FERTILITY IS DECLINING
Fertility – many people think that they have all the time in the world. Yet natural fertility rates are declining rapidly. Male fertility has fallen dramtically in the last 20 years and what we now call fertile in 2021 – these men would have been infertile 20 years ago. Just like females, male fertility begins to decline at the age of 40. For women their eggs begin to decline at 30. There are 3 main causes on Infertility – 40% Female Infertility, 40% due to Male infertility (low sperm count, low motility, low morphology), 10% due to both male and female infertility and 10% due to what is termed “unknown infertility”. Fertility has become a mojor topic in todays society.
Most people at some stage in their life have a desire to become a parent. Today, couples are leaving having a baby to later in life – this can be due to a few reasons such as not having met the right partner, work, studying, or just not feeling ready. So how can you improve your chances of getting pregnant? There are 5 easy ways that can improve your chances of getting pregnant and these apply to both men and women.
Before trying to conceive, I also suggest that you go to your doctor to get a few blood tests done as these can help to identify any issues that may be present.
For both Men and women, I recommend asking for the following tests:
|HORMONE PANEL – including Testosterone, LH, FSH, SHBG, Osetrogen||HORMONE PANEL- DAY 3 FSH levels and Day 21 Progesterone Levels|
|Thryroid Function||Thyroid function|
|SPERM TEST||Iron studies|
These tests give us a wealth of information about how your body is working as we want you to be the healthiest version of yourselves so that we can create the healthiest baby possible.
So, what are 5 ways you can improve your fertility?
Age is a very important factor when it comes to fertility as, as we age, our fertility declines – this is true for both men and women, with sperm beginning to decline around 45 years of age for men. As a women ages, her egg quality begins to decline after the age of 30.
Women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of having a child then people who are older. This is true for both natural pregnancies and those conceive through reproductive assisted fertility – IVF.
So, to increase our chances of pregnancy it has been recommend by the Australian government that we consider planning for a baby earlier in life. While a good theory in general – it may not always be possible. If you have the choice, trying for a baby sooner rather than later may improve you chance of a pregnancy.
Women younger than 30 generally have a 20% chance of getting pregnant naturally each month, as we age this number declines and women over 40 have about a 5% chance of conceiving each month. (1)
It takes longer to conceive for those women whose partners are over 40.(1)
If both partners are over 40 – it may take longer to conceive naturally. (1)
IVF (assisted reproduction) may assist with couples who have infertility issues – these may be due to low sperm count, previous illness’s, endometriosis, scarring of the uterus or fallopian tubes, or blockages in the fallopian tubes, or couples who have had cancer and then frozen eggs or sperm.
IVF can assist couples who are older as well, but it cannot make up for the natural decline in sperm and egg quality or guarantee a pregnancy outcome.
If a couple has been trying for 12 months or more, without success, it is now recommended that you talk to your doctor about your fertility and what your options may be.
If a woman is 35 and over, after 6 months of trying to conceive it is recommend to consult your doctor about your options. Please also have your partner checked as well – as male infertility is increasing.
This is one of the main reasons that I ask all couples when they first come to see me, to get the blood tests performed as well as the SPERM test as then we have a lot of information to begin with and we can assess what your options may be.
2. TIMING OF SEX
When do we need to have sex to enable a pregnancy?
We need to have sex on days when a woman is fertile, thus increasing the chances of a pregnancy. To do this – we also need to do BBT (Basal Body Temperature charting) as this gives us the timing of ovulation, when best to have sex and tells us how long a women’s cycle is and if they are ovulating.
The best time to have sex is 5 days before ovulation and the day of ovulation.
This is known as “the fertile window”. During this phase, a woman is likely to have a mucus discharge or feel wet, this is an indication that she is in her fertile window. After sex, sperm can survive for up to 5 days (1). Eggs can only be fertilized within 24 hours of ovulation. Ovulation – is where an egg follicle is released from the ovary and into the fallopian tube. Ideally, we want the sperm to be travelling up the fallopian tube to meet the egg and be ready and waiting for the egg for fertilization to occur.
A women’s most fertile period is 3 days prior to and including the day of ovulation.
How do you work out the most fertile time?
In general, a women’s cycle begins on the first day of her period, (or the first full day of bleeding) and finishes the day before her next period begins. In general, from a Chinese Medicine point of view a period should be 28 days (plus or minus 7 days). Not every women’s cycle is 28 days every cycle. Thus, BBT charting and period tracking can assist with knowing our fertile days.
Ovulation, in general, occurs approximately 14 days before the beginning of her next period. (This is a huge generalization).
Therefore, the fertile window days – depends on the length of the women’s cycle. If her period is 28 days, generally ovulation is around day 14, so her most fertile days will be day 11-14. If a woman has a 35 day cycle her most fertile days will be days 18-21. If you have a shorter cycle – say 25 days, then the most fertile days will be days 8-11.
We suggest using a BBT chart and Fertility friend – which is a free app where you can record your temperature and it will chart your cycle for you. Your practitioner can then read the chart and point out what is going on in the cycle and where you have ovulated. If this is to hard, having sex every second day during the fertile window is your best chance of getting pregnant.
To learn more about your menstrual cycle please click the link below
Apps to use on the phone for BBT charting:
These are both free, but have paid versions as well. The free app is still highly effective and all you require.
MEN – THE SPERM TEST.
A sperm test which is less than 3 months old is required to help us assit you with your fertility. Why do we need a sperm test to be done?
A sperm test provides us with all the information that we need to assess the health of not just the sperm but also in regards to the man’s health.
Assessment of a sperm test includes:
- Volume of semen
- Motility of Sperm
- Forward motility of sperm
- Morphology of sperm.
3. BEING AS HEALTHY AS POSSIBLE
For both men and women, being a healthy weight increases your chances of getting pregnant. Being under weight or overweight can affect how hormones are being produced and functioning. Therefore, we recommend being a healthy weight. So, you may have to gain some weight, or lose some weight.
Generally, we say a loss of about 5 kg can improve your changes of getting pregnant significantly. Also, a weight gain of 3-5kg for some women will increase their chance of conception. For women who are a bit under weight we also recommend cutting down on the amount of high intensity physical exercise that you may be doing, and switching to more gentle exercise such as Pilates, yoga, walking or swimming.
Obesity and being underweight can affect the women’s menstrual cycle and the man’s sperm so it is better to be a healthy weight and have a healthy lifestyle.
Exercise is important as well to live a healthy lifestyle and to move our bodies.
We are not saying you need to hit the gym, just 30 minutes a day is beneficial to our health and our weight. This can be walking the dog, doing a yoga class, swimming, or just changing your activity – walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift. It is important for our bodies to move – as movement allows for blood flow and oxygen to get to our brain and muscles and improves our mood as well. Please note: if you are feeling fatigued focus on gentle movement and break it up – 3x10mins a day of walking is still 30mins a day of exercise. If you are beginning an exercise program, please consult your healthcare practitioner prior to commencement.
We advise all couples trying to conceive to eat a healthy diet. This means – eat smart. Reduce the amount of processed foods and eat fresh meat, fruit and veggies. Eat according to the seasons. Cook your meals, plan your meals. Eat REAL food.
We also recommend drinking 2-3L of filtered water a day. This assists with flushing out toxins from our body.
You will need to avoid the following:
- Caffeine – we do suggest 1 good coffee a week.
- Recreational drugs
- Chemicals found in the home – go through your cupboards and remove all toxic chemicals.
- For men – do not put your mobile phone in your pocket – it can affect sperm.
A good clean diet is required, you can have treats, but we want to make sure that you are eating real food which nourishes your body.
For women, a prenatal vitamin supplement is required and one that contains folinic acid –not folate.
Your practitioner will recommend a good quality prenatal vitamin to take.
WOW! If you have a look at the above image, stress creates havoc in our bodies! It interferes with hormone production, sleep, digestion, energy, concentration, libido and causes muscle tension in the body!
Stress has a negative effect on the body. It keeps us in the flight or fright response, and we use adrenaline to fuel us with energy. While we are in this state – our body sends our reproductive organs the signal that it is unsafe to reproduce and basically shuts down our reproductive organs.
Therefore, it is critical that we reduce our stress levels.
Reducing stress is imperative to improving your chances of conception. This may mean that you might need to make lifestyle changes.
You may need to look at your job and the stress it causes. Do you like your job, is it affecting you emotionally? Does your job or part of your lifestyle severely impact your stress levels? Does it keep you awake at night? Are you overworrying?
Is stress affecting your sleep? By reducing our levels of stress, the body reduces the amount of cortisol that it produces.
Thus, the body gets the green light and our reproductive system is “switched” back on.
Some simple techniques to reduce stress:
Remove anything that is not necessary in your life that causes you stress.
Meditate – this doesn’t mean you need to attend a meditation class, you can download many free apps onto your phone– have a look at google playstore your will find many mediation apps – I like 1 minute mediations, it is only a minute long, but it is all about resetting the body.
Breathe – many of us are so rushed and stressed these days that we don’t focus on our breath or notice that we are only breathing into our lungs. Take some time to really focus on your breathe.
A great breathing technique is to close your eyes, place your hands on your belly button. Take a deep breath and breathe in through your nose for a count of 6. Then breathe out for a count of 4 through your mouth. Proceed to do this for at least a count of 6 breathes. How do you feel? Do you notice that you are calmer, your shoulders have relaxed, your stomach may be making gurgling noises and you just feel more contained and present in your body?
If that is a little bit hard – go to you tube and download some guided mediations.
Other ways to reduce stress are going for a walk, doing some gardening or a hobby that makes you happy. Dancing, singing, cooking, painting.
Sit down and just relax for 5 minutes with a cup of herbal tea – Chamomile is great for calming down the body. Switch off your phone or place it on silent and sit in the sun. Read a book – not on your phone, your IPad or your kindle, but an actual book. Go to the beach, sit in the sand and let your toes run through the sand, stand in the water and focus on your breathe.
Catch up with a friend and have a good chat, laugh. Find something that makes your heart sing and gives you joy. By doing this, we are also nourishing ourselves and our soul.
To assist with a deeper quality of sleep and aid muscle tension, soak your feet in Epsom Salts for 20-30 mins prior to bedtime. Add in ½-3/4 of a cup of Epsom salts – you can buy these at Coles or Woolworths or a chemist. If you feel like it you can also add in some essential oils such as lavender, rose, jasmine or bergamot.
I hope that you have found the information in this article useful.
Written by Dr Julia Bartrop (Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture).
Julia has been practicing Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine for 6 years. She graduated from RMIT in 2013 with 1st class honours.
Julia has a passion for treating women’s health issues – anxiety, stress, depression, digestive issues, fatigue, gynaecological issues, fertility (natural and IVF assisted), pregnancy and post natal care.
Julia is available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at Rebalance Chinese Medicine.