As part of my monthly role as medical expert for Women’s Fitness magazine I get to provide advice on a featured health topic each month. In the August edition fertility was covered and I answered the following questions.
What kind of advice would you give to couples wishing to conceive?
Manage lifestyle factors that can impact on fertility. Smoking and obesity can have a negative impact on fertility in both males and females. In order to maximize your chances of falling pregnant, ensure that you are having sex on a regular basis, which is around two to three times a week. In couples where the woman is 35 years old and below, 90% will fall pregnant within 1 year of regular unprotected intercourse, so patience may be needed.
If the couple are having problems conceiving, what kinds of tests would you recommend (male and female tests) and how might these help to give a clearer picture of what’s going on?
I usually begin to look into the causes of infertility at around a year of trying and not conceiving. It is important to confirm that the female is ovulating and your GP is likely to organise blood tests to check that you are. The hormone that they will be checking for is progesterone and it should be expected to rise about a week before your period is due. Men will need to have their semen analysed and your GP can organise this too. Semen-analysis will look at the amount and motility of your sperm, giving an overall picture of sperm quality. An ultrasound of the pelvis may also prove useful, as fibroids and polycystic ovaries, which are common causes for infertility can be picked up.
What further investigations can be done?
Usually once these tests have been performed and the couple have been trying to conceive for more than a year without luck then I can refer them to a fertility clinic. Fertility clinics are likely to review the investigation results already performed and may also consider doing other tests. These tests are normally aimed at determining the patency of the fallopian tubes, which connect the ovaries to the womb. This can be done two ways, through a hysterosalpingogram or a laporoscopy and dye, both of which aim to confirm that the fallopian tubes are not blocked.