Getting pregnant is by no means easy, and whilst some people get pregnant within a week of trying, others will take years.
One in six couples have infertility problems, so you are not alone if difficulties occur. Even if you do need some assistance, the chances are you’ll go on to have a perfectly pregnancy and baby. At least half of all problems with conception are down to male infertility, so you will both need to be assessed as a couple if problems arise. It is important that you are both sure you are ready for a baby, before any treatment starts.
The first step you can take is to ensure you both have fit and healthy bodies in order to conceive and carry a baby to term. This may mean giving up a few pleasures you have got used to, like fast food and drinking, but you’ll soon have to change your lifestyle to make way for a baby so it’s good practise to start now.
Fertility problems can lie with both the man and the woman. For various reasons, some women fail to ovulate each month and may need treatments to stimulate the ovaries into producing eggs. An egg may not be able to make it’s way down the fallopian tube if there are physical problems with a woman’s tubes, and the lining of her womb cannot always support the implantation of an egg. Some medical conditions can pose a threat to a woman’s fertility such as:
Ovulatory problems like polycystic ovaries.
Polycystic ovaries or PCOD is when the body starts to produce abnormally large amounts of the male hormone testosterone, and also excessive amounts of LH (luteinizing hormone) probably to do with the body’s inability to properly use insulin. This in turn affects the woman’s ability to ovulate and therefore to have regular menstrual periods. This is why it is very important to go to go to your doctor if you are suffering from irregular or no periods at all, whatever your age. The sooner PCOD is diagnosed and treatment is started, the better chance you will have to restore your ovarian function.
Endometriosis is a common condition in which the lining of the uterus or the endometrium spreads to your ovaries, pelvis and fallopian tubes. Endometriosis can interfere with ovulation and conception and can also cause repeated miscarriage. If you have very painful periods with severe abdominal or pelvic pain, make an appointment with your GP even before you have decided to try for a baby.
Premature ovarian failure (or early menopause)
Most women have their last period at around 50 years old, but premature menopause or ovarian failure is defined as the onset of menopause before the age of 45. A good indication is to ask your mother when her menopause started, as you’ll usually follow the same pattern. If your periods suddenly become very irregular for no apparent reason it may be the start of premature menopause and can be detected with a simple blood test by your doctor. When your ovaries begin to fail, your brain sends out more of the hormone FSH that stimulates your ovaries into working harder. If you have high levels of FSH in your blood, it may indicate a problem. If you are worried, discuss this with your doctor.
Fibroids are benign muscle growths that appear on the wall of the uterus. They can affect the normal implantation of the embryo in the uterus, and can stop the fertilized egg reaching the uterus at all. Fibroids are more common women over the age of 35. and can be removed in an operation.
If you have experienced two or more miscarriages or have irregular, painful periods, or no periods at all, it could be the sign of something more serious, so make an appointment with your GP who can refer you to a fertility expert if there is a more serious problem.
As with women, men have their own range of fertility issues. Men can have low sperm counts, or no sperm when they ejaculate. They can also have abnormally shaped sperm. Some fertility problems simply cannot be explained at all. Research shows that among couples with fertility problems in the UK, 40 per cent of the cases were down to the men. Taking drugs like cocaine, heroin, marijuana and ecstasy have all been proved to have a dramatic impact upon male fertility, as does smoking and drinking heavily. Excessive exercise and wearing tight underwear or tight trousers are also cited as bad for male fertility, due to the heat that builds up in the testes.
If your partner experiences a decreased sex drive, ejaculation problems or impotence he should make an appointment with a health or fertility expert as soon as possible. The advances in medical technology means there are treatments available for most fertility problems and the likelihood of you going on to conceive a healthy baby is high. Both men and women who have undergone radiotherapy or chemotherapy may need assistance in conceiving.
If couples don’t fall pregnant straight away, they often panic, but getting pregnant may take time, and is no indication that you have any problems. If you have regular intercourse without protection you have a 25 per cent chance of conceiving in the first month, a 60 per cent chance within six months, a 75 per cent chance within nine months, an 80 per cent chance within a year and a 90 per cent chance within 18 months. So if you are under 35 and have had regular intercourse (sex every two to three days) without protection for a year, it’s probably time to seek medical help. If you are over 35, it is recommended that you seek medical advice after six months of trying.
Check you are having sex at your most fertile times, by using our ovulation calculator.