Around 15 percent of couples face some type of fertility problem. Sometimes these couples know ahead of time that conception is going to be tricky for them, but sometimes it’s a surprise. If you’ve been trying for a while to have a baby, you may start to wonder whether you need a fertility specialist.
At HCA Midwest Health, we understand the enormous physical and emotional impact that fertility issues can have. That’s why we offer advanced fertility services in a sensitive, caring environment to support you through your journey. If you’re having any unfamiliar symptoms or other reasons for concern — such as unusual bleeding, abdominal pain or a personal or family history of reproductive problems — call us right away at (913) 541-8330.*
But if you’re not sure yet whether you or your partner may need a reproductive endocrinologist, try these 8 basic tips first.
It’s normal to spend several months or even a year trying to get pregnant. Sure, it seems like everybody has a story of someone who managed to get pregnant right away — but that’s not typical.
1. Keep a Calendar
Knowing your cycle can give you a big advantage. If you haven’t already, start tracking your periods on a calendar or go high tech with a mobile cycle-tracker app. Once you’ve got an idea of when to expect your period, you can figure out when you’re most likely to be ovulating. It usually happens around day 14 or the halfway point of your cycle (day 1 is the first day of your period).
Remember: Tracking your cycle may be helpful, but you shouldn’t stress over it. If it makes you feel empowered and well-informed, then go for it. If it makes you feel frazzled, then it isn’t worth it.
2. Use a Fertility Monitor
So you have a pretty good idea of when little eggy is going to be dropping in…but the exact date can vary a lot depending upon diet, stress and other factors. To narrow things down a bit more, you can use an ovulation predictor kit (OPK) to measure your hormone spikes in the days leading up to when you expect to be ovulating. (Note: these really only work for women who have regular cycles of less than 35 days. If your cycle is irregular or longer than 35 days, you may want to skip this step and consult an infertility specialist right off the bat.)
You don’t have to have perfect timing in order to get pregnant. Sperm can survive inside the body for up to 5 days before you ovulate. So even if there’s no egg at home when the sperm arrive, that doesn’t mean they won’t still be there when the egg finally does show up.
3. Check Your Lubrication
If you’re using the same personal lubricant that you were using before you started trying to get pregnant, check the bottle. Many personal lubricants may contain spermicide, which is the opposite of what you want right now.
4. Check Your Menu
How many daily servings of fruits and veggies are you getting? Are you eating the full rainbow, or just one or two colors? Do you have food allergies or sensitivities that might keep you from getting the right nutrition? There are several key nutrients that are vital to your reproductive health, including B vitamins, zinc, calcium, iron and protein. If you’re concerned that you might not be getting enough from your diet, you may want to make an appointment with a dietician or ask your doctor about prenatal vitamins. Learn more about pre-pregnancy diet don’ts.
5. Check Your Composition
Ovulation is often affected by body composition. Carrying either too much or too little fat can interfere with your cycle, making conception more difficult. If you are overweight or underweight and struggling to conceive, try to get yourself closer to a healthy weight and you may start ovulating more regularly. Remember: stick to healthy weight management methods only. Eat a nutritious diet and get at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day, such as walking, biking, yoga or whatever you enjoy. Trying to change your weight in unhealthy ways will not help, and may do more harm than good.
6. Quit Smoking
Smoking not only reduces sperm count, but it also damages the remaining sperm so that they can’t swim as well. It also causes eggs to die off faster, making it more difficult to achieve a viable pregnancy. Smoking even decreases the effectiveness of fertility treatments such as IVF. Furthermore, smoking increases the chance of miscarriages, birth defects, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other complications. The same risks apply to women who are exposed to secondhand smoke, even if they don’t smoke themselves. Fortunately, many of these issues can be avoided by quitting smoking, especially if you and your partner quit before becoming pregnant or early in your first trimester.
7. Don’t Blame Yourself
Self-blame can significantly impact your overall health, and stressing about your fertility in particular can be a vicious cycle. Go easy on yourself. You and your partner could have the healthiest lifestyles on the planet and still struggle to conceive. That’s why fertility specialists exist in the first place.
While you’re working on making your body healthy for baby, set aside time to prioritize your emotional well-being, too. Try meditation, fun hobbies and other things that make you feel calm and content. And make sure that you take time for 7–8 hours of sleep each night — while you still can!
It’s normal to spend several months or even a year trying to get pregnant. Sure, it seems like everybody has a story of someone who managed to get pregnant right away — but that’s not typical. If you’re under age 35, you’ve been trying for less than a year and you’re not having any unusual symptoms or other reasons for concern, hang in there and keep trying. If you’re over age 35, you should shorten this wait-and-see period to 6 months before seeing a specialist. If you’re 40 or older, consult a specialist as soon as you start trying. You may find that you don’t need a fertility doctor after all, but we’ll be here for you if it turns out that you do.