There is a lot of misinformation out there about getting pregnant:
You can’t get pregnant underwater—yes, you totally can.
You can use plastic bags instead of condoms—what? No. Just absolutely no.
You won’t get pregnant if you douche after sex— inaccurate!
We are not sure where all this nonsense originated, but we are here to set some things straight when it comes to the basics.
But what should you do if it happens to you? If you become pregnant unintentionally, it’s important to know that the morning-after pill will not be effective. Emergency contraception is only intended to prevent pregnancies before they occur. It won’t terminate an existing pregnancy. Once you are pregnant, the only way not to be is to get an abortion.
Abortions can be performed with a pill (actually two: one dose of mifepristone and one of misoprostol) or through an outpatient procedure where pregnancy tissue is removed from the uterus. However, as abortion bans are spreading across the country, you may not have access to either option, depending on where you live. To learn more about abortion resources, visit thepillclub.com/reprorights/prepare.
If you feel you’re not ready to have a child, but also don’t want to have an abortion, you can consider adoption. There are varying types of adoptions you can learn more about at adopt.org, two of which are closed and open adoptions. A closed adoption means there is no information or communication between the birth and adoptive families. An open adoption allows for more flexibility and connection between both families, including sending pictures, phone calls, and sometimes, even visits.
Clearly, any of these choices is a major decision, so it’s essential to think carefully about which option is right for you. You can also find adoption resources here.
The age old question about age
Here’s the thing: it is possible for any woman who is not menopausal to get pregnant. That doesn’t mean it’s easy or likely, but it is possible. However, the truth is, the older you are, the more difficult it can be to become pregnant. So, that leaves us with some age old questions about age.
What is the best age to get pregnant?
Generally, the “best” age to get pregnant is in your late 20s. We put best in quotes because this refers to the physical time from a biological standpoint. However—and this is a big however—if you’re not ready to start a family in your 20s, simply don’t want to, or are undecided about whether you want a baby or not, you DO NOT need to rush into making that decision.
The best age to get pregnant is the one that feels right for you. If that happens to be later in life, you have options, including:
It is important to note that neither option is a guarantee.
Fertility starts to decline in your 30s. To break it down, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, a healthy 30-year old has a 20% chance of getting pregnant each month they try. So out of 100 fertile 30-year olds trying to conceive in one cycle, 20 will succeed, while 80 will need to try again.
To put things into perspective, check this out: Only 30% of people trying to conceive will get pregnant after one month of trying. For 60%, it will take three months. It will take 80% of couples six months, 85% about a year, and 92% four years. This clearly demonstrates that the idea that getting pregnant happens quickly is a misconception for many.
Put another way: women and people who menstruate between 30-34 have an 86% chance of getting pregnant. And, for those between 35-39, the chances are still high: 78%.
Getting pregnant is all about when you’re comfortable and ready. Don’t let the false fear that you’ll be barren by 30 guide your choices about your life.
This is the age group where pregnancy becomes much more difficult. Only 1 in 10 people will become pregnant per menstrual cycle in their 40s. By 45, most women will not be able to get pregnant naturally.
But WHY is it so much harder to get pregnant as you get older?
Women begin life with a fixed number of eggs. As you age, that number decreases—and you can’t get them back. But again, don’t panic that your eggs will turn to dust at 30—this isn’t Cinderella and the pumpkin. Many, many (as stats show above) women and people who menstruate have healthy, happy pregnancies long after their 20s.
What other things can contribute to difficulties getting pregnant?
Beyond age, a range of medical conditions can create trouble for those trying to get pregnant. Among them are:
Endometriosis. When the tissue surrounding the uterus grows outside the uterine lining.
Adenomyosis. When uterine cells grow in the muscle wall of the uterus. If the cells grow in one central area, this can lead to a mass called an adenomyoma.
Polycystic ovary syndrome. This is a hormonal disorder which can create irregular period cycles, lack of ovulation, and high testosterone levels, which can lead to infertility.
There are also genetic conditions that can impact fertility, including single gene defects like cystic fibrosis, Tay Sachs disease, Canavan disease, and sickle cell disease.
Ovulation & pregnancy myths debunked
Instead of detailing what ovulation is, how it works, etc., (if you don’t know, check out this resource) we wanted to take a moment to break down some myths surrounding ovulation in relation to pregnancy, because this misinformation can be seriously damaging and lead to life-changing accidents (like a baby).
Myth: A normal menstrual cycle is 28 days - Some people, actually just 13% of those who menstruate, have 28-day cycles. But we cannot say it enough: every body is different. Cycles are still normal if they are 21 days, 25 days—even 35 days.
Myth: you can use calendars to predict and track ovulation - Eeep, sorry to all those apps out there claiming they can call when you’re going to ovulate. The truth is cycle-length info alone can’t predict ovulation. Why? Because the phase that leads to ovulation (called the follicular phase) varies from person to person, even cycle to cycle in the same person.
Myth: Birth control impacts fertility - Nope! Whether you’re on the pill, ring, or shot, have an IUD, use condoms or the patch, there is NO evidence to suggest contraceptives affect fertility long-term. It may take your body a moment to adjust to being off a contraceptive, however, this is not a link to infertility.
Myth: Irregular cycles make you less fertile - This is a big one as it can lead many people to think they are less likely to get pregnant, which can make them less likely to use proper protection. An irregular cycle makes it more difficult to determine your fertility window, but it doesn’t make you any less fertile.
Myth: smoking is ok (for fertility, not life) as long as you quit before you’re pregnant - Smoking and secondhand smoke has been shown to reduce fertility.
Myth: you can sync with other people’s cycles and throw off your own - Nope. We’ve been told this our whole lives: that if you spend enough time together you and your friends can “sync up.” This myth comes from a study done in the 70s that claimed syncing existed, but in truth, there’s never been any evidence to support that.
Myth: orgasms lead to egg release - They do not. They just lead to you feeling awesome.
Myth: you can’t get pregnant the first time you have unprotected sex - You can. You can get pregnant any time you have unprotected sex, from the first to the hundredth.
Myth: you can’t get pregnant on your period - Not true. While not likely, there is still a possibility of pregnancy when you have unprotected sex while ridding the red wave.
Myth: every person ovulates on day 14 of their cycle - Totally not true. As we learned, not all cycles are 28 days or regular. The actual day of ovulation can range from day 11 to day 20, and it can be a different day each month.