Deciding to try can feel like the hard part!
For a man and woman trying to conceive, the biggest challenge can feel like making the decision! It’s a huge leap. Once we make that decision, it’s a big deal! We feel like it should be instant. We haven’t before explored the world of what it means to be trying to conceive, and what barriers actually might be in the way.
What you need to know!
In this article I will focus on the first 12 months. The reason I’m speaking about the first 12 months is that actually, in reality, only 25% of healthy 25 year olds conceive within one month of actively trying. By the time a woman is 35, her chances have decreased by half. Unfortunately this trend continues to whereby at 45 years of age, she only has a 1% chance of natural conception. These are some really, really daunting figures, but it’s hugely important to know that 80% of couples will conceive within the first year of trying and of the 20% that don’t conceive that year, half will conceive within the second year. I just think it’s important to talk about those figures, because I know even from my own journey, I am a very impatient person and I expect things to happen immediately. It is the most frustrating thing that I think any potential parents can face.
It was fine the first time?
If you’ve had a previous pregnancy and had a child, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be easy the second time around. So in this article I’ll be chatting all about when to seek, help, how to boost your chances when to go to the GP and what they can do, and about a cool new product.
Is there anything worse than hearing ‘don’t stress’?
Okay. The first piece of information is the piece that no one wants to hear. The best thing, when you start off on you’re trying to conceive journey is to have patience. It’s so so frustrating. So stress management is really important because did you know, and this is the ironic thing about trying to conceive, stress can actually decrease rates of ovulation and it can also have a negative impact on sperm production. So yeah, not great. The one thing that always happens is you get more stressed and actually that’s the worst thing that you can do. So clearly I’m not telling you not to have feelings or not to be upset by it, but managing your stress and finding ways to enjoy life and to try and not put life on hold is important.
It’s a two person journey!
When I spoke about female fertility rates dropping with age, it’s important to note that with men, there isn’t enough evidence to say whether it decreases with age, but that’s not to say that it’s always the female partner that has the fertility issue.
In fact, 20% of a couple’s cause of infertility will remain unknown. 40% will be down to the women in the relationship and 40% will be down to the males. So it really is something that is best approached as a couple . And I know from experience, it tends to be the woman that feels like she has to take on responsibility for this and wonders why she is not getting pregnant? But just remember it takes two people to make a baby. And so it’s important to take an approach as a couple and not just as one person.
When to seek help:
So when to seek help, a lot of people get frustrated and go to the GP after maybe two cycles. And they’re like, I’m not getting pregnant. There must be something wrong. Do every test you can. But as I said earlier, 80% of couples will conceive within one year.
- If you’re under 35, you probably don’t need to actually go to the GP for about a year.
- If you’re over 35 or you have a history of any problems, you should go to the GP after six months, it’s worth reemphasizing there that both couples should go to the GP. So the GPS can do a range of things from blood tests, sperm analysis, physical exams, and STI tests.
- It’s also important to go to the GP. If you are a woman and you are aware that you have some form of ovulation disorder, so a lack of regular ovulation. You can be kind of aware of this if you have irregular periods. So if your periods are more than 35 days apart, or could one every 35 days to even six months, that makes spontaneous conception less likely another time.
- It’s good to seek medical advice before you start trying to conceive is if the woman’s periods are extremely painful.
How do a couple boost their chances of conception?
Track your cycle
So the first thing is to track your cycle. It’s really important to understand when in your cycle you get pregnant. So in a menstrual cycle, day one is the first day of your period. So if you have a 28 day cycle, you will ovulate approximately on day 14. If you have a 32 day cycle, you might ovulate on around day 18. So whatever your cycle length is you subtract 14 from that and that is the most likely time that you’ll ovulate. Trying to conceive really is defined by having regular unprotected sex.
Have sex at the right time
It might seem obvious, but having sex at the right time is also really important. So once you’ve worked out your date of ovulation, you need to then have sex every couple of days for five or six days before that date. It’s important to have sex before ovulation, because eggs actually only live for 12 to 24 hours. So it’s a very narrow window. However, sperm can actually live for three to five days. So by having regular sex before ovulation, you’re ensuring that there’s a possibility for sperm to meet egg.
Have unprotected sex
Some people might think I’m being silly by saying unprotected sex, but actually a lot of people are taking contraception when they are deciding if they’re going to try to conceive or not. So if you’re taking, or if you were taking, a combined oral contraceptive pill, or you’re using a vaginal ring, such as the Nuvaring or a contraceptive patch, such as Evra, these can actually take a few months to get out of your system. It can even take up to a year, but be warned, for some women, they stop working pretty quickly after you stop using them. If you’re using the progesterone only pill, or you have had a hormonal coil in place, such as the Kyleena or Mirena, once you stop taking the progesterone pill or the coil, your fertility returns pretty quickly. So it’s just worth saying if yourself and your partner are considering trying to conceive, but you feel it’s not really the right time yet, and you might leave it a few months.
Talk things through
It might be no harm to have a conversation about stopping your hormonal contraception and to perhaps use barrier methods such as condoms instead. It is a good way to give your body time to clear the contraception from your system so that when you do finally make that decision, you can just stop using the condoms.
Some doctors will recommend to have one regular period after stopping your contraception. Mostly this is down to being able to calculate the dates of pregnancy easily, but it’s not actually essential.
Lifestyle and Diet
Other things both partners can do to help boost your chances of conceiving are to eat a healthy, balanced diet. I know all the advice that I’m about to give you now is general lifestyle advice, but I’m going to give some specific information on fertility. It’s amazing what changes you can put in place to improve your fertility, such as consuming iron. So consider eating red meat, two to three times a week, or if you don’t eat meat, maybe eggs, pulses, spinach, and broccoli. In addition include regular calcium in your diet (three times a day). A portion of Calcium would be a portion of cheese, yogurt, or milk. Ensure to take vitamin C don’t take vitamin C at the same time or within an hour or so of having tea or coffee, because caffeine can affect its absorption.
- Weight (BMI): If your BMI is over 29, whether you’re the male or the female in the relationship, this can negatively affect your fertility. While people will always think, okay, I need to lose a bit of weight, it’s important to remember as well that having a low BMI is just as likely to cause a problem. So if your BMI is under 19, you need to be aware that it may intervene with your ability to have a child. A healthy, balanced diet, making sure you’re filling your body with lots of nutrition is a really good idea. Seek help from your Pharmacist or GP if you are struggling with losing or gaining weight.
- Supplements: You should be taking a folic acid supplement. So this is a 400 microgram supplement like this one here. Generally you start taking it three to four months before you start your trying to conceive journey. Obviously, if you’re pregnant and it’s a surprise and you weren’t taking it, that’s fine. Just start taking it now. Some people actually have to take a higher dose of folic acid. There is a five milligram tablet of folic acid, but it is only available on prescription. The people who would be advised to take the higher dose should talk to their GP These are people who have a history of neural tube defects, also patients who suffer from epilepsy, or have diabetes. Another nice supplement is the Pregnacare Trying to Conceive as this contains multivitamins as well as the folic acid 400mcg.
Another thing which just might catch you out is the use of lubricants. Many people don’t realize that a lot of the lubricants that are available on the market can negatively impact fertility. That’s not to say that they’re going to prevent a pregnancy, and I certainly wouldn’t be using them as contraception, but they can inhibit your chances of conception. So I’d strongly recommend using a lubricant, such as conceive plus. The use of a lubricant is actually not a bad idea in any case as by using something like conceive plus you’re actually making it easier for the sperm, to journey through the uterus and reach the egg.
Keep medical conditions under control and think about your medication.
Chat to your GP if you have any medical conditions, such as thyroid disease or diabetes, because it’s a good idea to try and have these medical issues under control before you become pregnant. It’s also important to notice that some prescription medicines or even over the counter medicines can affect your ability to conceive. You can chat with your GP or Pharmacist and talk about potentially changing medications or finding out if your medicine is suitable for pregnancy. Okay, this might sound obvious, but recreational drugs like cocaine and marijuana, can actually really, really affect your egg and sperm quality, and even your ability to ovulate. So definitely none of those! Some Herbal medicines, such as St John’s wort and Ginko Biloba can inhibit your chances of conception. Those are two common ones, but actually there’s a range of herbal meds that can inhibit your chances.
The good news is that if you change your lifestyle it is remarkable how quickly your health will recover! Cut down on alcohol (ensuring you have three alcohol free days a week) and don’t smoke, as actually for men and women, smoking seriously impacts fertility. A male sperm quality can actually bounce back to a much higher quality with even two months of lifestyle changes. That’s why I say this isn’t just a female problem. This is a couple problem.
Some people use ovulation tests, and they detect a rise in luteinizing hormone. Luteinizing hormone rises after you release an egg, so it can be a good indication of ovulation. I know I used to use ovulation sticks and everything as I wanted to feel proactive and to have some form of control over something that was clearly outside of my control altogether.
There is a new product on the market that I know I would have loved when trying to conceive! This is genius. Basically, it’s a little patch that you stick under your arm. It monitors your temperature and feeds the info back to an app on your phone. The reason it monitors your temperature is that you get a little bit of a temperature dip and then an increase after ovulation due to a change in progesterone levels.
Why is Medicare Femsense Different?
I like this product because previously there was a lot of talk about temperature monitoring, but people were just using basal thermometers for this. These aren’t really recommended because they’re actually not very accurate. You’re only getting a single measurement in a day, and as I mentioned earlier, your ovulation can occur quickly and eggs only live 12 hours. It’s not ideal because you may miss ovulation and thus your months opportunity to conceive. You need a good bit of time and a bit of knowledge to kind of manage temperature monitoring in that way. Whereas with the Medicare Femsense Ovulation Tracker, you just apply it when the app tells you, which is generally, in that run up to ovulation. It’s really easy to use and it’s noninvasive. You don’t even feel it once it’s on and it’s highly accurate. So for ovulation, the temperature change is usually a rise of about 0.5 degree Celsius and the Medicare femsense can detect and is accurate to 0.1 degree Celsius. All you need to do is scan the little patch and you get loads of information.
What else does it do?
Another thing which is often used to monitor fertility is cervical mucus. So until you start trying to conceive, you don’t learn these kind of things! Basically a woman’s cervical mucus changes during the month, when you’re at your most fertile it’s thin, clear and quite slippery. And again, I know that’s gross, but really we’re doing everything we can to get those sperm up to the egg. That’s why the use of a lubricant can be helpful as well, but your body does actually naturally make changes to facilitate it. You can even monitor your sleep and your stress levels, energy and mood and all that kind of thing on the Medicare Femsense App which is very useful!
I like the thoughts of this because you can pop it on and know that you’re doing everything that you can, but you don’t have to be so mindful of it, which is good.
So when is the best time to do a pregnancy test?
What is commonly known as the two week weight can be absolute torture. And you just want to know if you’ve had a successful cycle or not.
But what I would say is, if you can in any way, shape or form, distract yourself until you have missed your period, then you’re much more likely to get an accurate result. However, if like me, you can’t wait you can do a first response pregnancy test and it is possible, that it might detect your pregnancy as much as five days before your period is due.
What time of day to test?
The one thing I’d say is when doing a pregnancy test, it’s really important to do it with your first trip to the toilet of the day This is because you haven’t been drinking overnight, and so the urine that you’re peeing is more concentrated and more likely to show the HCG hormone. If you get a negative result, don’t stress, wait a few days, maybe around five days, if you can, and retest, sometimes it can take the levels of HCG to build up and they can be non-detectable until a few days after your missed period. So it is possible to get a false negative, whereas it’s extremely unlikely to get a false positive.
If you get a positive test book in with your GP, usually you go to see your doctor at around six weeks. Six weeks pregnant is actually just two weeks past your missed period because you start counting from day one of your cycle.
I will be doing a further article on what to do if it’s after 12 months and what’s likely to happen, what options are available for you out there and what help and support you can get. With the advance of medicine, and with an aging population who to be honest, have extremely busy lives because a lot of families have two working parents, and it’s just not always possible to consider starting your family as early as it was a few decades ago! So things have moved on and there is support out there. We can talk a lot more about that in the next, trying to conceive article.
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I hope you have found this article helpful and if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me by sending a private message to the WonderBaba Insta page or by calling me (Sheena) at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 on 012600262. I’m always happy to help!