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An OB/GYN answers the 10 top questions women want to ask about fertility—but don't

Our biology and its baby-making capabilities shouldn't be a surprise when life gives the green light for reproduction, and we should feel confident talking with our medical professionals when the time comes, but it can often feel overwhelming or uncomfortable to ask in person.

Here are the top 10 questions about fertility I feel my patients are often hesitant to ask.

1. Can I get pregnant?

The answer is truly you don't know until you actually conceive. We can do tests for many aspects—are you ovulating, are the tubes open, does the mucus in the cervix like your partner's sperm? Does your partner have enough sperm? And all those questions can have positive results, and still one may not conceive.

2. What about freezing my eggs when I am young? Will that guarantee a baby later when I am older?

The answer here is similar to the question above: You.don't know until you try. So you can have lovely eggs retrieved and frozen but when they are unfrozen, there is a chance that they may not be able to be fertilized. So that's why I am hesitant to reassure women that it'll guarantee pregnancy in the future. The good news is yes, in general, it does work, but not 100% of the time.

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3. How does age affect fertility?

We are born with all our eggs and they get older with us, and alas harder to fertilize. Fertility starts to decline beyond age 35, not precipitously there, but substantially, with a more marked decline at age 40 or so. If a woman is under age 35, we encourage women to seek medical attention if she has been trying to conceive for a year or more and hasn't been able to conceive. If a woman is 35 or older, we encourage her to check in with us after about 6 months of trying.

4. What can I do on my own, health-habits wise, to increase my fertility?

There are a few tried and true ways to remain healthy. Try to achieve your ideal body weight as both being underweight and overweight can impact fertility. Stop smoking as it can age the ovaries, causing earlier menopause and can even increase the rate of SIDS in children. Limit your drinking and avoid drugs—a good habit to get into before conceiving. You can start taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid—having folic acid on board when you conceive reduces the risk of a number of birth defects, including neural tube defects, like spina bifida.

5. What at-home tests can I do on my own?

There are a couple that are very easy. You can pinpoint your ovulation with ovulation predictor kits, such as the First Response ovulation predictor kit. They're very reliable and will guide you when to have sex with the most likelihood of success in conception. And if it looks like you are not ovulating, check in with your provider. You can also check up on your ovarian reserve at home to see how "zippy" your ovaries are (are there lots of eggs left?). These tests can serve as a guideline to how vigorous you should be acting on your fertility and when to speak with your doctor.

6. What specifically can men do to help with fertility?

A few things could be helpful. If he is a big drinker, encourage him to take it easy since alcohol isn't great for healthy sperm production. And if he loves to sit in a hot tub, you might "cool him down" as sperm don't like hot temperatures. If you have concerns, he can also be tested to determine his sperm production.

7. If you are having problems as a couple conceiving, should you have your partner tested?

Absolutely! About 50% of infertility is due to male factors and fortunately, it is really easy to test. They'll collect a sperm sample by masturbation, and it's off to the lab and you will get a quick answer.

8. How soon can I find out if I am pregnant?

I wouldn't test 10 minutes after having sex, but indeed, an early pregnancy detection test such as the First Response test, will turn positive as early as six days before the first day of the missed period (and to think of how long women had to wait in the past!).

9. If I am having problems conceiving, do I have to start IVF?

Not necessarily. There are many simple medications that can help women ovulate, and if the fallopian tubes are blocked, sometimes even the test can detect that. There are various procedures that can help open the tubes so don't fear that you are automatically in need of IVF. Speak to your doctor with about your specific concerns.

10. If I do need IVF, will it break the bank?

Again, not necessarily. Many states mandate insurance coverage for infertility therapy so that depends on where you live and what kind of insurance you have. Do check with your provider who can give you the information you need.

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This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

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