For all couples having regular, unprotected intercourse of 1-3 times a week, who are neither seeking nor avoiding a pregnancy, the pregnancy rate is about 20% in the first month. In the second month, the pregnancy rate is about 20% of the remainder, and by the end of the third month, about half are pregnant. About 85% will be pregnant at the end of one year of unprotected intercourse.
Other factors influence fertility, however. Peak fertility rates occur when a woman is in her 20's and gradually declines after age 30. By her mid-40's, even though she continues to have regular menstrual flows, her natural fertility usually will have declined to about that of a 22 year old who uses a diaphragm for contraception.
The mid-cycle surge in LH, FSH, and estrogen that accompanies ovulation stimulates, in some women, an increase in sexual feelings and responsiveness to sexual initiatives by her partner. The consequences of these impulses are an increased likelihood of conception at that particular time of the menstrual cycle.
Frequency of intercourse also influences fertility. Couples having intercourse once or twice a month are less likely to conceive than those having intercourse several times a week.
Frequency of ovulation is important. Women whose menstrual cycles are every 40-60 days are significantly less fertile, not only because of the diminished opportunity for fertilization, but also because many of these women have some degree of insulin resistence, which lengthens the cycle frequency and also affects the quality of the eggs released.
There is no single best contraceptive technique for all people under all circumstances. A diaphragm may be a good choice for one couple and a terrible choice for another couple. An IUD might be a bad idea for a women at one stage in her life and an excellent choice for the same woman at another stage in her life. For these reasons, it is important for the physician to be skilled at counseling individuals in contraceptive techniques, to help them meet their contraceptive goals.
OB-GYN 101: Introductory
Obstetrics & Gynecology
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