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20 October 2005
Increasing Your Chances of Conceiving
by Angie Rankman

Itís always irritating when someone sticks their nose into your personal affairs and tells you how you should live your life. Increasingly we are subjected to condescending and pious voices telling us to quit one or another vice. Occasionally, however, we begrudgingly know that they are right, especially when the reward for giving up a vice is the chance of bringing a new life into the world. Infertility can be the result of a number of problems either on the male or female side, but whatever the diagnosis, maintaining a positive outlook and leading a healthier lifestyle can improve your chances of conceiving. In the end, bringing a new life into the world may come down to making a few small sacrifices on your part.

Infertility and fertility and not black and white, there are many shades of grey in-between. According to research, the chances of conceiving are only 25 percent in a young and healthy couple. Of course, this statistic is only per attempt, and a healthy couple will eventually conceive given some time, persistence and a whole-lotta-loviní. Perhaps a parentís response to a child who asks where babies come from should be: ďhard work.Ē

If a year has passed and youíre still having no luck, however, it is probably safe to assume that something is not quite right. The first thing you probably want to know, at the risk of sounding crass, is whether it is the pitcher or the catcher that requires some attention. Thankfully, we now live in an age where it is not assumed that the problem always lies with the woman, so what should happen is that both you and your partner visit your doctor together. Your doctor, or a referred specialist, will then organize a series of tests to diagnose what the problem might be. They can then advise on a course of action that will, hopefully, solve the problem.

Some of these tests may include looking at both your medical histories, such as prior pregnancies, period cycles, infection and any related surgery that you may have had in the past. Men are usually tested for sperm motility, testicular injury, environmental exposure to toxins and, as with the women, any related surgery that they may have had in the past. More specifically, the tests will include semen analysis, ultrasound and blood tests. Usually, cases of infertility are equally split between males and females, with a 10 percent chance that both are infertile, and another 10 percent where the problem cannot be diagnosed at all. Interestingly, male fertility problems appear to be on the rise, with many scientists suggesting that our increasingly polluted environment is to blame.

After all the fun and games (not) of diagnosis, a variety of issues may have been identified. These might include hormone imbalances, reproductive organ abnormalities and age in women, to low sperm count or a damaged testis that can cause azoospermia (sperm deficiency) in men. However, it is possible that some women will experience infertility that cannot be explained, or infertility that is inevitable due to an anatomical abnormality that arose through development or injury. But it is also true that some women could, at the very least, improve their chances of conceiving.

There are a number of things that you can do to improve your chances of conceiving, but it may involve giving up a few of lifeís little luxuries (ergh!). Of course, these changes donít have to be permanent, since you only need make the changes leading up to and during the time you are trying to conceive. Itís up to you whether you continue the healthy regimen, but, needless to say, some of these changes would be beneficial to your general well being.

First off, you need to have a look at your diet, as being overweight and eating the wrong foods can reduce your likelihood of becoming pregnant. Make sure that your diet includes a balance of carbohydrates (rice, pasta, bread and potatoes), protein (meats, eggs and fish) and fiber (fruit and veggies are just two examples). Fats are also very necessary, but do I need to tell you to be wary of how much you should eat? Make sure you also choose the right fats, such as olive, grape seed or canola oil. Apart from being cholesterol free, these oils also have beneficial qualities such as lowering bad cholesterol. Anything that you have read about folic acid being beneficial prior to and during pregnancy is also true. You can source folic acid from leafy green veggies and cereals, or even buy it in supplement form.

Exercise is beneficial, but keep it at a moderate level while trying to conceive, as overdoing it can lead to menstrual disorders. This is also true of your partner, as high levels of exercise can increase the temperature of the testes that may lead to a decrease in sperm production. This all sounds a little complicated, and I donít want to discourage exercise; you just need to strike a balance. It is only a temporary measure, after all.

Ok, time to bite the bullet! Smoking and alcohol are off the agenda while trying to conceive and during the term of a pregnancy. Women and men who smoke, consume alcohol or take recreational drugs are decreasing their level of fertility, and women also have a much greater likelihood of having a miscarriage. Drinking in moderation while trying to conceive is acceptable (1-2 standard drinks for women and 3-4 for men), but try not to go overboard. I say this because while it may seem like a fairly lenient regimen to adhere to, couples are often tempted to consume more alcohol or drugs due to the pressures and anxieties of not being able to conceive; pressures and anxieties that often test a relationship. Perhaps you could strike a happy balance by replacing your usual exercise routines with yoga and meditation to stay moderately active, calm and relaxed, all of which are conducive to conceiving.

These are just some options that are within your power - now - to increase your chances of conceiving, but please, always seek medical advice for specific issues. What you should not do is believe that you are somehow abnormal or different because you are having trouble conceiving. Itís not as easy as it is made out to be and the best advice is to stay cool, calm, relaxed and healthy.

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