What is infertility and how common is it?
For most couples planning to have a baby, this happens within a reasonable amount of time.
Unfortunately, for 1 in 6 couples this is not easily achievable, and help may be needed to assess if there is a problem.
In fact, in most cases, you are not “infertile” but “sub-fertile”. In other words, you have the ability to conceive and have been unsuccessful so far which could be corrected with appropriate advice or treatment.
What causes infertility?
Conception is a process that depends upon many factors. The main factors are listed below:
- The production of healthy sperm: problems with this may include low sperm counts.
- Release of healthy eggs: problems with this include irregular periods or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or premature ovarian ageing (reduced reserve) and hormone imbalances.
- Normal fallopian tubes allow the sperm to reach the egg: problems with blocked tubes could be due to infection such as chlamydia, adhesions, endometriosis or complications of previous surgery.
- Implantation of an embryo in the uterus (womb): problems with this include fibroids and polyps, or scarring (Asherman’s syndrome).
- The presence of endometriosis which could cause scarring of tubes and can be associated with pelvic pain.
- In some cases, even after a full range of tests, no cause is found. This is called unexplained infertility and is more common when older. Fortunately, there are several treatment options available for this.
How is fertility assessed?
We advise you seek medical help if you have not achieved a pregnancy within a year of unprotected intercourse. However, if there is a known problem such as irregular or absent periods, pelvic, sexually transmitted infections (PID), endometriosis, or male, sperm and testicular problems, help should be sought sooner.
Tests will be required to help us identify the problems and advise you on how to improve your chances or what treatment is best.
The main areas of assessment are: tests of ovulation and ovarian reserve, sperm tests, ultrasound scans and tests of fallopian tubes (if required).
How to optimise your fertility
Optimising Fertility and getting ready for treatment or pregnancy requires both physical and mental preparation. We understand how stressful this can be and hope the advice below helps you.
- Age: the younger you are the better your chances, avoid leaving having a baby too late
- Diet: there are no wonder foods for fertility, however a balanced diet with a generous portion of vegetables, fruit and antioxidants will help.
- Body weight: being under or overweight significantly reduces your fertility.
- Exercise: moderate regular exercise is good but excessive exercise reduces fertility and increases the risk of miscarriage
- Smoking: avoid completely as this reduces your chances
- Environmental toxins: avoid newly painted rooms, strong perfumes and toxic fumes
Improving female fertility
- Folic acid: this is strongly recommended and should be taken until 12 weeks into the pregnancy
- Vitamins: supplements containing Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 can also be beneficial
- Alcohol: avoid consuming more than 4 units a week
- Caffeine: avoid more than 1-2 cups of coffee or tea a day
Improving male fertility
- Antioxidants: can reduce the damage that free radicals can have on sperm
- Vitamin: supplements containing Vitamin C, E, selenium and zinc can improve sperm
- Alcohol: in large quantities reduces sperm production
- Obesity: impacts on sperm production
- Cycling: long distances can reduce sperm quality
Infertility brings with it much emotional stress and can affect many aspects of your life. If you are under too much stress this may have some effect on the way you cope with treatment and your chances of success.
We have experienced accredited fertility counsellors who are here to guide and available to provide specialist support throughout your journey with us, this is provided free of charge to patients undergoing fertility treatment. Find out more