What you need to know about fertility
Whether you are just starting out, or have been trying for a while, these tips about sex and fertility from Sydney’s leading fertility experts will help you move from contraception to conception and maxmise your chance of falling pregnant.
Does The Pill or other contraceptives affect fertility?
Don’t worry if you have been using oral contraceptive pills, IUDs or implants, even for a long period of time - this will not cause infertility.
We suggest you wait one natural cycle after stopping birth control before trying to conceive as this will give you a good idea of the length of your menstrual cycle, the likely day of ovulation and therefore the most fertile days in your cycle. The reality is you can start trying straight away.
If your periods are irregular once you stop using contraception you should consult your GP.
Effect of age on fertility
The single most important factor affecting a woman’s chance of conceiving is age. Women are born with a finite number of eggs and over time they decrease in both quantity and quality, impacting her chance of conceiving both naturally and with IVF or other fertility treatments.
You might want to consider an Anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) test to get some insight into the remaining quantity of eggs and number of fertile years you may have left.
Most fertile time in your menstrual cycle
The most fertile days in your cycle are the days leading up to ovulation before the egg is released from the ovary; this is also referred to as your fertile window. We recommend you have regular sex every two days throughout the fertile window to give you the best chance of conception. If you wait until after a woman ovulates you will likely have missed the opportunity for conception.
Some common reproductive conditions
If you are thinking about starting a family it’s important to know how these conditions can affect your fertility and it might be a good idea to talk to a fertility specialist. They can discuss your options and simple treatments to help you fall pregnant naturally.
Health and lifestyle check
Health and lifestyle is an important consideration for both women and men when trying for a baby as there may be improvements you could make to boost egg or sperm health, and your overall fertility.
- Stop smoking and recreational drugs. Smoking can have a detrimental effect on your fertility, by affecting the quality of your eggs and increasing the chance of pregnancy loss and birth defects.
- Optimise your weight for a healthy BMI. Studies have shown that it is more difficult to conceive when your BMI is greater than 25, as well as increased risk of problems during pregnancy and miscarriage.
- Take folic acid for 3 months prior to conception, and continue for the first trimester. Studies show that folic acid reduces the risk of neural defects such as spina bifida.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine intake. Avoid binging. 1or 2 cups of coffee a day and 2 or 3 glasses of wine a week is fine. In fact, many of us find a glass or two quite helpful in the bedroom!
- Consider taking vitamin supplements, dependent on your individual circumstances.
- Quit smoking and the use of recreational or body-building drugs. There is good evidence linking cigarette smoking to increases in sperm DNA fragmentation. Some drugs can also decrease sperm density and motility, and increase the number of abnormal sperm.
- Drink alcohol in moderation and avoid binge drinking where possible. There is no evidence that safe alcohol intake will have any effect on sperm quality, but just as an alcohol intake above a safe limit can affect a man’s general health, it will also affect his fertility.
- Ensure your Body Mass Index (BMI) is within a healthy range. Overweight men have been shown to exhibit higher levels of DNA damage and poorer IVF outcomes. There are therefore strong motivations for men to take on the difficult job of trying to lose weight.
If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to get checked by your GP to ensure you are in good physical health and review any current medications. For women, the doctor will also make sure you are up to date on your pap smear tests and check for rubella, chicken pox status, blood group, Rh factor, Hep B & Hep C.
How long should it take to conceive?
Don’t be disheartened if you don’t fall pregnant straight away. In healthy, younger couples, only about 20% will fall pregnant in the first month of trying. 60% will fall pregnant after 6 months and 80% after 12 months of trying.
Having trouble conceiving?
1 in 6 couples experience difficulties conceiving so it’s important to know when to seek help. If you have been trying to conceive for 12 months and you are under 35 (or 6 months if you are over 35), you could attend one of our free fertility seminars or book an appointment with a fertility specialist to help you understand the possible reasons why you are not falling pregnant.