The low down on infertility
First off, I want to stress that I am a midwife, I am not a fertility expert. I have been through infertility so I am sharing a few tips from my personal experience. To start with, I have been so surprised at the amount of people that have contacted me since I started my blog about infertility. People I know but had no idea what they were going through. A lot of people have asked me what we did before going down the IVF route so I will share some of that here. It is important to stress that infertility is not just the inability for a couple to conceive a child which is referred to as primary infertility. Oh no, these things can change so you might think all is well as you had no problems conceiving your first (or subsequent) child but there is such a thing as secondary infertility. Secondary infertility is where fertility issues pop up when a couple already have a child (or children) without problems before. Mother nature is a tough old lady and likes to constantly challenge us mere mortals.
Lifestyle changes to inprove fertility
To start with, we all know the more we worry about this stuff, the more of a problem it becomes – to be told stop worrying about it is not really helpful. Because you do worry to the point that it’s the only thing you can think about from the moment you wake up until the moment you fall asleep. More than likely after a good few sleepless hours in bed worrying. Aghhhhhh. All I can suggest in this situation is to start something new – a sport, an activity, join a book club, etc. Just something to get your brain to focus on apart from your fertility. As an added bonus, sport and exercise can help boost your overall fertility by keeping you at a healthy BMI and getting the good hormones flowing. And a relatively healthy lifestyle is going to help so without being too strict, up the good stuff like fruit, veggies, proteins. And reduce the bold stuff like caffeine, alcohol, nicotene and high fat or sugary processed foods.
Chart your menstrual cycle
It sounds simple but not everyone ovulates 2 weeks after the start of their period. Everyone’s cycle is different. The handiest way to chart your cycle is to download an app for your phone, just do a google search, there’s loads of free ones. You can start by just charting when your period starts and finishes; after a few cycles the app will tell you your most fertile days of each cycle. You can put more detailed information in such as basal body temperature, cervical mucus, symptoms, mood, etc but it’s up to you. If you then do decide to see a fertility specialist, all this data is useful for them too.
You can get a few bloods checked with your GP. The main ones I found useful were hormone bloods which need to be done on specific days of your cycle. So for example, you would get your Estradiol, LH, FSH, prolactin, progesterone and thyroid function checked between days 2 – 4 of your cycle. Here is a chart of normal values for these tests. Then you would also check progesterone levels and estradiol levels post ovulation. Again, if you are intending to see a fertility specialist, these results are useful to have for your initial consultation and will save time. And things like thyroid problems can be sorted with medication from your GP which might make all the difference to your chances of conceiving. Also, the fertility specialist we seen suspected that I had PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) from just looking at my blood results (the ratio of LH:FSH should be around 1:1 and if LH is higher this could indicate PCOS). PCOS was the cause of my fertility issues and was confirmed by ultrasound scan. I’ll do a more in-depth post about PCOS another time as there is a lot of info.
These are like pregnancy tests but they tell you when you are ovulating instead. Note they usually don’t work effectively if you have PCOS like me! So you pee on the stick and if you get 2 lines, you are likely to be at a fertile stage in your cycle. You can buy them cheaply in bulk online. You can also get a bit more technical (and expensive) by buying a digital ovulation monitor; Clearblue would be the most wellknown brand. This works in a similar way to the ovulation sticks except the monitor analyses more than one hormone.
You’ve probably heard this a million times and seeing other people getting pregnant when they didn’t mean to doesn’t help. It can take up to 2 years to conceive in a healthy couple without any issues. It’s very easy to jump the gun and go down the fertility treatment route. I know people feel time is ticking and why not just get on with it. It’s an individual decision for every couple. And timing is also important. It is important to get busy in your fertile window but this puts a lot of pressure on couples. You still need to have fun too and live your life because when that little person does come along, date nights are a very rare occurrence!
So in summary, infertility is one of the most cruel things any couple or individual could have to deal with. Usually you have to go it alone as it’s so difficult to talk about. But if you can, be brave, tell some close friends or family as their support is so important and at the very least it might stop the “any signs of a baby?” questions… grrrrrrr! Wishing you all the luck and baby dust in the world.