Optimising conception

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Getting pregnant

You are more likely to get pregnant if you:

  • are younger. Fertility is highest in women aged between 18 and 32, after which a woman’s fertility declines at a rate of 5–8 per cent per year. By the age of 40, a woman has a 50 per cent chance of being infertile
  • have sex more often. Women who have sex every night conceive four times as quickly as those who have sex once a week
  • have regular ovulation cycles. While 28 days is the average, the fertile cycle length in Australian women in the 1970s was found to be between 23 and 35 days; 21–23 days is the lower limit of the fertile cycle. It is very difficult to get a more recent figure due to the high number of women who are now on the Pill
  • have been pregnant before. As in almost everything in life, if you’ve done it before you’re more likely to do it again. And that goes for the man, too.

With regular, unprotected sexual intercourse 80 per cent of women become pregnant within a year.  Even so, fertility varies from person to person and up to 15 per cent of couples experience some difficulties.

There are many reasons for infertility that can be related to the male or female partner. If you have been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant for a year or more, you may wish to consider a fertility specialist.

Your health and fertility

If you are trying to conceive it is best for you and your partner to maintain a healthy lifestyle, reduce your alcohol and caffeine consumption, stop smoking, eat well and exercise moderately. Your cycle, or the regularity of your cycle, can be affected by stress and emotional distress, changes in weight or excessive physical activity.

If you have any medical conditions or take prescription medications, natural supplements or other drugs it may be wise to discuss these with your doctor in advance of trying to get pregnant.


Being very overweight or underweight has been shown to interfere with ovulation and fertility.  Aim to keep your weight within the healthy weight range before pregnancy.

For women with polycystic ovarian syndrome this may not be so easy. However there are some very good management strategies that have been developed in recent years and it is worth speaking to dieticians who have some expertise and experience with this condition.

During pregnancy, it is normal to change weight and shape. Often this is a very difficult issue for many women and it is not unusual to become very self-conscious and even depressed about body image. If you are eating well, exercising regularly and maintaining a reasonably healthy lifestyle it is likely that your body changes are all quite normal. However, if you are feeling concerned about your weight and your body changes, talk to your doctor or midwife who will refer you to an appropriate health professional.


Regular, moderate exercise is recommended as a part of a healthy lifestyle. Good exercise patterns developed before pregnancy can help your body cope with the demands of pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period. Some may also find meditation, relaxation classes or yoga helpful. Certain contact sports (e.g. judo, weightlifting) may be unsuitable when you eventually become pregnant, so it is advisable to look into this. Check with your doctor if you are uncertain about any aspect of exercise in pregnancy.

Medical conditions and fertility

Often conception problems are caused by conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis. Such conditions can be treated or managed so that your fertility returns. If you have a history of gynaecological problems and you wish to become pregnant you should start discussions with your specialist as soon as possible.


Many women today are choosing to delay motherhood until later in life.  Most experience few problems with their eventual pregnancy and childbirth. However, evidence shows that as women age, their chances of becoming pregnant are reduced.

Statistically, there is also an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and birth defects in older women. Women aged over 35 years are also reported to have a higher rate of instrumental delivery (e.g. forceps and caesarean sections).  If you are planning to delay pregnancy until you are older, a genetic counsellor can give you information so that you are fully informed of all the risks.


The Women’s does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided on the Website or incorporated into it by reference. The Women’s provide this information on the understanding that all persons accessing it take responsibility for assessing its relevance and accuracy. Women are encouraged to discuss their health needs with a health practitioner. If you have concerns about your health, you should seek advice from your health care provider or if you require urgent care you should go to the nearest Emergency Dept.