5 steps

 

  1. Stress Busting

You may feel that fertility issues are solely physical and that your mental wellbeing will have no substantial bearing on whether your fertility treatment will be successful or not. Not necessarily so.

Recent studies have shown that stress and anxiety can be harmful to your fertility and make your body less conducive of a healthy pregnancy.

That's because stress can affect the functioning of the hypothalamus – the 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, you may ovulate later in your cycle or not at all. This will not only make it more difficult for you to conceive naturally but may harm your chances of becoming pregnant even whilst undergoing fertility treatment.

Frustratingly, when looking to undergo fertility treatment, you’re likely to be a little more stressed than usual and relaxing might seem a little difficult, but there are things that can help.

Get more sleep – This is so important. The “Sleep-Wake” hormones that are released in your brain in the evenings and mornings (Melatonin and Cortisol) are the exact same hormones that trigger your fertility. If you are sleep deprived, or have an irregular sleep pattern, the release of these hormones may be disrupted and the effect to your fertility may be significant. When looking towards fertility treatment, a good night's sleep should be top of your to-do list.

Exercise – This is a case of killing two birds with one stone. If you have an above average BMI, exercise may be vital in enabling you to qualify for NHS funded treatment (recent NICE guidelines state that for a patient to qualify for NHS funded treatment, they must have a BMI no higher than 30). Additionally, exercise has been proven to help with stress and anxiety. Regular exercise releases endorphins, leading to a feeling of positivity and happiness (even though when you’re in the gym or out jogging, it may not always feel that way!).

Yoga – These days, most people are aware of the positive benefits of practicing yoga. Yoga is good for flexibility, stamina and general fitness, and it’s also invaluable in reducing stress. Often coupled with meditation, yoga may be just what you need to be able to relax and give yourself the best starting point as you set off on your fertility journey.

Go outside – Getting out and about will not only involve exercise vital to improving your mood and boosting your fertility; but also give you the opportunity to explore the great outdoors. Getting out of the city and exploring the countryside or coastline is a great way to quieten your mind and reduce the stress of everyday life as well as the additional stresses of dealing with fertility issues.

Acupuncture, meditation or mindfulness – All of these practices have been known to have a positive effect on stress levels and subsequently, your fertility. While many people are cynical towards a lot of these practices, the effectiveness of them is well proven by scientific study. When struggling with fertility issues, looking for help in less obvious places can make a big difference.

2. BMI

To think of weight affecting your fertility and the health of your potential pregnancy is not particularly accurate. A person’s weight can be affected by many things including their height, muscle and bone density, as well as water retention. It’s therefore not a perfect indicator of general health. For evaluating your health and suitability for fertility treatment, Body Mass Index, or BMI, is a far more appropriate measurement.

The correct way of calculating you BMI is: Weight (In Kilos) divided by height (In Meters) squared. Therefore, if someone weighs 100 kilos and is 1.8 meters tall, their BMI is:

100 divided by 1.8 X 1.8 = 100/3.24 = 30.9

A higher BMI will make you less likely to conceive naturally. However, when undergoing fertility treatment and potentially carrying a baby, it poses different challenges. Studies show that there is almost a 15% decrease in the success of IVF treatment on women with a heightened BMI. Additionally, the same study found that egg retrieval and scanning were also increasingly difficult in women with BMIs of over 40.

 

Finally, if your fertility treatment is successful and you become pregnant, carrying a child throughout a full term and delivering a healthy baby is not only more comfortable but also safer if you have a healthy Body Mass Index.

3. Smoking and Alcohol

The dangers of smoking are widely understood these days and if you are a smoker, we would advise that you take steps to try to quit before becoming pregnant. Both male and female fertility can be negatively affected by smoking, and smoking whilst pregnant has been proven to cause birth abnormalities and heighten the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth. If you’re considering quitting and think you could use some assistance in doing so, the NHS has a SmokeFree helpline you can ring where you will be able to get all the information you need to make quitting as easy as possible.

Smoking will have a direct, negative effect on your fertility, harming almost every stage of conception from proper hormone levels, egg maturation and the environment within your uterus. If you’ve been trying to conceive for a long time without any success, stopping smoking will help increase your fertility, making your body more receptive to pregnancy.

While smoking is thankfully becoming less popular, with the numbers of smokers falling every year, drinking is still ubiquitous within our society and drinking in excess can be just as harmful to your own health, your fertility and your baby as smoking.

Similarly to smoking, the dangers of drinking whilst pregnant are widely understood. We recommend that you abstain from any alcohol consumption whilst pregnant for the health of you and your child. What is less understood is the effect of drinking on your fertility when trying to conceive. Previous studies have shown that any alcohol consumption can have some negative effects on fertility in men and women. What all studies and medical professionals can agree on however, is that excessive drinking - consumption of more than 7 or 8 drinks a week - will most definitely have an adverse effect on your ability to conceive.

Generally speaking, your fertility is directly linked to your general health and wellbeing. A healthy body of a non-smoker, maintained by a good diet and regular exercise is the most receptive to a healthy and successful pregnancy.

4. Finances

Sadly, the cost of fertility treatment is a barrier for many. Here at The Hewitt Fertility Centre, we are committed to ensuring that as many people as possible have the opportunity to achieve their dream of becoming parents. Finance and insurance schemes, as well as competitive pricing and NHS funded treatments, are all available here, in the hope that we can do everything possible to ensure that the gateway to treatment is open for you.

Recent changes to government guidelines mean than many people are finding it increasingly difficult to access NHS funded fertility treatment. If you embark upon privately funded fertility treatment, starting out with a solid understanding of what costs will be involved, and how you’re going to deal with them, is advised.

At your first consultation, your doctor will outline what treatment they think will be best for you and what that will entail. If you’ll be undergoing IVF treatment for example, the overall cost of treatment will include drugs, scanning and testing. Our website contains a handy Cost Calculator to help you understand how much your treatment might cost.

Once you have an understanding of what treatment you’ll be undergoing, whether it’ll be NHS or privately funded, and if privately funded, how much it is all going to cost, it may be worth looking into finance packages. Here at the Hewitt Fertility Centre, we recently engaged in a partnership with Access Fertility, an organisation that offers reduced costing as well as refund packages to lessen the financial risks associated with fertility treatment and therefore alleviate some of the anxieties and stresses involved.

5. Knowing which treatment is right

You’ve been struggling to conceive for a year or more with no success. After visiting your GP, you’ve been referred to a specialist and are informed that you have low fertility and that medical treatment is the best course of action. But what treatment is best for you?

Your fertility consultant will have outlined what they believe the cause of your fertility issues may be. For women, it could be problems with ovulation, damage to your fallopian tubes or uterus or problems with the cervix. For men, low sperm mobility, low sperm count, hormonal issues or genetic defect can all be the cause of low fertility.

Your consultant will then make the recommendation they feel will give you the best chance of overcoming your issues, but it’s helpful if you understand what treatments are available and how they all work.

While most people will be familiar with IVF treatment, there is a wide range of additional treatments available here at The Hewitt Fertility Centre to help people with all manner of concerns. You may think IVF is the best treatment for all of those who are having trouble conceiving, but this is not always the case. Many people have fertility issues that are less severe and a course of drugs or even lifestyle changes may be all that is needed to help them overcome their problems. Knowing which treatment is best suited to your situation will not only save you time and money, but it’ll also keep you from needing to undergo extensive and potentially unnecessary procedures.

Once having agreed upon the best course of action with their consultant, a lot of our patients find it helpful to gain a deeper understanding of what that treatment may entail. A lot of the stress and anxieties surrounding the fertility journey can arise from uncertainties about how the process works and how your body will respond to treatment. Doing some homework on fertility treatments can help alleviate this.

We have an outline of all of the major fertility treatments on our website.

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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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