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.
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:
- Brussels sprouts
- 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.
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