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


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….


Ask Tracey

Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.