< back to 12wbt.com

Can’t Get Pregnant? 5 Possible Reasons Why

You can try, try and try again, but sometimes pregnancy can be elusive. Here’s some reasons why it’s possible that you can’t get pregnant, and what you can do about it.

While studies show that 85 percent of couples having regular, unprotected sex get pregnant in the first year of trying, the rest aren’t so lucky. Many end up baffled, wondering where they’ve gone wrong – and worried that the only way they’ll have a baby is via fertility treatments.

Comparing yourselves to other couples who may do all the ‘wrong things’ but have no problem falling pregnant isn’t helpful, explains Dr Simone Campbell from Brisbane’s City Fertility Centre.

“We all know of couples who are overweight and get pregnant easily,” says the fertility specialist. “Or couples who drink a lot or smoke a lot or who are older, and yet get pregnant easily. But I say to my patients, if they were you, you wouldn’t be sitting in my room right now asking for advice.”

But don’t run off to the nearest fertility clinic just yet. Instead, sit down with your partner and answer the five questions on our get-pregnant checklist.

1. Do you… Need to Lose Weight?

If you’ve ever thought being heavier might be impeding your ability to conceive, you’d be right. Studies show the ideal BMI to conceive is between 20 and 25. Getting into a healthy weight range is key – and not just for actual conception, but for pregnancy and the future health of your child.

“When it comes to conception, overweight women can stop having periods,” says Dr Campbell. “Carrying extra weight can also cause irregular ovulation. Plus, if either one of the partners we’re treating is overweight, the chance of conception is significantly reduced. In IVF settings, increased weight in women decreases pregnancy rates. And if the woman is a normal weight but the guy is overweight, their chances are also lower because of the sperm damage that happens with obesity.”

If you do get pregnant when you’re overweight, the risk of complications – miscarriage, diabetes and premature delivery – is significantly higher, she adds, and it’s also worthwhile considering the impact your weight can have on your kids.

“We know there are metabolic changes that happen during pregnancy that predispose the baby to having metabolic syndrome and diabetes when they’re older. It’s so important that, as a society, we all try to get healthier.”

2. Do You… Smoke?

This is number one on the list for both men and women, says Dr Campbell. “Smoking obviously affects your general health, but we know it can affect the lining of the uterus, making implantation an issue. Plus, smoking releases a lot of toxins and it’s just not maximising the environment the embryo is going to be trying to implant into.”

For men, smoking is extra concerning as DNA damage in sperm is often a big factor in infertility and can be overlooked. “Sperm is created in the testes but stored for three months in the epididymis next to the scrotum,” says Dr Campbell. “And anything you do to your body in that time is going to affect the sperm, including every cigarette you’ve smoked. So, the sperm you ejaculate today has been exposed to every oxidative stress your body’s been under for the past three months.

Damaged sperm is less likely to result in pregnancy and if it does fertilise an egg, it’s less likely to make a nice embryo and more likely to end in miscarriage. We’ve got a good rate here of men stopping smoking, especially when we tell them exactly what smoking does to their sperm.”

Frequent ejaculation is very important as well, she adds. “Two to three times per week just to keep the sperm moving on. Plus, because sperm is stored for three months, any change you make now is not actually going to change your sperm health for 8 to 12 weeks.”

3. Do You… Have Sex at the Right Time?

If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a while, you’ll know just how tiny that little window of opportunity is each month. Even if you’re having sex two or three times a week, as experts suggest, the chances of egg meeting sperm are surprisingly low.

“You need to learn about yourself and your own cycle,” says Dr Campbell. “Because while you may have read that you need to have sex on day 14, if you actually ovulate on day 19, you may miss that opportunity to conceive.”

How can you know when you’re ovulating? The Billings Ovulation Method teaches you to track changes in your cervical mucus. Or you can use an ovulation kit, which pinpoints the surge in hormones you get 12 to 36 hours before you ovulate. Taking your temperature each morning before you get out of bed is another technique – but it isn’t as helpful, says Dr Campbell.

“The problem with temperature charting is that the big changes happen after you ovulate,” she explains. “So while your temperature chart can tell you that you’ve ovulated, it’s not so good at predicting when you will.”

She adds: “Eggs reliably last for 12 hours, and they can last for 24. Sperm reliably lasts three or four days, although it can last up to five. So if you’ve only got a day when the egg and the sperm are alive at the same time, there’s a good chance you’ll miss that if you’re not onto it. If you’re 25, having sex whenever is fine because when the egg and sperm meet they’re more likely to make a pregnancy. But if you’re 41, you’re fighting the numbers anyhow and you shouldn’t waste any opportunity.”

4. Do you… have PCOS, insulin resistance or both?

Certain hormonal conditions can hamper your attempts to conceive, such as insulin resistance and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). The two are often linked. “PCOS can impede your chances of getting pregnant mostly because it might stop you ovulating,” says Dr Campbell.

“Symptoms of PCOS classically include irregular or absent periods, being overweight, having insulin resistance, suffering from pimples or facial hair, and having a classic ‘ring’ of small follicles in the ovary. If you have regular periods, it’s unlikely you have it.”

If you do have PCOS and insulin resistance – and are overweight – studies show that losing as little as 5 percent of your body weight can help your body start ovulating naturally again. “That’s absolutely proven,” says Dr Campbell. “You don’t have to get back into a normal weight range to necessarily have a chance at pregnancy, and it’s preferable to taking medication which may lead to multiple pregnancies – not a great option for a woman who’s overweight.”

5. Do you… keep putting parenthood off?

Of course, you can’t do anything about your age or when you’re ready for kids – or even when you meet the partner you want to have kids with. But biologically, there’s something to be said for getting your skates on earlier if you can. In one study published last year in the UK journal Human Reproduction, a whopping 67 percent of women and 81 percent of men inaccurately believed that female fertility drops after the age of 40. The reality? A woman’s fertility starts to decline markedly between 35 and 39.

“Your 20s is your best time to try and get pregnant, but by 35 your fertility is dropping,” says Dr Campbell. “And while you may want to wait a few years, you don’t really know what [will happen with] your fertility, so if you want to have babies and you’re in a relationship, get on with it. Women who want to be reassured that they can put it off for the next five years – well, we can’t give them that.”

The problem, adds Dr Campbell, includes our changing society and the fact that many people just don’t meet the right person until they’re older – if at all. “Women don’t choose to be 35 or 39 without a partner and wanting children. It might not be the ideal and what you planned… but in many women, that drive to have kids is pretty strong.”

If you’re single or you’ve been trying for six months and you’re over 35, it can’t hurt to get some advice. “Looking at the statistics, a lot of fertility units have a pregnancy rate of about 40 percent if you’re under 38 and around 30 percent if you’re over 38. And coming to see a fertility specialist doesn’t necessarily mean IVF – it’s about maximising your chances in every way possible.”

For more expert advice and to get in shape to help you improve the chances of you and your partner falling pregnant, sign up for 12 Week Body Transformation.

Meet the Author, Rachel Smith

Rachel Smith is a Sydney-based health journalist who covers sex and relationships, fitness and weight-loss, fertility, anti-aging and general wellness. When she’s not writing for magazines, newspapers and websites, Rachel moonlights as an advice columnist at her relationships and dating blog, www.realitychick.com.au. Continue Reading →


  1. Sophie's 12WBT Story: "12WBT Got Me Pregnant!" | 12WBT12WBT Reply

    […] have shown losing weight and getting healthy can improve your fertility. Here at 12WBT HQ we have heard lots of stories from 12WBT Members who suspect the improved health […]

  2. Tomas kennedy Reply

    How about trying natural methods as in this guide: http://dess.me/PMl

  3. Hannah Reply

    Great article Rachel.

    For those who feel like they’ve tried everything I recommend a guide called “Pregnancy Miracle” by Lisa Olson. Her tips have help MANY couples so hopefully she can continue to help more.

    You can find her guide at: http://www.TryTheMiracle.com

    1. Naomi Bright Reply

      Brilliant, thank you Hannah.

  4. Andrea Ramsay Reply

    Dear friends it is almost two months now since i order a pregnancy spell cast on me from this email zogospellcasters@gmail.com i saw in a website on how he help a couple to get pregnant and i contacted him which i started seeing changes on my body since the first week of last month and it two months and i am carrying my own baby in my womb i am so happy that i finally get pregnant after all i have been through. contact him for any problems you are having, he will surely provide you a solution, All thanks be to him

  5. Katrina Cole Reply

    I’d like to thank Dr.Yun Ye for his help with my infertility and share my success baby story.
    I have been diagnosed with PCOS, having irregular periods and the possibility of not ovulating regularly.
    I was 37 and referred to a fertility specialist.
    I’ve been put on clomid and I’ve had 3 miscarriages and then I could not even get pregnant,
    After spending 2 years with a fertility specialist, I have realized it was time to try something else. I asked to be
    referred to another fertility clinic and while waiting for my appointment,
    I decided to give acupunture a try. I was been referred to a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor, Dr. Yun Ye,
    by someone who was in her early 40s, i got His Traditional Medicine and then got pregnant, it worked like magic,
    I was hesitant to try it at first and I had had Dr. Ye’s contact information for some time before I contacted him.
    After 3 months of herbal treatment (cooking dried herbs and drinking the herbal tea 2x a day), herbal tincture,
    my ultrasound report read “no polycystic ovaries”. I continued with acupuncture and herbal tinctures for a few more months
    and after 2 months of cycle monitoring with Dr. Ye, I got pregnant.
    During my pregnancy I continued to take herbal tinctures that are safe in pregnancy, I felt great.
    I hope to try to get pregnant again soon with the help of Dr. Ye.
    I would like to pass my experience and information to all women who are struggling with infertility,
    with or without PCOS or any other diagnoses, and who are interested in finding out more.
    There is a chance that you can get pregnant naturally.
    All you need to do is bring your body in balance and that is what Traditional Chinese Medicine does,
    Unlike Western medicine, it does not fix one problem and create another in your body,
    it installs balance to the whole body.”

    You can contact Dr. Yun via eMail;doctoryechinesemedicine@yahoo.com

    (Search For Dr. Yun Ye on Google)

  6. problems Reply

    I have irregular periods I have to be on birth control not only for that reason but because of my wacked out hormones …. what can I do?
    I’m only 19 but wish someone before 35 I can conceive but my geno said I only have 10% chance which isn’t very high.

    1. jazz Reply

      firstly – get off birth control! the reason your hormones are whacked out is because of all the fake hormones you are putting in your body. i can highly recommend Fusion Health “Womens Balance” from health food shop, to regulate your hormones and period. It worked like a miracle for me. i used to get mine every 20 days, for the past 15 years, very short ovulation cycle, now it’s out to 28 days. birth control has fake eostregon which will ruin your health and cause cancer down the track.

  7. Vanessa Victory Reply

    I was diagnosed w/ pcos. Took me over a year to get pregnant. I had to go on conceiveeasy to regulate my cycles first. I’m glad a natural option was available to me. I have friends who needed surgery to correct their fertility issues, so I am thankful.

  8. Toni Reply

    Interesting read. The only part I don’t agree with is the comment ‘If you have regular periods, it’s unlikely you have it.’

    As symptoms of pcos does vary from person to person. Eg. my menses is like clock work and yet i have been diagnosed with having pcos due to the hormonal imbalance, follicles, weight and hair.

  9. ella lisa Reply

    Testimony of my life was just a beginner of life when i lost my first pregnancy i thought it was a stress but it keep occurring ,one day i had to go for check up and doctor said it was as a result of fibroid that i can’t get pregnant unless i go for operation but it was going to be 50-50 so i was afraid that i hard to go for native herb of DR.ODUMA (dr.odumalovetemple@gmail.com) which i used for 3month then i put up a strong believe that it was over i had to go for check up and doctor confirm that it was gone, what a great joy so i now hard to believe that not all herb are fake with GOD and DR.ODUMA herbs i was cured from that fibroid now i am carrying my baby boy in my hand as i sing a song of testimony. Email him (dr.odumalovetemple@gmail.com) or call him +2349032730545

  10. Syd Matthews Reply

    I have been trying everything for a year to get pregnant, and nothing has worked. I am only 19, and in pretty good shape. I am terrified to go to my doctor to find out I can’t conceive a child. It would upset both me and my soon to be husband. We aren’t using any protection or trying to stop from getting pregnant, and nothing. Last month, I thought I was pregnant because my period was two weeks late then finally came. What to do? I want to have a baby and would do anything to have one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>