Every couple is very excited by the idea of starting a new family. However, the discovery of possible fertility problems fuels the negative feelings of anxiety and frustration.
If you don’t get pregnant when you want to, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem. Research has proven that an average fertile couple having sex regularly can take three to six months to conceive, but when factors like age, health and lifestyle are taken into consideration, it could take longer.
Healthy Lifestyles That Enhance Fertility
- Balanced Diet: Eating nutritious, healthy and varied diets help to prepare the body for pregnancy and improves your chances of conceiving. make conscious efforts to eat the right balance of fruits, vegetables, pulses, carbohydrates and proteins.
- Folic Acid Supplements: As soon as a couple starts trying for a baby, the folic acid supplement must be taken regularly. Folic acid is vital because it aids the healthy development of the baby’s neural tubes and also helps prevent birth defects. For foods rich in folic acid, take green vegetables (broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts), yeast extracts, wholemeal bread and pasta.
- Exercise: Regular exercise of the body helps you to stay healthy and reduces the stress levels. However, excessive exercise can actually reduce fertility. The average amount is about 30 minutes three times in a week.
- Managing Stress: Managing stress levels can reduce fertility issues. Take out time to relax. Try to find something that you and your spouse can enjoy together.
- Regular Sex: having sex every two to three days optimizes your chances of becoming pregnant. Not having sex for more than five days may affect the sperm counts adversely, but intervals as short as two days don’t harm sperm density.
- Know Your Cycle: This helps because it gives you a clear idea of when you’re most likely to conceive. But do not dwell on this too much as it can adversely cause extra emotional stress.
- Enjoy Sex: Let go of anxiety. Try not to allow sex to become a pre-booked chore. Gather more relaxation techniques for you and your partner.
Unhealthy Lifestyles That Reduce Fertility
- Excessive Alcohol Intake: when trying for a baby, reduce minimally your alcohol intake, or better still cut it out totally because alcohol intake is detrimental to the sperm quality.
- Smoking: Women who smoke are likely to reduce their fertility and it can also lead to reduced sperm quality in men.
- Weight Loss/Gain: Men or women with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 29 or more are likely to have reduced fertility. If you’re overweight, it’s a good idea to embark on a weight-loss program. However if you are underweight (with a BMI of 19 or less) and have irregular periods, putting on a healthy amount of weight may improve your chances of conceiving.
Common Causes of Fertility Issues
- Age: This is the foremost reason for reduced fertility in women. Fertility decreases with age in both men and women.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): This condition affects 20% of women and often remains undiagnosed. If you suspect having this syndrome, tests can be carried out to diagnose PCOS, which can successfully be treated with drugs.
- Hormonal Imbalance: changes in hormone levels can lead to your ovaries not producing mature eggs that can be fertilized. A key hormone, Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), helps the follicles to push mature eggs to the surface of the ovary to be released. If there’s an imbalance in this hormone, eggs can be released before they are ready to be fertilized.
- Tube Damage: damaged, blocked or twisted tubes can be a problem in both men and women. Infections like Chlamydia block the fallopian tubes and lower sperm count.
- Poor Sperm Quality: a key indicator of sperm quality is motility- how well sperm swim and if they swim forward, and the shape of the sperm. One in 20 men have a reduced sperm count, this issue normally arises from poor sperm quality or physical symptoms following infections or illness.
To optimize your chances of conception and to get a clearer understanding of the physical factors affecting fertility, it’s important to understand how your body works.
- Women: The menstrual cycle is usually 28 days for most women, although it can vary from 21 to 40 days. Ovulation normally happens around 12 to 16 days before the start of your next period. Taking advantage of what doctor’s call the ‘fertile window’ can boost your chances of pregnancy. Its described as the six day interval ending on the day of ovulation. And pregnancy is most likely to occur with intercourse within the three days before the day of ovulation.
- Men: Sperm is produced in the testes, which also secrete male hormones. Its stored up in the epididymis and released during ejaculation. For fertilization to occur, sperms need to be strong and shaped properly in order to reach and penetrate the egg.