.”
Test for LH levels as well as for pregnancy
You can arm yourself with the knowledge you need to help you identify when the LH surge occurs, specific to your cycle each month by testing your fertility on a regular basis. Companies such as Clearblue sell a range of advanced tests, which record information about the high and peak fertility days in the user’s cycle, helping to identify the ‘peak’ fertile days when they have intercourse, to help maximise the chance of conception.