Article by Kate Davies RN BSc (Hons), Fertility Practitioner,
Welcome to Fertility Awareness’s first blog post! I have to admit that I have been putting off writing this blog for a couple of weeks. Why? Well……in my wisdom I posted on Facebook that I was about to start blogging and asked my fans for some ideas of what they would like my first blog to be about and they wanted to know about the facts about fertility. My first thought was, where on earth do I start? This is such a big topic!
So this is it, I am blogging about the real need to know facts about fertility. The ones that are crucial, the ones that really matter.
Firstly, If you are reading this because you are trying to conceive. Please know that you are not alone. 1 in 6 couples experience problems conceiving, and if this is you I would urge you to seek advice sooner rather than later. There is so much that you can be doing now to optimise your fertility.
The fertility fact that I most worry about is age. We can’t stop getting older and that internal ticking clock. Before you know it, your most fertile years have passed you by…….but what we can do is really think about what we want out of life and that includes if we want children and if we do, how many? It’s a fact that we are most fertile in our teens and twenties, probably when most of us don’t want to be highly fertile! All those years using contraception to avoid getting pregnant, the fear when contraception lets you down and the wait to see if an ‘accident’ has occurred! The sad fact is that by the time we are ready to try to conceive in our late twenties, our fertility is decreasing and by the age of 35 it declines sharply. A big myth is that men stay fertile and age doesn’t matter for them. Not true at all, Men’s fertility declines with age too. Compared to men in their twenties, men aged over 45 face a five-fold increase in the time taken to achieve pregnancy. So it is a fact that we can’t ignore the ticking clock.
Kate’s Fertility Tip: I recommend to patients to decide how many children you would like and then work backwards in age, this then gives you an idea on when you should start trying to conceive.
It is an absolute fact that many women have no idea as to when they are most fertile. This is not helped by us health professionals that tell you that you are fertile on day 14 of your cycle. Total myth! Sure, if you have a 28 day cycle you will be fertile around day 14 but very few women have a 28 day cycle! For example a women who has a 24 day cycle will ovulate sooner than day 14 and a woman who has a 32 day cycle, later. I often wonder how many couples out there are waiting for the magic ‘day 14′ only to be too late or way to early. Add in to this conundrum the fact that the life of the ovum (egg) is only 12-24 hours and you begin to wonder how anyone ever gets pregnant! The good news however, is that sperm hangs around a bit longer than the ovum and lives for about 5 days (and can be up to 7) so the chances of sperm meeting egg is increased. However that’s only if you are having sex at the right time and even enough.
Kate’s Fertility Tip: Research shows that sex every 2-3 days throughout the cycle produces healthy sperm. So stop that targeting of your fertile time and have sex more frequently.
Our bodies are amazing! A woman has natural fertility indicators that tell her when she is in her fertile time. These are namely, changes in basal body temperature, changes in cervical secretions and changes in the position of the cervix. Cervical secretions are actually the most accurate fertile indicator. Throughout the month a woman’s cervical secretions change from no secretions (known as dry days) to fertile secretions. With a little help, these are really easy to identify and are key to determining when you are fertile. Changes in temperature is the second natural fertility indicator. This one is a little tricky as a rise in temperature is an indication that ovulation (release of the egg) has already occurred. Many women get confused with this and think that a temperature rise means they are fertile. Wrong, they are too late. The final indicator is our cervix (neck of the womb), this changes in feel and position throughout the cycle.
Kate’s Fertility Tip: So, if you put these three indicators together and learn how to accurately identify them, you can determine when you are most fertile. Not only that, this skill (with a little more understanding) can be used to avoid pregnancy as a natural and effective (up to 99%) method of contraception. What a gift our body has given us. I thank you Mother Nature!
There are, unfortunately a number of physical problems that can make it more difficult for a woman to conceive. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Endometriosis and Fibroids to name but a few. There can also be imbalances that influence our delicate female sex hormones, such as overactive or under active thyroid. There are certain medical conditions that may also make it difficult to conceive like diabetes, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Luckily, medical intervention can help a great deal if a woman has a condition that makes it more difficult to conceive. The important thing to know is, that if this is you – get help even before you want to try to conceive.
Men’s sperm can be compromised by certain medical conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes and mumps; again to mention but a few. Environmental factors also impact, laptops are a big no no! Don’t put them on your laps chaps! A laptop raises the temperature of the testis affecting sperm production as does cycling shorts. There is an observation I make when I meet a partner of a woman trying to conceive – does he have big thighs and hot hands? Nothing scientific to support this, but is he overweight (therefore the body fat warming up the genital area) and is it likely that his body temperature is constantly a little high?
In both men and women it’s important to consider your sexual health. Have you had any previous sexually transmitted infections? Some of which can impact on fertility and importantly have you had a recent sexual health screen.
Kate’s Fertility Tip: I recommend before you start trying to conceive that you both go and have a sexual health screen and make sure that your cervical smear is in date too.
Weight issues are one of the common problems I see that affect our reproductive potential. Oestrogen is stored in body fat and is released into the body by our fat cells and this in turn suppresses the release of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) preventing ovulation, therefore if you are significantly overweight you may find it harder to become pregnant. Equally, if you are significantly underweight your oestrogen production might fall and you may ovulate less or even stop ovulating altogether. I work out a woman’s body mass index (BMI) to determine whether she is within a health weight range. A healthy BMI is between 19-24.
Both the man and woman need to consider how they can optimise their fertility by giving consideration to nutrition. A well balanced healthy diet plays an important part in conceiving and there are even ‘super foods’ that can have a positive impact on your ability to conceive. The list is endless but pomegrantes and blueberries are rich in antioxidants and packed full of crucial vitamins. Other ‘super foods’ work on protecting the sperm and ovum or maintaining healthy secretions. I assess which area needs boosting and advise provide my patients with bespoke recommendations.
Did you know that lifestyle such as smoking, drugs, alcohol and caffeine can all have detrimental affects on the quality of the ovum and sperm? This is a huge area and one that I will go into greater detail in a future blog but today lets consider men and smoking. Research concludes that men who smoke have a 30-70% lower sperm count then men who are non-smokers. That is massive! The good news though is once you have stopped smoking, after a year the time to conception in an ex-smoker is no greater than those who have never smoked.
Recent research has shown just how stress impacts on our ability to conceive. I like to think of it as the ‘mind-body’ affect. Psychological factors really do impact and are dependent on our stress levels, ability to cope with stress and even our positivity. I encourage my patients to consider how they deal with stress, what are their triggers for stress and help them to develop strategies for coping with and where possible eliminating stress. Not easy when you are stressing because you can’t get pregnant!
Kate’s Fertility Tip: If you are trying to conceive and feel that your ‘mind-body’ affect is a little out of kilter, consider reflexology or yoga, or start recording your fertility journey so that you can be reminded of the positive days and see that as well as bad days there is hope too.
If reading my blog has made you think about your fertility potential and you would like to discuss this more. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or via Facebook www.facebook.com/Fertaware
Please do leave me a message below and let me know what you think of our first ever blog post!
Thank you for reading and until next time………..
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