If you have had frequent, unprotected intercourse for at least a year and are unable to conceive, you are not alone.  Up to fifteen percent of reproductive-age couples in the United States have trouble conceiving or sustaining a pregnancy.

Many women will conceive without difficulty, however health conditions and factors, including age,  do affect fertility’s success rate. For example, research shows that on a monthly basis, a healthy 30-year-old woman has about a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant, however at age 40, her chances drop by 5 percent.

Infertility may result from an issue with either you or your partner, or any number of combined factors. But regardless of its cause, infertility affects us at a very basic level. No matter what your cultural, religious or familial background, there is a basic human desire to reproduce. And when an individual or a couple is unable to conceive a child or carry a pregnancy to term, this will bring on a range of emotions including sadness, grief, anger, despair along with a sense of personal failure.

If you are an individual or couple to ready to start a family, you owe it to yourself to be proactive in preparing for your pregnancy.  The following tips may help in your preparation:

1. Plan ahead by educating yourself. A good start is to have a preconception consultation with your healthcare provider.  You can also find fertility tips and information from reputable sources such as The National Fertility Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG),  American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).

2. Physically prepare for conception. Men and women who maintain a healthy weight, eliminate unhealthy lifestyle choices (such as smoking and heavy alcohol intake) and limit their exposure to environmental toxins have a greater chance for fertility. Also, women take should folic acid supplements a few months in advance of trying to conceive to decrease their chance for miscarriage and the risk of neural tube defects.

3. Psychologically prepare for your fertility journey. Prepare in advance for the things that friends and relatives may say at the onset of fertility problems. When you hear that “infertility is all in your head” or “if you’d stop worrying so much, you’d get pregnant,” just remember that infertility is a condition of the reproductive system — and not a psychological disorder. Although relaxing, going on vacation, or finding positive ways to de-stress may improve your overall well-being, these lifestyle changes will not solve all of your infertility problems.

3. Remember to take care of yourself on a physical, emotional and spiritual level by optimizing your fertility awareness and timing. Emotionally, it is extremely important to keep communication open with family and friends.  Take advantage of in person or on-line support groups such as those offered by Path2Parenthood. Remember, there is a community out there to help you get through this, there is no reason to go through infertility alone.

4. If you have trouble getting pregnant after 6 months, seek a formal fertility evaluation and ask what treatments are available. At The Fertility Institute, after asking your full personal medical history, our experts will give you a thorough physical examination and laboratory evaluation, while paying particular attention to conditions that may cause problems with your ability to conceive. Our infertility treatment philosophy and experience, proven by thousands of successes, is that many couples’ infertility is successfully treated by non-surgical means. We attempt non-surgical treatments first, except in cases where the necessity for surgery is obvious.

5. Do not lose hope if you are diagnosed with a “unexplained fertility” problem”  This type of infertility can be caused by subtle differences in the way the reproductive system works, including differences in follicle development, sperm function, or the fertilization process.  The good news is that when fertility drugs are used in combination with artificial insemination, the pregnancy rate is between 9 and 26 percent per treatment cycle for those with “unexplained fertility”. With IVF, the live birth rate is about 30 percent per treatment cycle, but that figure varies depending on age.