By Denise Donati
As a nurse working in the area of infertility for nearly 20 years and now running my own IVF clinic, I have seen many people over the years come to the clinic having heard a lot of myths about getting pregnant and often making the same mistakes. Generally the mistakes relate to what they have been told by other people, forgetting that not everyone is the same – we are all individuals.
I understand that you may be finding the fertility journey difficult. By sharing this with you, it is my hope that you will be able to conceive that long awaited bundle of joy soon.
It is important that you seek a medical opinion if you are female and under the age of 35 and have been trying for a pregnancy unsuccessfully for 12 months or more. If you are female and over the age of 35, you should consider seeking a medical opinion if you have been trying unsuccessfully for a pregnancy for 6 months. If you or your partner have a history that indicates that there are likely to be issues with your fertility – such as a low sperm count, prior infertility, endometriosis, or irregular/absent period you should also seek medical advice.
9 Common Misunderstandings When Trying To Get Pregnant
Most people who I have spoken with have said that they were making at least one of the following mistakes when trying to fall pregnant.
#1 Ovulating on Day 14.
Many women (and indeed some doctors) automatically think that ovulation occurs 14 days after the first day of a period starting. This is wrong most of the time.
If a woman is having 28 day cycles (from the beginning of one period to the beginning of the next) then yes, ovulation is occurring around day 14, but not everyone has a perfect 28 day cycle.
The thing to remember is that ovulation occurs around 14 days before you get your period, so it’s a good idea to track your cycle length for a few months so you can work our when ovulation is likely to be occurring for you. For example a woman who has 35 day cycles is likely to be ovulating around day 21; a woman who has 25 day cycles is likely to be ovulating around day 11 and so on. For these women, having intercourse on or around day 14 is not likely to result in a pregnancy. Whilst it is known that sperm are capable of being successfully stored in the female tubes for several days and still be able to fertilise an egg, it is thought that the egg itself is only capable of being fertilised for a much smaller period of time – around 24-48 hours after ovulation. Once this time is passed, the likelihood of fertilisation is slim.
#2 Using Lubricants Helps With Fertility
Many women who are trying to fall pregnant suffer at some time with vaginal dryness. Given the stress that trying for a baby can create, it’s no wonder that many women have this complaint. Woman often treat vaginal dryness with vaginal lubricants however, published research has shown that many if not all existing vaginal lubricants harm sperm, resulting in sperm death and significant loss of sperm motility (ability to swim forward).
It’s quite simple; many lubricants currently on the market also have a Spermicidal action. This means that some of the compounds in the lubricant are actually toxic to sperm and in fact will stop the sperm in their tracks. There are some lubricants on the market which provides moisture when it really counts but do not contain a spermicide and may be used even when trying to conceive – – a time when some couples experience increased vaginal dryness due to stress or other contributing factors. Some lubricants may contain a spermicide and therefore should be avoided whilst trying to conceive. Ask your pharmacist or doctor about a spermicidal free lubricant.
#3 Saving Up Sperm – Is Longer Better?
Many couples fall into the trap of thinking if they save up their partners sperm for a month or more then there will be much more sperm and it will be more virile. The end thought is that more sperm and more virile means a better chance at becoming pregnant – in fact the opposite is true. This is in fact a VERY BIG MISTAKE. Research has shown that storing sperm in the testes for a long period of time (a week or more) can actually be detrimental to the sperms vitality and by the time they are ejaculated will most likely be very sluggish and still relaxing on their banana lounges! In fact scientists suspect that the longer sperm stays in the testicular ducts, the more it is exposed to rogue oxygen molecules (known as free radicals) that may damage it. In fact a study where 118 men were recruited whose sperm had a higher-than-normal level damage. Before the test, approximately 34% of the group’s sperm was rated as damaged, meaning that it was classified as ‘poor’ in quality. The men were asked to ejaculate daily for seven days, and were not given any drugs and told not to make any changes to lifestyle. After seven days, their sperm was examined again the average of damaged sperm fell to 26%, placing it in the category of ‘fair’ in quality.
So what is the answer – I’m sure not many men will object to this recommendation – ejaculate frequently! By frequently I mean couples with relatively normal semen parameters should have sex every second day for up to a week before the date of ovulation date. The sperm are very resilient and can last in the female tubes for several days. Don’t forget about combining frequent ejaculation with a healthy, well balanced diet and regular exercise. It is also thought taking a daily vitamin supplement such as Menevit which contains a combination of antioxidants that are thought to support sperm health for couples planning pregnancy is also very beneficial. Fertility Solutions provides lifestyle support and advice to all its patients as well as the multivitamin supplement Menevit, if you would like to purchase Menevit and be on your way to better sperm health then contact Fertility Solutions.
#4 It doesn’t matter if a female is overweight, it won’t affect the chance of becoming pregnant.
Being overweight does have a significant effect on a woman’s ability to become pregnant. Here’s why…
Being overweight (and obesity) has been linked to women experiencing problems with ovulation (egg production) which subsequently causes irregular menstrual cycles. With irregular menstrual cycles it is very difficult and sometimes impossible to work out when the best time to try for a pregnancy will be. Being over the desired weight for females can disrupt the hormonal balance that are necessary for the production of an egg. This can lead to woman experiencing problems with ovulation (egg production and release), which subsequently causes irregular menstrual cycles. With irregular cycles ti is very difficult and sometimes impossible to work out when the best time to try for a pregnancy will be. This then leads to a decline in the likelihood of a pregnancy and health birth,
Research has very clearly demonstrated a link between excess body weight and polycistic ovarian syndrom (PCOs). Excess body weight can also lead to an increased risk of miscarriage and difficulty achieving a good response if you need to use assisted reproeductive procedures sich as inseminations and IVF.
When you have lots of weight to lose, it can be daunting to look at your long-term weight goal. So it’s critical to set milestones along the way.
If you’re overweight and trying to get pregnant, start with the goal of losing just 5 percent of your weight. Then aim for 10 percent. Short-term goals are more achievable and realistic and help to keep you motivated.
Remember when setting goals to think SMART. That means the goals you set should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
And here’s some really GOOD NEWS:
THE EFFECT OF WEIGHT LOSS ON FERTILITY. Studies have shown that reducing weight in overweight women can restore menstrual cycle regularity. A weight reduction of 5% is enough to restore normal menstrual cycle function in up to 60% of overweight women. Furthermore, it is also known if an overweight female reduces her weight before undergoing IVF treatment, the chance of becoming pregnant is dramatically improved.
#5 It doesn’t matter if a male is overweight, it won’t affect the chance of his partner becoming pregnant.
Well, in fact, research is starting to show that the potential for obese males to have a reduced sperm count does exist. For example, obesity can lower levels of the male hormone testosterone (which is directly linked to sperm count). Obese males can also develop an apron of fat around the genital area heating up the testicles and potentially reducing sperm numbers.
Recent research has shown that male obesity can result in reduced quality and development of their embryos and a reduced pregnancy rate. This research was then confirmed by studying a group of obese men undergoing IVF treatment. As the men’s body mass index (BMI) increased, there was a significant reduction in pregnancies and births and an increase in pregnancy loss.
So, you want to lose some weight. That’s fantastic as you both need to take responsibility for a healthy pregnancy and baby.
#6 I’ve been told that as long as I maintain a well-balanced diet everything will be OK.
Well, to a certain extent this is true. A well balanced diet is certainly what we should all be aiming for however, today I ‘m going to talk about a food that can be both good and bad for your fertility.
There is a food that some pregnant women are already aware that they should be avoiding, but not many women who are trying to get pregnant know about this. So what is this food?
No, you don’t have to avoid all types of fish, because most fish can be beneficial to your fertility as they are high in Omega 3 fatty acids. The fish you should avoid are the ones that are high in mercury.
Why is mercury so important to avoid? When you conceive you often don’t find out you’re pregnant until about 2 weeks later when your period doesn’t show up and you have done a pregnancy test. At this stage the baby has already been exposed to everything you have put in your body during those two weeks. However, hopefully because you are planning a pregnancy you have managed to cut out most of the obvious things that would be harmful to the baby such as alcohol and smoking, but you might not have thought about fish high in mercury. The particular type of mercury that is best to avoid is called methyl mercury and it is commonly found in some types of fish. Approximately 95% of the methyl mercury is absorbed through the stomach and intestinal tract, then transferred to the blood stream and distributed throughout the body.It then readily passes the blood-brain barrier and enters the brain.In pregnant women, methyl mercury easily crosses the placental barrier and moves into the blood of the developing baby and subsequently into the babies brain and other tissues.
One fish that many people eat quite frequently is “white” tuna fish in the can. This can have high levels of toxic mercury in it and should be eaten only in small quantities.
You should try to completely avoid shark (also known as flake), swordfish, king mackerel, and tile fish (also called golden or white snapper), tuna steaks (fresh or frozen), orange roughy, Spanish mackerel, marlin, and grouper because these fish contain the highest levels of mercury.
It is not necessary to avoid all fish, only those that are high in mercury, because fish is loaded with protein, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids — all of which are an important part of a healthy diet. There are plenty of good fish choices such as salmon and rainbow trout that contain low levels of mercury and are high in healthy fats.
#7 It doesn’t matter if I drink coffee, it won’t affect me getting pregnant.
There is an ongoing debate about whether drinking coffee (or other caffeinated beverages) can cause a delay in getting pregnant. Exactly how caffeine and infertility are related isn’t really understood. Although a recent study published in Science Daily (July 20, 2011) suggests that Caffeine may reduce muscle activity in the Fallopian tubes that carry eggs and embryos from a woman’s ovaries to her womb. The experiments were conducted in mice, but this finding goes a long way towards explaining why drinking caffeinated drinks may reduce a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant.
If stopping caffeine is too hard for you to go “cold turkey”, or if you are unwilling to break it, you should cut back on your intake. Limit your intake to up to two servings per day. Research has suggested that miscarriages and low birth weight have been seen more commonly in women who ingest more than two cups of caffeinated beverages a day.
The best advice is to try to wean yourself off the caffeinated drinks altogether. Decaffeinated drinks taste just as good as the caffeinated ones so give them a try. However, if you have a really strong addiction to caffeine – wean slowly to avoid some of the withdrawal symptoms that are associated with caffeine withdrawals such as headaches. Drinking 6-8 glassess of water a day is also a great way of reducing the effects of caffeine withdrawals.
Whilst the research relating to caffeine and infertility is still not conclusive, I would encourage people to stay on the safe side and avoid caffeinated beverages while trying to get pregnant.
#8 Infertility is a woman’s problem.
It’s important to remember that male fertility factors contribute to approximately 40% of all infertility cases. That’s right about 40% of patients who see a doctor because the are having difficulty getting pregnant are found to have a male problem (i.e. low sperm count),, 40% have a female problem (i.e. blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis), with the remaining 20% having either a combined male-female problem (i.e. low sperm count combined with blocked fallopian tubes), or there is nothing that modern medicine can determine to be a problem – this is known as unexplained infertility. The bottom line is that getting pregnant is not just a woman’s problem!
It is important that the male partner is also considered if you are having trouble falling pregnant. A semen analysis is often all that is needed to assess if there is a male fertility issue. If your partner has never had a semen analysis ask your GP to arrange for this for you.
#9 I’m not getting pregnant because I am stressed – all I have to do is relax.
There are more myths about stress and pregnancy and stress and fertility treatment outcomes than about any other area of reproductive medicine.
It’s very popular to blame stress for everything from not conceiving naturally to a failed IVF cycle.
It is not uncommon for the many people to blame the female if a pregnancy is not happening – “You took too stressed, which is why you are not falling pregnant..
You need to relax, otherwise you will never fall. You are not becoming pregnant because you are too uptight-just relax”. All these are comments are common, and for women and couples trying to become pregnant just having people say this to them is stressful enough. There is not a lot of evidence to support stress causing infertility but there is a lot of evidence that infertility causes stress.
So, then is stress causing my infertility?
Probably not. Even though infertility is very stressful, there isn’t any proof that stress causes infertility. Occasionally it is found in some women that having too much stress can change her hormone levels and therefore cause the time when she releases an egg to become delayed or not take place at all.
Is infertility causing my stress?
Maybe. Many couples who are being treated for infertility have as much stress as couples who are battling cancer together. However infertile couples experience stress each month: first they hope that they are pregnant; and if they are not, the couple has to deal with their disappointment.
What can I do to reduce my stress?
- Talk to your partner, share your feelings, thoughts and concerns.
- Realize you’re not alone. Talk to other people who are trying to start a family or perhaps access individual or couple counseling, or even a support group.
- Read books on infertility and stress management, which will show you that your feelings are normal and can help you deal with them.
- Take up stress reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, or acupuncture.
- Avoid taking too much caffeine or other stimulants.
- Exercise regularly to release physical and emotional tension.
- Take time out as a couple, organize a date with each other once a month or even once a week. Spend time together and just be you.
If you would like more information on preparing yourself for pregnancy or just want to know if you are on the right track email or phone with your questions and we will do our best to answer you. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Always check with your health care provider about any information in this article.