"My partner suggested that we wait until the beginning of the following year when we had more time and space in our lives because we’d heard that the IVF journey can be very full-on. So I decided I’d throw everything I had at conceiving naturally… The first thing I wanted to do was get really healthy and fit and to lose some weight". Ricci-Jane
If you are considering becoming pregnant in the future, there are some things you can do to improve your chances of achieving this.
Some of the questions that you and your partner should consider include:
- How many children would you like to have?
- How old would you like to be when you have your first and last child?
- What do you and your partner need to do now so that you are as healthy as possible when you are ready to try for a baby?
- What health checks should you have before trying for a baby?
What health or other concerns should you be discussing with your doctor?
It is helpful to start thinking it through and having the conversation with your partner sooner rather than later.
Boosting your fertility
For women, age is still the single most important factor influencing their ability to have a child. Female fertility starts to decline around age 32 and after age 35 the monthly chance of conceiving decreases more rapidly. Age can also affect a man’s fertility and the chance of having a healthy baby.
Certain lifestyle factors for both men and women also affect the ability to conceive and the health of the pregnancy. A healthy weight, diet and regular exercise can significantly boost fertility as can quitting smoking, stopping drug use and curbing heavy drinking.
Getting the timing right
When you are ready to try for a baby, it is important to know when in the month conception is most likely to happen. Ovulation happens about two weeks before the next expected period. So if a woman's average menstrual cycle is 28 days, she ovulates around day 14 - where day 1 is the first day of her period. Women's cycles vary so the expected ovulation day will change depending on the woman's individual cycle length. However, pregnancy is only possible during the five days before ovulation through to the day of ovulation. These six days are the ‘fertile window’ in a woman’s cycle, and reflect the lifespan of sperm (5 days) and the lifespan of the ovum (24 hours).
For personal and social reasons, many women delay starting a family beyond their most fertile years, which increases the risk of age-related infertility. If you are not currently in a position to have a child and are concerned about your fertility declining, you may wish to consider freezing your eggs for future use. Egg freezing offers the potential to preserve fertility but there is no guarantee of a baby so it is important that you are well-informed about all aspects of egg freezing before you decide to proceed.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal condition affecting up to one in five women of childbearing age. The two hormones that are affected are insulin and testosterone (male-like hormones), which may be produced in higher levels and can impact on fertility. Women with PCOS are prone to irregular menstrual cycles due to absent or infrequent ovulation.
While the majority of women with PCOS become pregnant without fertility treatment, they often take longer to fall pregnant and are statistically more likely to need treatment (ovulation induction or IVF) than women without PCOS. Despite this, studies show little difference between the numbers of children born to women with PCOS than to those without.
Conception may sometimes occur as a result of lifestyle modification or after receiving medication to assist with ovulation (ovulation induction) and advice regarding the timing of intercourse. The most successful way to treat PCOS is by making healthy lifestyle changes. The way you eat, exercise and generally stay healthy is the best way to reduce your symptoms and better your chances of conceiving and having a healthy baby.
Questions to ask your clinician:
If you have difficulty conceiving your GP may refer you to a specialist clinician. The following questions may be helpful.
- Do you offer ovulation induction treatment or do I need to go straight to IVF because I have other complicating fertility issues?
- How do you or your team track the ovulation induction cycle when the ovaries are stimulated to ensure I have a low risk of a multiple pregnancy?
- When I am doing ovulation induction will you or your nursing team tell me when it is safe for me to have unprotected sex to help me get pregnant?
- How many cycles should I have before we re-appraise the situation?
You may also be interested to know that MCHRI is developing a smartphone app for women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
Endometriosis is a condition in which endometrium, the tissue that normally lines the womb (uterus), grows outside the uterus. Endometriosis may cause fibrous scar tissue to form on the uterus. It can also affect the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the bowel. Endometriosis may cause very painful periods and reduce fertility or cause infertility.
Visit the Better Health Channel for more information on Endometriosis.
Your Fertility offers a number of tools to assist you in pregnancy planning such as information about the factors that affect male and female fertility, a preconception health checklist, a fertile window calculator for different cycle lengths, and an ovulation calculator to indicate your most fertile days of the month.