It’s Fertility Week 2016 and this year we are talking about the ‘7 ways in 7 days’ that people can increase their chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby. Each day, between 1-7 September, we will be focusing on the top seven modifiable factors affecting fertility and what people can do to increase their chances of conceiving or having successful IVF treatment. Here are some of the things you can do to boost your chance of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby.
1 September – Timing of sex
Studies have found that lots of people trying to conceive get it wrong when it comes to timing sex around ovulation (a woman’s fertile time of the month). Knowing when is the right time to have sex can reduce the time couples take to conceive and perhaps even save them a trip to a fertility clinic.
Conception (where an egg meets sperm to form an embryo) is technically only possible during the five days before ovulation through to the day of ovulation – the ‘fertile window’ in a woman’s cycle. During that window, the chance of conceiving rapidly increases in the three days leading up to, and including, ovulation.
The Your Fertility website has an interactive ovulation calculator where women can track when they are likely to ovulate. However, for women who find it hard to work out when they are ovulating, it may be just be easier to have sex every two to three days to cover all bases.
2 September – STIs
Sexually transmitted infections, particularly gonorrhoea and chlamydia, can affect the fertility of both women and men. Practicing safe sex can protect your future fertility. If you think you might have been exposed to an STI, see your GP and arrange for both you and your partner to have a screening test. Earlier detection and treatment of STIs significantly reduces the risk that they will lead to infertility.
3 September – Age
For both women and men, age can affect your chance of becoming a parent. For women, age is the single most important factor affecting a woman’s fertility and her chances of having a healthy pregnancy and baby.
None of us can change our age. But wherever possible, it’s worth trying to start your family at a younger age, when your body is the most fertile. Many couples delay starting a family for reasons they later regret. If having a baby (or more than one baby) is important to you, learn about your reproductive lifespan and make a plan for success.
4 September – Parenting begins before
There is growing evidence that conditions before and at the time of conception also affect the short and long-term health of our children (epigenetics). Being overweight, or obese, smoking, or being exposed to environmental toxins could harm your children’s future health. Parents can improve the odds of their children having good health by optimising their own health before they get pregnant and during pregnancy.
5 September – Smoking, alcohol and caffeine
To be on the safe side it is recommended that women trying to conceive and those who are pregnant do not have more than two cups of coffee a day.
Even just a few drinks of alcohol can reduce a woman’s chance of conceiving. In men, heavy drinking can cause impotence, reduce libido and affect sperm quality. It is well known that alcohol consumption during pregnancy can be harmful to a baby. The best advice for women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy is that not drinking is safest.
Smokers take longer to get pregnant because of the damage smoke does to sperm and eggs. Second-hand smoke is also damaging. The good news is that the effects of smoking on eggs and sperm – and general fertility – are reversible. Whether it’s the male or the female partner (or both) who smokes, quitting will increase a couple’s chance of conceiving and having a healthy baby.
6 September – Weight
Being overweight or obese causes hormonal changes that can interfere with ovulation and fertility. Overweight women take longer to conceive than women in a healthy weight range and are more likely to experience infertility. Obesity also increases the risk of pregnancy complication and health problems in the newborn. In men, excess weight can cause hormone problems that lower libido and cause issues with sexual function and sperm quality. Fortunately, in many instances, losing as little as 5-10kg can help regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle.
7 September – Vitamins and minerals
The risk of certain birth defects can be reduced by women supplementing their diet with folic acid and iodine.
Taking folic helps prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida in babies. Women who plan to conceive should supplement their diet with 500 micrograms folic acid daily from at least one month before conception and during the first two months of pregnancy.
Iodine can support the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system. For women who are pregnant and breastfeeding – or those thinking about having a baby – it is a good idea to supplement their diet with 150 micrograms iodine per day.
Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy is not generally recommended unless the woman has vitamin D deficiency. The risk of vitamin D deficiency is higher among women who have dark skin, are covered or veiled, use block-out sunscreen, or take anti-epilepsy medication. Vitamin D supplements may improve fertility in women and men who are low in vitamin D.
Zinc and Selenium
Supplements such as zinc and selenium can reduce the damaging effects of free radicals. Studies among infertile men have found that zinc and selenium can reduce the damage to sperm caused by free radicals and improve sperm quality. Whether this improves their chance of fathering a child is not yet known but it may be a good idea for men who want to be fathers to boost their zinc and selenium intake.
Plus! Don’t forget to promote Fertility Week 2016 to your friends and contacts by using the hashtags #FertilityWeek #7ways7days