fertility, pregnancy, conception...oh my!
I'm at the age where pregnancy is starting to feel borderline contagious... several of my favorite "inner circle" ladies are popping out adorable little nuggets of joy, baby showers are a typical weekend activity, and "Auntie Colby" has become one of my identities.
Someone is always pregnant, LOL!
And with that, I feel like I am often surrounded by "pregnancy talk" -- gender reveals, fertility tracking apps, ovulation, due dates, and birthing plans are all hot topics of conversation in my world.
For the most part, it's a happy time for my homies. Joyful conversations full of hope and excitement.
Less talked about, however -- although also incredibly present -- are friends (and friends of friends) who have or are currently struggling with what I like to call FERTILITY FRUSTRATION... difficulty conceiving, miscarriage, ovulation obsession, etc.
While these less-than-ideal experiences with babymaking are less oft advertised, they are just as common as the quote-unquote "typical" family planning experience.
Like so many sexuality issues, however, they are JUST NOT TALKED ABOUT.
And when things aren't talked about as freely and openly, we perceive them as happening less often. This inaccurate perception of uniqueness in our own individual circumstances can lead to us feeling alone and abnormal. FOOEY!
So it's time for us to talk about infertility. Out in the open!
Family planning is SO INCREDIBLY different than it was just a generation ago and therefore, the context and culture around getting pregnant, not getting pregnant, being pregnant, finding out you're pregnant, etc. is swirling with misunderstanding. In particular, there are a couple fertility-related commonly-held beliefs I wanted to clear up...
getting pregnant is NOT easy pleasy
Now, BEFORE YOU THROW YOUR CONDOMS OUT THE WINDOW AND SWEAR OFF HORMONAL BIRTH CONTROL, please hear me out!...
Those of us who are today at child-bearing age probably grew up in a world where pregnancy prevention messages were around us as adolescents and teens. We were told that engaging in penis-in-vagina sex without contraception was risky, and could result in pregnancy. ALL TRUE!
However, while the risk of becoming pregnant during a lone act of PIV sex without contraceptions is real and true and indeed present, the likelihood is not high. (For the record, it is very much high enough for ME to still use several methods of contraception, because it is not a risk I'm willing to take right now, but not as high as we as teenagers might have believed).
To put it into numbers, the likelihood of getting pregnant changes depending on the ovulation cycle, but even if you're having contraception-free sex on the peak day of ovulation, the chances of pregnancy are only about 20%.
And that peak day happens only once every month or so!
I've seen couples who feel incredibly frustrated, defeated, and even resentful after not getting pregnant after trying for two or three months. Do some people seem to get pregnant as soon as they stop using birth control? Sure! I'm sure we've just about all heard stories of women getting pregnant the first time they had sex, or on their wedding night, or immediately after getting of the pill. But does that mean it will happen to everyone that way? NO!
Further, stressing out about getting pregnant can have an impact on the body. Particularly, on ovulation. Your body is no dummy, my friends! If it's feeling less-than-suitable to grow a tiny human (such as being stressed out, tired, malnourished, etc.), there's a chance it will protect itself by not releasing an egg.
Taking the pressure off can actually INCREASE pregnancy potential!
Miscarriage is common
If you're reading this and curious about how conception has changed over the years, I encourage you to ask your mom how she got pregnant with you. I'm going to bet she's not going to say, "well my fertility tracking app told me I was ovulating, so we did it and then 3 days later I got a super technologically advanced pregnancy test that was positive!"
Just a generation or so ago, women had to use their bodies - not technology - to track their fertility (like taking their temperature and checking their cervical mucus with their fingers.... yup). And the potential first sign of pregnancy was a missed period - not a test. Women weren't finding out they were pregnant until later in their pregnancy than many women are able to find out now.
Early detection can be great in terms of prenatal care, but can also increase the amount of miscarried pregnancies that women are aware of nowadays. Let's talk in pregnancy terms for a quick minute: fertilization occurs when the egg and sperm meet, and pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg attach to the uterus - during what is called implantation.
It is common for fertilized eggs to not implant, and also common for the body (remember when I said that it was smart AF?) to expel an unviable pregnancy (one that likely won't grow to term) due to a chromosomal or genetic abnormality. Think survival of the fittest! While this is most likely to happen early in the pregnancy - sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant - it is now possible for a woman to find out about her pregnancy super early, but then have that implanted egg naturally expel. That could cause icky feels of grief, sadness, etc.... even though it's just a normal bodily function!
Further, it is also normal for the body (remember when I said that it was smart AF?) to expel an unviable pregnancy (one that likely won't grow to term) due to a chromosomal or genetic abnormality.
The estimated probability of a pregnancy ending in miscarriage ranges from 15-40%. Likely way higher than generally perceived! Because women weren't as aware of its occurrence in the past, it feels like it's happening more often now. Not necessarily, just increased knowledge!
It's always amazing to me how just increased awareness and knowledge can decrease shame around sexuality topics - and how decreased shame can increase conversion and awareness right back! I know some super brave souls who have spoke up and spoke out about their personal experiences with miscarriage and fertility woes, and I super appreciate their willingness to share! It truly changes the narrative for others. Feel free to share your own thoughts or stories in the comments!