Fertility in women means being able to get pregnant and give birth to a baby.
Whether you want to get pregnant or not, it is important to know that you are most likely to fall pregnant after having unprotected sex during the time when your body is ovulating.
Ovulation is the release of an egg from one of a woman's ovaries. Around the time when this happens, you are more likely to get pregnant through unprotected sex.
Ovulation usually happens about 14 days, or 2 weeks before your period starts and lasts for about a week.
As sperm can live for up to 7 days, it is possible to be fertile a few days before and after ovulation.
To work out exactly when you ovulate, you need to know how many days there are between the first day of your period and the day before your next period. This is your menstrual cycle.
Fertility awareness methods (FAM)
Fertility awareness is when you keep track of when you ovulate to either avoid pregnancy, or to get pregnant.
Since every person’s cycle is different and can be affected by things like sickness, stress and travel, fertility awareness can be difficult.
To work this out, it can help to use a period and fertility tracking app like:
Tip: You can learn more about your Fertility and getting pregnant on the Your Fertility website (external link).
Some people who can’t get pregnant, or who are having trouble getting pregnant, choose to have fertility treatments. There are many types of fertility treatments.
Artificial insemination involves inserting a male partner or donor’s sperm into a woman’s uterus to make her pregnant.
In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is a procedure in which a sperm and an egg are joined together outside a body and then transferred into a woman’s uterus.
Ovulation induction involves taking medication to encourage eggs to develop in the ovaries and be released. This increases the chance of falling pregnant.
Sometimes when people get pregnant, they have no symptoms at all, but some common symptoms you might experience if you are pregnant include:
- missing your period
- feeling sick and vomiting
- sore breasts
- needing to urinate more often.
If you have these symptoms or are having sex without contraception you can check if you are pregnant by using a pregnancy test. You can buy these from a supermarket or chemist. To find out for sure, you can also go to your doctor, family planning centre, or women’s health service and ask them to do some tests to check if you are pregnant.
Remember! Finding out you are pregnant can sometimes be scary, but you always have choices about what you can do.
Having a baby
If you decide you want to go through with a pregnancy and become a parent, you will need to go to the doctor to talk to them about how to stay healthy while you are pregnant. You will also need to book in for some important tests. This will include:
- blood tests
- ultrasound scans.
Genetic testing is when expecting parents take a blood test to look for genes that can lead to certain diseases in their baby.
Most genetic diseases can usually only be passed on to a baby if both biological parents have the gene, and they are not always passed on even when this is the case.
Genetic testing is sometimes encouraged if one of the parents has a disease that impacts significantly on their life. However, genetic testing is always optional and it is up to the parents to decide if they would like to do it.
Tip: You can learn more about genetic testing on the Health Direct website (external link).
Becoming a parent
If you are thinking about becoming a parent, you should think about what you should do to get ready. You should think about things like:
- am I ready to be a mum?
- do I have enough money to look after a baby?
- where will we live?
- are there people who will support me in my decision? (like family, friends or a partner)?
- do I need extra support?
- do I need adaptable equipment? (e.g. a height adjustable change table).
If you need support or want to talk to someone you can contact your local family planning clinic.
If you find out you are pregnant but do not want to have a baby, you can choose to have an abortion.
Having an abortion involves the removal of an embryo or foetus from your uterus to stop you being pregnant. This can be done through a small surgery, or with medication you take at home. An abortion is also commonly referred to as a termination.
If you decide you want to get an abortion, you will need to see a doctor or go to your local family planning clinic (external link).
Your doctor or family planning clinic will be able to tell you what your options are and how much each of them will cost you. An abortion needs to happen fairly quickly after you become pregnant so you should see your doctor as soon as possible to discuss this option.
While abortion is legal across Australia, the laws around how far through a pregnancy you can have an abortion is different in each state and territory.
Australian Capital Territory
In the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), abortion is fully legal if it is approved and undertaken by a trained medical practitioner.
In Queensland (QLD), abortion is legal up to 22 weeks, or after 22 weeks with sign off from 2 medical practitioners.
New South Wales
In New South Wales (NSW), It is legal to have an abortion up to 22 weeks of pregnancy and after this with sign off from 2 medical practitioners.
In the Northern Territory (NT), abortion is legal up to 14 weeks with one doctor's approval, and at 14 - 23 weeks with 2 medical practitioners sign off. It is not legal after 23 weeks unless it is needed to save a life.
In South Australia (SA), abortion is only legal if 2 medical practitioners agree that the pregnancy would endanger the individual’s physical or mental health, or if the baby has a medical condition that is life threatening.
In Tasmania (TAS), it is legal to have an abortion up to 16 weeks of pregnancy and after this with sign off from 2 medical practitioners.
In Victoria (VIC), it is legal to get an abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, and after this with sign off from 2 medical practitioners.
In Western Australia (WA), abortion is legal up to 20 weeks with support from a counsellor. In some cases it is possible to have an abortion up to 24 weeks if at least 2 members of a government appointed panel agree that a woman or foetus has a severe medical condition.
Sometimes when people become pregnant unexpectedly, they choose to give birth to the baby and then give it up for adoption. When this happens, another individual or family can adopt and look after the baby.
Adopting out a baby can be option for you if you become pregnant and don't want to or can't have an abortion but also don't want to be a parent.
Adopting a baby can also be an option for you if you want to be a parent, but can't give birth to a child.
Note: Adoption can be a fairly difficult thing to do, and involves different legal processes depending on where you live. If you are thinking about giving a baby up for a adoption, or adopting a child, you should talk to your state or territory government.
To find out more, go to the Adopt Change website (external link).