By Kate Davies, RN, BSc(Hons), FP Cert - Fertility Nurse
As the fertility Nurse Advisor for OvuSense I am delighted to have the opportunity to share with you some of my knowledge, expertise and tips on how to maximize your chances of conception and in essence give you the knowledge to help you achieve pregnancy quicker.
For the first few blogs I am starting at the beginning with all the basics, the ‘must know’ facts about fertility. The ones that are crucial, the ones that really matter.
Firstly, if you are reading this because you are trying to conceive, please know that you are not alone. One in six couples experience problems conceiving and, if this is you, I would urge you to seek advice sooner rather than later. There is also so much that you can be doing now to optimize your fertility.
Age and Fertility
The fertility fact that I most worry about is age. We can’t stop getting older or slow that internal ticking clock. Before you know it, your most fertile years have passed you by. But what we can do is really think about what we want out of life and that includes if we want children and, if we do, how many?
It’s a fact that we are most fertile in our teens and twenties, probably when most of us don’t want to be highly fertile! All those years using contraception to avoid getting pregnant, the fear when contraception lets you down and the wait to see if an ‘accident’ has occurred!
The sad fact is that by the time we are ready to try to conceive in our late twenties, our fertility is decreasing and, by the age of 35, it declines sharply. However I am a firm believer that no woman is purely a statistic and just as we all age at a different rate, so to do our ovaries. It's how we choose to look after them that makes the difference.
A big myth is that men stay fertile and age doesn’t matter for them. Not true at all, men’s fertility declines with age too. Compared to men in their twenties, men aged over 45 face a five-fold increase in the time taken to achieve pregnancy. So it is a fact that we can’t ignore the ticking clock.
Kate’s Fertility Tip:
I recommend to patients to decide how many children they would like and then work backwards in age. This gives you an idea of when you should start trying to conceive.
The timing of ovulation
It is a fact that many women have no idea as to when they are most fertile. This is not helped by health professionals that tell you that you are fertile on day 14 of your cycle. Total myth! Sure, if you have a 28 day cycle you will be fertile around day 14 but very few women have a 28 day cycle.
For example, a woman who has a 24 day cycle will ovulate sooner than day 14 and a woman who has a 32 day cycle, later. Even with a 28 day cycle you may not actually ovulate on day 14. Bodily function is a very individual thing so why should our hormonal cycles be any different? I often wonder how many couples out there are waiting for the magic ‘day 14’ only to be too late or way too early.
Add to this conundrum the fact that the life of the egg, once released, is only 12-24 hours and you begin to wonder how anyone ever gets pregnant. The good news, however, is that sperm hang around a bit longer than the ovum and live for about five days (and can be up to seven) so the chances of sperm meeting egg is increased. However, that’s only if you are having sex at the right time and often enough.
Kate’s Fertility Tip: Research shows that sex every 2-3 days throughout the cycle produces healthy sperm. You then have good strong sperm for around the time of ovulation.
Your natural fertility indicators
Our body is amazing. A woman has natural fertility indicators that tell her when she is in her fertile time. These are changes in basal body temperature, changes in cervical secretions and changes in the position of the cervix.
A woman’s body temperature rises immediately following ovulation and, throughout the month, a woman’s cervical secretions change from no secretions (known as dry days) to fertile secretions. The final indicator is our cervix (neck of the womb).
The cervix changes in feel and position throughout the cycle. With a little help, these are easy to identify and are key to determining when you are fertile.
Kate’s Fertility Tip: If you put these three indicators together and learn how to identify them then you can determine when you are most fertile. Not only that, after you have had your baby, this skill (with a little more understanding) can be used to avoid pregnancy as a natural and effective method of contraception.
What a gift our body has given us; Mother Nature, you are amazing!