Things you need to know about fertility

National Fertility Awareness Week begins today, so what better time to share some facts you might not know about couples who struggle to become parents?

Fertility issues are all too often misrepresented and misunderstood. This week aims to highlight the unseen, intimate and day-to-day reality of fertility issues to overturn the common misconceptions.

In the UK, one in six couples experience the pain fertility issues brings. Even if you don’t have a direct experience you probably know someone who does.

Here are some things you need to know about fertility

Fertility specialist Dr. Manuel Muñoz, Director of IVI Fertility Alicante seeks to provide some insight on the topic of fertility before, during and post-menopause.

Age-related infertility is not just a problem upon starting the menopause 

Dr. Muñoz says: “Women are born with 1 to 2 million eggs – all the eggs that they will ever produce. The number of eggs decreases by the hundreds every month, and upon reaching the menopause only about 100 eggs remain. The declining number and quality of these eggs, as well as age-related uterine changes, contribute to reduced fertility. This occurs before menopause, and even before the signs of perimenopause are noticeable.”

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Things you need to know about fertility

After the menopause has begun your chances of conceiving naturally decreases significantly

Dr. Muñoz says: “For women below the age of 35, there is around a 25% chance of becoming pregnant during sex when the woman is ovulating. However, beyond this age reproductive potential decreases, and after the age of 40 when the menopause commonly begins, the chances of becoming pregnant are less than 10% each month. Age is often the single most important factor when it comes to getting pregnant and although pregnancy is possible until menopause is confirmed by 12 consecutive months of no periods, this is a rare occurrence. After the menopause has occurred, pregnancy won't happen naturally; the only way a woman can get pregnant is through a donor egg and in vitro fertilisation.”

You are able to undergo fertility treatment after going through the menopause

Dr. Muñoz says: “Due to a new generation of career-driven women, more and more couples are making the decision to try for a baby later in life. However, the chance of becoming pregnant decreases the older you get. In cases like this, we recommend egg freezing at no later than 38 years of age. This age limit ensures that there is the highest chance the eggs will thaw successfully. These eggs can then be used by a woman if they would like to try for a baby after going through the menopause. However, it is vital that women consider the psychological and social impacts of egg freezing, and make sure that they aren’t rushing into a decision.

If a woman has not opted to freeze her eggs, egg donation is the most effective treatment available for women going through the perimenopause. Egg donation involves fertilizing an egg from another woman with your partner's sperm. This fertilized egg is then implanted into your uterus. Egg donation is often a popular choice for women going through perimenopause because it still allows them to experience pregnancy and childbirth. Pregnancy rates using donated eggs often reach 50% per cycle. It is worth noting if a woman would like to get pregnant post-menopause, it is likely they will also need to undergo hormone treatments to prepare the uterus to receive an embryo. At IVI we aim to provide women with accurate, evidence-based information about their fertility to enable them to make informed decisions around planning their family, and we also need to ensure that our maternity services are equipped to provide the additional care that some older mothers may require.”

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Stress can rapidly decrease your chances of getting pregnant

According to the latest study, women who are stressed during their ovulation are 40% less likely to become pregnant that month.

Dr. Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading nutritionist specialising in women’s health and author of best-selling Getting Pregnant Faster to explain, why. “The release of the stress hormone prolactin in response to a crisis can affect a woman’s ability to conceive and in extreme cases can stop her ovulating. It seems to be nature’s way of protecting women from getting pregnant at a time when would find it hard to cope”.

But it’s not only women that are affected by stress. “Stress can also affect a man’s hormone balance, lowering his levels of testosterone and sperm count”.

Vicious circle: stress and fertility 

You’ve probably heard those stories about couples, who have given up fertility investigations, put their names down for adoption, and then found themselves pregnant. Dr. Glenville explains, why is it so common. “Couples trying for a baby often experience high levels of stress, particularly if medical intervention is required. The longer it takes, of course, the more anxious you may become – and the more chance there is of stress inhibiting your fertility. A number of studies show that if a woman becomes totally obsessed with having a baby she may release eggs which are not mature enough to be fertilised”.

Trying to get pregnant? It’s time to book a holiday

Dr. Glenville says, “Many couples find that they conceive on holiday when they are relaxed and have forgotten about all their domestic worries. Infertility is clearly a multi-factorial problem, which is why this book looks at all the possibilities, not only the physical aspects (such as hormones and nutrition) but also the psychological and emotional side”.

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When you are desperate to conceive, sex can lose its spontaneity

You might be feeling that it must happen on certain days of the month and those days mustn’t be missed. Dr. Glenville explains, why is important to enjoy yourself. “However, research has shown that the more enjoyable the lovemaking (and especially if a woman has an orgasm), the more likely she is to retain more active sperm. The contractions caused by the orgasm draw in more sperm and it is thought that her arousal may make the vagina less acidic, increasing the chances of the sperm surviving longer.”

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