Fertility expert recommends ten changes that will increase your chance of conceiving
Trying for a baby soon or simply planning for the future?
According to the experts, putting some fertility-friendly resolutions in place now could help this happen a lot quicker for you when the time is right.
Reproductive health is hugely important for both men and women, and simple things like lifestyle choices, exercise habits and medical history all play an important role.
Mary McAuliffe, fertility nurse specialist and head of clinical services at Waterstone Clinic, outlines the 10 fertility resolutions to make for the year ahead.
1. Be Age Aware. This is particularly important for women. A woman’s fertility starts to decline from age 32, with a more pronounced decline from 35 years and a sharp decline from 40 years and older. A man’s sperm can start declining in quantity and quality from 40 years.
2. It Takes Two to Tango. Most people believe that difficulty in conceiving is most often a female issue – this is not true. In one third of couples, it will be a female fertility issue, in one third it will be a male fertility issue, and in the other one third, both the male and female partner have a fertility problem.
3. Get Healthy. For both men and women, being underweight or overweight can have a negative impact on fertility. Calculate your BMI and aim for a healthy weight; a BMI of between 20 and 24.9 is ideal, which will assist in regulating your menstrual cycle and increase chances of conceiving.
Also having a balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, high in antioxidants, is important. Reduce red meat intake and avoid processed foods, junk food and fizzy drinks. Keep caffeine intake at a minimum. Omega 3 essential fatty acids and Vitamin D found in oily fish, are not only recommended for healthy cell development, but also play an important role during pregnancy.
4. Quit Smoking and Limit Alcohol. Smoking can cause damage to the ovaries and fallopian tubes in women and alter the hormone levels required for pregnancy ,while for men it can lower their sperm count and there is some association with increased sperm DNA damage.
For men, heavy alcohol intake has been linked to reduced sperm quality, while for women, it is linked to ovulatory problems. If you are trying to get pregnant, limit alcohol to 0-2 units per week and avoid it completely if pregnant.
5. Avoid Heat. To keep sperm cool, men should avoid placing laptops on laps, keeping mobile phones in pockets, and wearing tight underwear for prolonged periods. Also, those who frequently cycle long distances can be at risk of sperm problems.
6. Take Folic Acid & Supplements. Before trying to conceive, and during the first three months of pregnancy, women should take 400mcg folic acid. You can find it in foods such as spinach, brussels sprouts, asparagus and avocado. It can also be beneficial for men to take folic acid, helping improve sperm quality and reducing sperm abnormalities. Also, increase Vitamin D intake, as this is important for bone health and normal embryo development. Supplements with B complex vitamins, Vitamin C, zinc, selenium, magnesium and Coenzyme Q10 are beneficial for healthy egg and sperm development.
7. Know Your History, Know Yourself. For women, ask your mum when her menopause occurred – a family history of early menopause would be an indicator for an early fertility assessment.
You should also know your own medical history. A history of STIs (particularly chlamydia or gonorrhoea), previous abdominal/pelvic surgery, or severe endometriosis have the potential to cause blocked fallopian tubes making it impossible for pregnancy to occur naturally.
Men who have a history of undescended testes, mumps that affected the testes or trauma to the groin region are at higher risk for sperm problems. Straightforward investigations and a review with a fertility specialist can identify any potential concerns.
Keep a record of your menstrual cycle so that you have a good understanding of its length. Ovulation occurs 14 days before the period so in a 28 days cycle it occurs on day 14, in a 35 day cycle it occurs on day 21 etc. The most fertile time is in the five days leading up to, and including the day of, ovulation.
8. Keep Talking. There are more people than you think struggling to become pregnant. It is important to get support from close friends or family and to know that you are not the only ones who might be waiting that little bit longer for their baby. Most importantly, keep talking to each other. Trying for a baby can put a strain on many relationships. Look after each other and take time out to do nice things together.
9. Don’t Stress. This is easier said than done for those who have been trying for a baby for some time. However, it is important to mind your mental health as well as your physical health. Keep up activities that you find relaxing, and use mindfulness or other therapies to keep stress and anxiety in check. Most fertility clinics have a fertility counsellor who is free of charge to attend.
10. Book a Fertility Assessment. It’s becoming ever more convenient to have a fertility assessment. AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) blood levels are now easily available. However, these should not be interpreted in isolation, and your results should always be discussed with a fertility specialist to ensure you are getting the best advice.