So you are trying to conceive and each month you are not pregnant seems like an eternity. You start to think “Am I doing something wrong?” or “Is there a problem?” but you don’t really know where to go or who to ask… Well, read on because this article will answer many questions for you will clarify the options available to you.
Currently in Australia 1 in 6 couples is infertile and according to the World Health Organisation, worldwide over eighty million people are affected. There are many reasons for this, as infertility statistics increase for several reasons including late marriage, postponed child bearing, sexually transmitted and other infections, hormonal imbalances, physical/mechanical reproductive problems, autoimmune disorders, sperm and egg production defects, as well as lifestyle and environmental factors.
Infertility is described as 12 months of unprotected intercourse without conception. Generally 40 percent of contributing factors are attributed to male causes, 40 percent female and 20 percent is unexplained. Many reproductive concerns which can impact fertility including poor sperm parameters, lack of ovulation, long cycles, short cycles, polycystic ovarian syndrome and more can be treated with natural medicines and strategies with excellent results. Sure if you have been trying for 12 months and you are not pregnant some fine tuning is required and some medical investigations are recommended however this does not replace the need to ensure you and your partner are in peak health for optimum fertility.
You want to give yourself the best possible chance of creating the healthy baby of your dreams. At the same time you want to give your child the best possible start in life, but you are having trouble conceiving and are not really sure what to do?
Simple. Start from the beginning.
A healthy body is a fertile body and the health of your baby is in great part decided before a pregnancy is even in sight. You see, by 8 weeks gestation a baby’s health blueprint is already created, as are his or her tiny organs and little fingerprints! At this stage his or her health vulnerabilities and strengths are set by the ‘map’ guiding this miracle of creation. It is fair to say that once a pregnancy is established your child’s health potential becomes the lowest common denominator of you and your partner’s health at the point of conception.
So, how do you overcome fertility problems and give your child, the best possible start in life? Ensure you and your partner are in optimum health by beginning the preparation for your most important event yet, at least 120 days prior to a conception attempt—whether you are trying to conceive naturally or using any form of assisted reproductive technologies.
Here are some suggested steps and conception options you can choose from on your conception journey.
Step 1: Optimise your health for at least 120 days and rule out any physical problems.
Why 120 days? The quality of the egg and sperm today is the reflection of everything that was happening in your life and immediate environment over the previous 4 months. Your complete health picture during that time including nutrition, stress levels, blood oxygenation, hormone levels, emotions and other factors affect the quality of your fertility in the current month.
Studies show that when both prospective parents take a comprehensive, step-by-step approach to optimise their health thereby actively preparing for a healthy pregnancy, this will not only improve chances of having a healthy baby, but it also reduces the likelihood of miscarriage, congenital abnormalities, pregnancy complications, prematurity and still births. In addition, British research reveals a 78.4 percent success rate in conception for previously infertile couples, and for those who require IVF the same approach has been shown to increase the chances of conception through IVF by 47.1 percent.
As far as ruling out any physical problems this is essential to fast track your results. Ideally for men, this includes having a semen analysis at a specialist fertility clinic (be sure to talk to your rabbi for religious guidelines). The semen can be collected post intercourse using a special condom if for religious reasons providing a sample is problematic. Ruling out male fertility issues upfront is the most effective way of saving time and potential heartache down the track—if there are any issues, they can often very easily be addressed naturally during the preconception period with excellent results—and in cases of more serious issues there are many excellent assisted reproductive options which will be discussed later.
For women, having hormonal levels checked, and sometimes also a pelvic ultrasound that can show fallopian tube clearance, will help to rule out any potential problems that may prevent you from falling pregnant quickly after your preparation. For a head start, you and your partner’s combined preparation should include visiting your GP for a general health check-up as well as a way of ruling out any possible infections (particularly of the genito-urinary tract), which if left untreated can cause infertility and pregnancy complications including miscarriage.
Step 2: Try to conceive naturally
Depending on you and your partner’s age and previous medical history, after you complete 120 days of preconception health care preparation and are both in optimum health you are ready to begin your conception attempts. For various reasons some choose not to use technologies such as IVF. Others prefer to attempt natural conception for a period of time before moving to assisted reproduction. Here are some general helpful guides to assist you in deciding how and your partner may like to proceed.
- If both you and your partner have completed at least 120 days of targeted preconception preparation (including having had all recommended medical tests without any abnormalities being found) and if you are both under 38 years, you could allow yourselves between 6-12 conception attempts (over a 12 month period) if you wish to give natural conception adequate opportunity.
- If you are under 40 years (and in the same circumstances described above), you can do the same, but you need to weigh up your future plans carefully.
- If you are over 40 years, you may still like to try and conceive naturally after you and your partner optimise your health for at least 120 days however, if you still want to try any form of ART later do keep this in mind when making your decision.
- If you are both under 35 years, you can definitely give yourselves at least 6-12 conception attempts prior to a change in conception strategies if you and you partner are in general good health and your have both completed at least 120 days preconception preparation (unless you or your partner have a serious medical problem which preludes you from a natural conception).
The above guidelines can vary considerably according with a couple’s specific medical history and circumstances, it is advised you and your partner make a decision that is appropriate for your particular situation in conjunction with the fertility specialist in charge of your case.
However, appropriate conception timing is paramount for best results and many couples do not conceive not because there is something wrong per se, but simply because their timing is inaccurate or simply not coinciding with when ovulation is actually taking place in the woman’s particular cycle. For others intercourse frequency is simply too low or sporadic to affect a conception. It may be useful to chart a woman’s cycle to assist in the conception process. A great, free online service to use which teaches the entire process in an easy to understand manner is www.fertilityfriend.com. This will give you and your partner a great deal of information about how to best prepare for your conception attempts, but it will also alert you if there are any cycle or ovulation problems which may need to be addressed.
In addition, during this phase further investigations may be useful. When couples start trying to conceive after a period of difficulty, a post-coital test may be recommended to see if the sperm cells are able to swim through the woman’s mucus secretions or whether there are any mechanical problems at this important initial stage of conception. If there are impediments to conception at this level, in some cases assisted reproductive options may be the only way a couple can conceive.
To be continued…