If you’ve been trying for a baby for more than 12 months whilst having regular, unprotected sex, it’s only natural to think that you may have a fertility problem. But there are other factors, such as age and weight, which may be inhibiting your ability to conceive. It’s important to assess your general health and lifestyle before you jump to any conclusions. Of course, it’s always advisable to see your GP if you’re having problems and suspect there are any underlying issues.

Weight

Women who are overweight or underweight may have some difficulty conceiving. Being overweight can have a significant impact on your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby. If you’re overweight and planning to have a baby, then it’s a good idea to start exercising and eating healthily a few months prior to trying. Being underweight can also significantly reduce a woman’s chance of getting pregnant, causing hormonal imbalances that affect ovulation. A healthy BMI is considered to be between 18.5 and 24.9.

Age

A women’s fertility starts to decline once she hits 30, so if you are above this age, then there’s a possibility that age is impacting your ability to conceive. If you’re in your 30s and have been trying for a baby for over nine months, then it’s advisable to see your GP and find out what could help your chances of conception – options may include changing your health and lifestyle choices or taking prenatal vitamins.

Fertility issues

Fertility issues can occur in both male and females. Conditions affecting a woman’s fertility can include damage to the fallopian tubes, problems with ovulation, endometriosis and conditions affecting the uterus. Infertility causes in men include low sperm count, problems with the tubes carrying sperm, erectile dysfunction and problems ejaculating. Around one in seven couples experiences difficulty in conceiving – that’s approximately 3.5 million people in the UK. About 84% of couples will conceive naturally within one year if they have regular unprotected sex. If, after a year, you’re still having trouble, it’s definitely worth seeking help. Should you find out you or your partner have fertility issues, it’s not the end of the world. There are plenty of options that’ll help you conceive, including medication, surgical procedures or assisted conception (intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in-vitro fertilisation (IVF)).

Stress

Stress can interfere with conception so it’s important to try to relax throughout the time that you’re trying for a baby. Stress affects the functioning of the hypothalamus – a gland in the brain that regulates your appetite and emotions as well as the hormones that tell your ovaries to release eggs. If you’re stressed out, you may ovulate late in your cycle or not at all. This doesn’t mean that there’s less chance of a successful pregnancy, you’ll just need to be aware that your ovulation cycle lengthens when you’re stressed out, so it’s a matter of identifying when ovulation is about to occur.

Cycle confusion

Women everywhere are taught from a young age that a typical cycle lasts 28 days – which is true. But most women differ from the norm and so cycles vary in length. You’ll be able to conceive if you monitor your ovulation and have unprotected sex at the right time. To find out when you’re ovulating and have the best chance of conceiving, you can take your basal body temperature (the lowest body temperature achieved during rest), examine your cervical mucus and track when your menstrual period begins. By charting your temperature every day over several cycles, you may start to see a pattern that lets you predict when you are most fertile. Before you ovulate, your basal body temperature is usually about 97 to 97.5 F. During ovulation, your body releases the hormone progesterone which brings on a slightly higher temperature by around 0.5 degrees. Learning how to spot changes in your cervical mucus is an easy and effective way to predict when you ovulate, too. As you near ovulation, your cervix releases more mucus. When you’re most fertile, your cervical mucus is stretchy and clear – helping to protect the sperm and aid them in their journey towards the egg.

 

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Andrew Drakeley

Mr Andrew Drakeley is the Clinical Director at the Hewitt Fertility Centre, working principally at the Liverpool Women’s site but with managerial responsibility for Knutsford.

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