Improve your chances of conceiving a baby by learning more about male and female fertility – read on for some expert advice.
About one in six couples can have some problems conceiving a baby. However, over eight in 10 couples having regular sex (every two to three days) will conceive within one year if the woman is aged under 40 years. In addition, of those couples who do not conceive in the first year, about half will do so in the second year.
There are various causes of infertility, both in men and in women. However, there will be no reason found for the infertility in about three in 10 cases. In around four out of 10 cases, disorders are found in both the man and the woman.
We ask fertility expert – Senior Clinical Embryologist Declan Keane a few common questions about the issue.
Common infertility questions
How long should women try to get pregnant before calling their doctors?
For females under 35, I would recommend seeking medical advice if you have not achieved a pregnancy by regular intercourse after a year. Attending a fertility specialist to conceive and getting basic fertility checks to reassure you or to identify an issue which could be remedied can seriously increase your chance of pregnancy success.
If you are over 35 and have been trying without success for six months, proceed to your doctor or fertility specialist for advice, guidance and reassurance.
In your experience, what are the most common causes of female infertility?
Infertility in women can be caused by a number of factors. The ovaries are one of the main problem areas. Irregular menstrual cycle, lack of ovulation and poor egg quality are all possible causes of fertility issues.
Endometriosis is also very common. This occurs when the lining of the womb is found outside the uterus. It can be a painful condition, and some cases go undetected until the woman tries to have a baby, but struggles and undergoes testing. Blockages in the fallopian tubes can also cause infertility. The blockage prevents the egg from being released from the tubes, meaning the sperm cannot reach it to fertilise it and create an embryo.
Uterine structural abnormalities are a serious negative influencing factor on the chance of embryo implantation, and/or miscarriage. Surgery may be required if a uterine anomaly is diagnosed by ultrasound or surgical diagnostics.
In your experience, what are the most common causes of male infertility?
There are also many possible causes of infertility in men. Testicular dysfunction is a common cause of infertility and can occur in the form of abnormal sperm production and low sperm count.
Male tubal blockages and genetic problems are also common causes.
Testicular cancer and undescended testicles can also affect a man’s fertility.
How will doctors find out if a woman and her partner have fertility problems?
Patients will come in to us for an initial consultation. This is usually more of a conversation to discover what may be behind the patient(s) fertility issues. The fertility specialist will then use the information gathered to derive either recommendations of a change in lifestyle, or will send the patient(s) for a series of diagnostics to determine if there is a physical issue that needs to be addressed.
Based on these diagnostics, the specialist will then create a tailor-made treatment plan for the patient(s) and will work with them to find a way to help them to conceive.
What are the most successful treatments for infertility?
The use of holistic complementary treatments in Ireland is increasing, however, treatments such as IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation), IUI (Inauterine Insemination) and ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) are the most successful medical options currently available. At ReproMed, we have identified that many fertility issues are lifestyle related.
Stress is a cause and getting to the root of it can allow couples and individuals to go on to conceive naturally, with little or no medical intervention. We call this ‘the lucky couch’ affect. Patients will come in, sit on the consultation couch and we can see them immediately begin to relax as they realise we can help. Many we will never see again after the initial consultation as a reassuring conversation was all they needed to relieve their stress, allowing them to become pregnant naturally.
A mum’s story in struggling to conceive
31-year-old Michelle O’Toole had reflexology sessions which she believes helped her to conceive.
My husband and I had been married for about a year when we started trying for a baby. When we got to nine months and we still hadn’t conceived, I started to get concerned even though people had told me that couples normally wait a year before taking any action. After 15 months of trying, I wasn’t keen on going down the medical road, so I decided to research other options. This led to me booking a course reflexology treatments with reflexologist Claire Burrows.
She suggested that I also made a few small changes to my lifestyle. These changes included reducing my caffeine intake, eating organic chicken, taking omega 3 supplement and different vitamins.
I also learned how to manage my stress levels by switching off properly in the evenings. And three months later, I was pregnant! I gave birth to my little girl Lily last February – I would definitely recommend reflexology treatments to anyone else who is struggling to conceive, as it takes your whole lifestyle into account.
Struggling to conceive?
Reflexologist Claire Burrows provides some advice.
Reasons why you many be struggling to conceive range from endometriosis, poly cycstic ovaries, under active thyroid to ’unexplained’.
Approximately 70% of the women I see in my clinic who have had blood tests show nothing abnormal and still they are not pregnant.
In almost all cases, improving your lifestyle can improve your fertility. Lifestyle factors affecting fertility include body fat – too much or too little, smoking, alcohol, medication – prescribed or over the counter.
Nutrition is a huge factor. All our hormones are made from vitamins and minerals and the vast majority of us are nutrient deficient. While vitamin supplements are not a substitute for a healthy balanced diet they can help you get pregnant faster. It can be a complex process and is often worth enlisting the help of an expert to guide you.
It takes 3 months for an egg and sperm to mature so everything you do or don’t do during that time will affect your chances of success.
My advice is to view pregnancy as a 12-month process, three months to prepare and nine months to develop your healthy baby. Hormones are crucial to conception, but not just oestrogen and progesterone. Sleep, stress, blood sugars will all have an impact on your capacity to conceive.
My top seven tips to get pregnant faster are:
1. Track your ovulation.
2. Reduce demands on your liver.
3. Increase resources for your liver.
4. Keep blood sugars balanced (especially if you have PCOS).
5. Manage your stress.
6. Get quality sleep.
7. Keep your hormones in balance. Based on your own medical, lifestyle and previous pregnancy history I can provide a personalised fertile friendly programme for you to follow. In addition I use reflexology to promote hormone balance at specific times in your cycle to encourage natural conception or support a medically assisted conception.
More you might like
Infertility and relationships
Fertility to family
Stress and fertility