fertility challenges

Fertility challenges

Trying for a baby can be a challenge for many people, but what if there are added complications? Arlene Harris looks into possible treatments for boosting a couple’s chance of conceiving.

While many women take measures to ensure they don’t become pregnant, others would give their right arm to discover they have created a new life. It is estimated that one in ten couples have problems conceiving, with a woman’s age being one of the main factors influencing her chance of conception. But some women have added complications, which make conception even more difficult.

Added challenges

Anna McCarthy (34) has been living with endometriosis (a condition where tissue resembling the lining of the womb grows outside the uterus) for most of her adult life. Up to 10% of women suffer from this condition, which is characterised by painful and irregular periods, pain during intercourse and infertility.

She has had hormone treatment to treat the symptoms but believes this impacted on her chances of conceiving as for the past year, she and her husband John have been trying for a baby to no avail. “I got married two years ago and we decided to try for a baby about six months later,” she says. “I wasn’t worried initially, but when our first anniversary came and still no sign of a pregnancy, I started to panic.”

“My doctor said the first step I had to take was to stop worrying,” says the Dublin woman. “It is early days yet, but I have been told that I can have surgery to remove any traces of endometriosis and if this doesn’t improve my fertility rating, I can go down the IVF route.

fertility challenges

“I obviously would have preferred to be able to conceive naturally but if this isn’t an option, I am happy to get help from a clinic. So I have just been referred to a fertility specialist who is very positive – and John and I have started putting money aside to pay for treatment so I am hopeful about my chances of becoming a mum.”

Endometriosis isn’t the only condition, which affects fertility as uterine fibroids; polycystic ovaries and pelvic inflammatory disease also have a detrimental effect.

Age is still a factor

But Ciara O’Keeffe from Cork Fertility Centre says age is still the biggest factor when it comes to fertility issues. “As a woman gets older, the number of eggs in her ovaries decreases rapidly and those remaining are of a poorer quality,” she explains. “So a woman’s fertility swiftly declines and once she enters her 30s she has a 20% chance per month of successfully getting pregnant when not using contraception but by 40, this reduces to about 5%.

“However, our team has a wealth of experience resulting in world class success rates and our live birth rate for elective single embryo transfer for patients undergoing their first IVF/ICSI treatment cycle is 62% for patients of 40 years and younger.”

Treasa Meehan of the Beacon Care fertility Clinic in Dublin says a successful outcome from treatment is dependent on the individuals involved. “Fertility is very different for each person,” she says. “Age is a big factor as is medical history (for those conditions such as endometriosis and other issues involving the reproductive system) – so it very much depends on the individual. But if the woman is aged around 30, a rule of thumb would be to wait a year before seeking advice from the GP who will then refer to a fertility clinic if necessary.

fertility challenges

“Once someone has been referred, treatment and success rate will vary dramatically depending on each couple or individual involved as each case is decided individually by the consultant.”


Not all is lost when you’re experiencing infertility. The IVF treatment might increase your chances of conceiving. If you’re are considering this type of hormonal treatment, read our article about going through IVF alone to find out more about the process.

In this next article about IVF, fertility expert Emma Cannon give advice to help couples get through their IVF journey.

If you’re trying to get pregnant, understanding the timing of your ovulation cycle can be critical. Here’s our ovulation guide to help.

More like this:

Top tips to boost your fertility
Top 5 tips to help you conceive
The fertility diet

Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.


Kids Craft: Potato stamps

Potato stamps are a great craft activity for younger kids – they will love making all sorts of paint patterns, pictures and cards.



Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….