super fertile

Are you super fertile?

For some couples conception happens a lot more readily than it does for others, writes Arlene Harris.

One in every ten couples has difficulty conceiving and this causes both heartache and expense for these people whose biggest desire is to become parents. For others, the opposite applies and they turn the art of making babies into child’s play – as barely touching each other seems to result in a pregnancy.

Cheeky-chappie chef, Jamie Oliver, has four children with his wife Jules and has just announced that they are expecting their fifth. Having never made any secret of their desire to have a large family, this impending arrival will undoubtedly bring great joy. But some families seem to expand of their own accord and while parents are obviously besotted with each new addition, being very fertile can have problems of its own.

Real parents story

Jenny and Brian Maloney have five children (three girls and two boys) and while the Cork couple adore each of their offspring, not all of their babies were planned. “When Brian and I got married, we said we would like two children – one of each,” says 43-year-old Jenny.

“Fortunately for us, things went exactly to plan and I got pregnant immediately with both of them. But when my daughter was 13 months old and my son was almost three, I discovered that I was pregnant again. “My initial thought was fear as I wondered how on earth we would manage because our house was very small, my daughter was an atrociously bad sleeper so I was already exhausted looking after two small children and because I had given up work when I first got pregnant, we were surviving on just one salary.”

But Brian and Jenny coped with the arrival of their new daughter and while the first few months were very stressful, soon got into the swing of things and couldn’t imagine life without her. Everything was on an even keel until a year later when Jenny dropped another bombshell to Brian – her period was late and although she didn’t believe she was pregnant, decided to do a test to put her mind at rest – it was positive.

“Being pregnant with my fourth child was a nightmare. I couldn’t believe it – I already had three small children, was totally exhausted all of the time and the prospect of throwing another baby into the mix was unthinkable,” she says. “But there was nothing we could do but accept the reality and try to make room in our minds and our home for another child.

“When I went to the doctor for confirmation, he said I must be very fertile as I seemed to have very little trouble getting pregnant without even planning it. I know being very fertile seems like a wonderful thing for some people but I really hadn’t planned on such a big family. So again, we worried about how we would cope with an extra mouth to feed not to mention the logistics of looking after so many small people – but we figured we could cope, until I went for my first scan and we discovered I was having twins – that really was a shock. And in fact it was so ridiculously unexpected, that all Brian and I could do was laugh.”

Just before their twins were born, Brian got promoted at work which enabled Jenny to hire an au pair to help around the house. This made life a lot easier, giving her time to focus on all of her children individually. “Getting help around the house was so liberating and I finally was able to enjoy my family a bit more,” she says. “We hadn’t planned on having so many children, but they were all made with love so I wanted to give them as much love and attention as possible – and now I can.

“But although I am thrilled with my family, I would never boast about being very fertile or even moan about how busy my life is as I know there are people out there who would give their right arm to have a big family and can’t even have one – so I feel very blessed.”

Jenny hasn’t undergone tests to find out why she is so fertile, but some women produce two eggs every month which give them double the chance of conceiving. And a recent study in the US found that the endometrium (lining of the womb) of some women is extremely receptive to embryos which also means conception happens a lot more readily than it does for most females.

super fertile

A spokeswoman for the HSE warns women who believe they may be ‘super fertile’ to take extra precaution if they want to avoid pregnancy. “If you believe you are super fertile and do not want to become pregnant you need to be extremely careful about contraception,” she advises.

“Use a proven form of contraceptive with lower failure rates such as the hormone-impregnated IUD. If you go for the Pill or condoms, be extra diligent and ensure you use them properly or if you are really worried, you can combine the two.”

Mary McAuliffe is head of clinical services at Cork Fertility Centre. She says while many couples have no difficulty conceiving naturally, there are steps which can be undertaken to help boost fertility.

“There are a multitude of actions people can take to enhance their fertility,” she says. “First and foremost is quit smoking as it is detrimental to your fertility health, can damage your ovaries and fallopian tubes as well as interfering with the hormones necessary for pregnancy. With men, it can reduce sperm count. Also, reduce both alcohol and caffeine intake as these are also linked to ovulatory problems and reduced testosterone production and sperm quality in men.”

The fertility expert also says diet is very important and there are a number of simple changes which can make a difference. “If you are overweight, get back down to a normal weight through a combination of healthy diet and exercise,” she says. “If you are underweight, get back up to the right weight for your age and height – and do this sensibly through healthy eating. Aim for the ideal BMI which is between 20 and 24.9. “We recommend eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and eliminating fizzy drinks, processed, deep fried or very fatty foods.”

“If you believe you are super fertile and do not want to become pregnant you need to be extremely careful about contraception. ”

Specific foods to enhance fertility include:
  • Spinach
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Lentils
  • Oily fish and flaxseed oils
  • Walnuts and carrots

For men taking supplements, such as folic acid and Vitamin D in conjunction with a healthy diet and overall healthy lifestyle can also boost fertility in both men and women.

More like this:

Can hormones cause infertility
Top 5 tips to help you conceive
Our fourth child: an unplanned pregnancy


Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.


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.