In the first of a series on fertility, Avril Flynn talks about the challenges faced by couples in negotiating the labyrinth that is fertility.
As a slightly older mum myself (I was 36 when I gave birth last year) who has worked as a fertility nurse before, I have always been conscious of not only my fertility but also how hard, and expensive, it can seem to access any information about your own!
We are bombarded in the media by terms like “IVF”, “egg count”, “declining fertility”…terms which seem to refer to so many different elements. What does it all mean?
So what factors should you consider when you start trying (or re-trying) for a baby and when should you get help???
Know your cycle!! It seems obvious but can you remember when you were in school being actively taught about your cycle? Me neither…. A normal average cycle is between 28-32 days. Within that cycle, there are approximate 2-3 days on which we can get pregnant but the timing of this can vary hugely between women. If your cycle is irregular it can be very hard to track. There are lots of great apps to track your cycle and it’s an inexpensive and great way to start to get educated about when you might be ovulating.
You need to have it! The cruellest thing about trying to get pregnant is it refocuses your sex life from a loving and fun part of your relationship to a very essential part of trying to get pregnant. This can put huge pressure on both you and your partner so bring it back to basics: sperm can live inside you for up to 2 days so if you know your cycle and roughly when you might be ovulating - have sex. If you have a 28-day cycle you will typically ovulate on roughly day 11 to 14 so if you have sex on day 12, 14, and 16 you have a good chance of catching that egg... but don’t forget to still enjoy your sex life for the rest of the month!
In basic terms…as people age, it gets harder to get pregnant... but that isn’t the only factor. If you have been having regular unprotected sex for 6 months and are 35 and over I would be heading to my GP to have a chat. If you are under 35 the rule of thumb would be 12 months. 80% of couples will get pregnant having unprotected sex after a year.
It seems really obvious but the first thing you can do to increase your chances of success is to make sure you and your partner are in good health. If you have any underlying medical conditions or are on any long-term medication, it’s a good idea to have a chat to your GP to see whether any of these might have an impact on your ability to get pregnant. Eat healthily, exercise, cut back on alcohol and keep an eye on your weight. People with a BMI of over 25 have a statistically tougher time getting pregnant. Again if you’re worried, have a chat with your GP.
It takes two:
Infertility affects as many as 1 in 6 couples and it can be an issue with the woman OR the man. Women and men face fertility problems in equal measure and sometimes instead of one single cause, it can be a mixture of several small issues with either the man or the woman or both.