Whether it’s your first or your fourth, trying for a baby isn’t always straightforward. Here we tackle some of your most asked fertility questions…
A: Conceiving can be as fickle as a fairground coconut shy. For one couple in six, all the well-aimed balls in the world won’t win a cuddly prize! ‘After 12 months of regular intercourse and no contraception, regardless of whether the couple has conceived previously, preliminary investigations would normally be considered,’ says Dr Phillip Owen, senior registrar at Glasgow Hospital.
Read: Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler
A: Yes. A full-term pregnancy is rarely out of reach. ‘The majority of miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities which, statistically speaking, are random events,’ says pregnancy expert Ann Douglas.
Read: The Mother of All Pregnancy Books by Ann Douglas
A: ‘The Pill doesn’t cause long-term infertility,’ says Dr Jim Thornton, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Nottingham University, ‘though conception may be delayed after stopping.’ But your cycles may be out of sync. ‘It may be wise to wait six months after stopping, using condoms meantime.’
A: There are three main ways you can determine ovulation. The Calendar Method: have sex around 14 days from the first day of your period (in a regular 28-day cycle); the Basal Body Temperature method: look for the 0.4-0.8°C rise in your temperature that indicates ovulation; and the Billings Method: ‘Your cervical mucus becomes watery when you ovulate,’ Dr Thornton explains. You could buy an ovulation kit (about £20 from chemists) or just enjoy regular (about three times a week) sex!
A: ‘There’s a progressive decline in a woman's fertility from her early 20s. But there’s no specific age beyond which fertility is zero other than the menopause,’ says Dr Owen. But fertility nose-dives at 40 to a 5% chance of conceiving naturally. And though there’s a blood test that estimates longevity of fertility by checking gonadotrophin levels, it’s unreliable.
A: Physically speaking, the younger the better. ‘Risks of Down's syndrome, infertility and high blood pressure increase the older you are,’ says Dr Thornton. So 20 is considered prime time, but what about emotional maturity and financial stability? Are you ready to sacrifice your social life and weekend lie-ins for sleep deprivation and responsibility?
Click: relate.org.uk run courses for those considering parenthood.
A: Mostly, yes. But the Shettles method of selecting your baby’s gender claims 75% success rate, and states that although ‘female’ sperm are slower, ‘male’ sperm perish faster, so try sex closest to ovulation for a boy and two or three days beforehand for a girl.
Read: How to Choose the Sex of Your Baby: the method best supported by scientific evidence by Dr Landrum Shettles
A: Most clinics insist on GP referral. You both undergo tests for the cause of infertility and your suitability for IVF. If you have no children and are both under 35, you’ll probably be eligible for treatment on the NHS. Otherwise, it costs from £1,000-3,000 per cycle.
A: ‘What you want to steer clear of is feeling maximum stress levels around the clock. Low-level anxiety is pretty unavoidable, given our modern lifestyles. So don’t sweat it: Mother Nature designed us for survival, and that includes getting and staying pregnant,’ says Ann Douglas. Buy bubble bath, a bottle of wine or take a holiday.
A:‘Although gender selection is random, some men with better X or Y chromosomes have just girls or boys,’ says Tony Luck of baby-talk.co.uk. ‘If you’re desperate for a girl, send him scuba-diving – studies show delicate Ys don't survive pressure!’
A: You really need to ask him straight, though maybe it’s just the weight of responsibility. ‘Most men can't get enough sex, but once it stops being recreational, their attitude may change,’ says Phillip Owen. Put back the fun – and try again.
Read: The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex by Cathy Winks et al
A: Studies suggest smoking can lower a man’s sperm count by 20%. If he has to suck on something, give him an orange – vitamin C enhances male fertility. Get him off the bike and into loose boxer shorts to cool the wrigglers down (no hot baths, either!). As for you, put your feet up with a cuppa. It’s best to keep the goods inside as long as possible so after sex, lie back (pelvis tilted upward) for at least five minutes, and get him to bring you a brew. Tea is a fertility enhancer, packed with antioxidants.
Read: The Everything Getting Pregnant Book: Professional, Reassuring Advice to Help You Conceive by Robin Elise Weiss
A: Being overweight or underweight can inhibit ovulation; in fact a link has been made between very low-fat diets and inability to conceive, so maintain a balanced intake. Over-exercising can also interfere; so no sudden gym bingeing.
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