“No, you don’t understand,” I pleaded with my doctor over the phone. “I’ve been charting my cycles since before we’ve been married. We’ve been trying for a baby for 6 months, having intercourse during my most fertile days, and we’ve had no luck so far. I think something is off, and I’d like to be referred to a Natural Procreative Technology doctor to get help.”
It was true: statistically speaking, I should in all likelihood have been pregnant after 6 months of trying for a baby, precisely because my husband and I were using my Natural Family Planning (NFP) charts so that we were specifically trying on my most fertile days. But my doctor at the time was perhaps not as familiar with these facts as I was, and could only seem to hear that we’d “only” been trying for 6 months, when the “clinical standard” for a diagnosis of infertility at my age is 12 months of trying.
She refused to refer me to a Natural Procreative Technology (NaPro) doctor, which meant my husband and I would be responsible for all of the medical bills if we chose to go that route to explore what might be causing our sub-fertility or infertility. Needless to say, we felt stuck.
Thankfully, though, fate intervened shortly thereafter. We moved, and I was assigned a new primary care provider who was highly knowledgeable in NFP, and also familiar with NaPro science and techniques—and especially NaPro’s superior efficacy at overcoming certain types of infertility over the “conventional” methods of infertility treatment (like IUI and IVF, which had been recommended to us).
When this new doctor heard that we’d been trying for a baby unsuccessfully for what had become 9 months—despite still using my charts to try to conceive on my most fertile days—he knew that something was probably wrong, and wanted to get started on treating me right away. With his help and the help of a trained NaPro doctor, we were finally able to address the root cause of my infertility issues, and today we have a happy, healthy, 15-month-old as a result.
I came to realize my experience can offer some answers to many women today who are wondering, how long should you try to get pregnant before seeking professional help? Or, how do I know I’ve really tried everything before responding to persistent fertility ads for expensive procedures like IVF?
The good news is you can receive help from an infertility specialist to identify if there’s a deeper issue preventing you from getting (or staying) pregnant. The following are are a few factors that come into play when making that decision.
1. Are You Charting?
Charting your cycles can actually help you get pregnant faster. The typical clinical standard for a diagnosis of infertility is a failure to become pregnant after 12 months of random, contraceptive-free intercourse. That’s because more than 90% of couples who try to get pregnant that way will achieve pregnancy within 1 year.
However, if you are aware of your most fertile days and have “targeted” or “focused” intercourse (i.e., sex on and around your most fertile days, per your charts), you can actually cut that time in half. According to the researchers at Marquette (the developers of one of the leading methods of NFP, the Sympto-hormonal method): “for a couple practicing NFP, who know when they are fertile, if they have not conceived after 6 months of focused intercourse during the fertile time, they are also considered infertile. This is based on studies that show 98% of couples of normal fertility will conceive within 6 months of focused intercourse, most of them within the first 3 months.”
Unfortunately, as I experienced, a typical doctor might not consider you infertile if you’ve been trying for “only” 6 months. As someone who’s been there, I know those 6 months can feel like an eternity. I don’t know a single woman struggling to conceive who wouldn’t choose to cut her wait time in half, if she could. This is why learning to chart your cycle with Natural Family Planning or another Fertility Awareness-Based Method (FABM) from a certified instructor is step one.
If you’ve been charting and having targeted intercourse for 6 or more months without successfully conceiving, that’s when you might want to consider scheduling an appointment with a NaPro doctor in your area. Chances are, they could begin figuring out what’s causing your infertility right away—without making you wait an additional 6 months before getting started.
2. How Old Are You?
Unfortunately, there is definitely something to the “biological clock” adage. After age 35, women experience a steep drop in their fertility, which can make it much more difficult to achieve pregnancy. Fortunately, doctors have realized the importance of quickly initiating treatment when a woman 35 and older and having difficulty getting pregnant, and will refer her to an infertility specialist after only 6 unsuccessful months of trying for a baby with contraceptive-free intercourse.
So if you are over the age of 35, even if you haven’t been charting, you might want to consider seeking help getting pregnant at the 6-month mark. Before trying an expensive method like IVF that might not work, find a professional who will take a closer look at what your natural reproductive system can do. NaProTECHNOLOGY and other FABM-specialized doctors can often help even women over 35 women achieve (and keep) a pregnancy, too, while improving their overall health.
3. Are You Experiencing Any Other Symptoms?
If you are charting your cycles and notice that they look off—especially if you are also experiencing any of the symptoms of common menstrual irregularities or reproductive issues like PCOS or endometriosis—getting treated for those issues early on may help ensure that you have less difficulty getting pregnant.
I, for one, wish that I had sought help from a NaPro doctor earlier, even before trying for a baby. I had noticed that my charts didn’t look quite right even before we got married, and I was experiencing increasingly painful periods with brown bleeding at the end. As it turned out, these were all tell-tale signs of a classic case of Luteal Phase Deficiency, which my NaPro doctors were able to treat. Had I sought help even before we began trying for a baby, perhaps it wouldn’t have taken us so long to get pregnant once we were ready to start trying.
It’s important to remember that FABM-educated doctors, including NaPro or FEMM certified practitioners, are often able to treat the root causes of many of the underlying issues causing infertility, working with the body to help couples achieve pregnancy naturally in a way that conventional infertility treatments (like IVF and IUI) are not able to do—and at a fraction of the cost. My husband and I are so thankful for the doctors who treat fertility as a “fifth vital sign” and realize the value of charting to get much-needed information for infertile and subfertile couples. I am forever grateful this helped us get (and stay) pregnant with our son.