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Look after your eggs – how to improve your natural fertility

Several factors can make trying for a baby especially challenging for women over 35, but there are ways to improve your chances of conceiving.

Declan Keane

AS WE CELEBRATE Easter this weekend, it is the perfect time to start thinking about the other important eggs in your life.

Last week, the HSE’s Perinatal Statistic Report revealed that in 2013, the average age of an Irish woman giving birth was 32.1 years, up from 30.8 in 2004.

Some 32% of these Irish women were aged 35 years or older, up from 24% a decade prior. And 20% of first births were to this same demographic, compared to 13% in 2004.

Natural fertility in women declines from the late 20s, and significantly from the mid to late 30s. As men age and often develop unhealthy habits, their sperm quality can deteriorate. These factors combined can make trying for a baby especially challenging for women over 35.

What could be working against you?

Before we take an in-depth look at how to naturally improve your chances of conception, it’s important to rule out the negatives that are categorically working against you.

Treat getting pregnant like you would any sort of improvement to your general health and wellbeing. The state of your reproductive organs are just as dependent as your heart, lungs or liver on what you do to your body. Indeed, being overweight or indeed obese reduces fertility, the latter greatly so. Stave off excess weight with a sensible diet, and embracing a structured regular exercise regime.

Smoking and over-enthusiastic alcohol consumption can drastically reduce a man’s sperm quality and quantity over the long term, and can lead to menstrual cycle irregularities in women, and damage egg quality. Recreational drug abuse is, of course, out of the question.

Untreated STIs can affect fertility in the long term too, sometimes permanently. While it might not necessarily be an easy subject to broach with your partner, it’s worth the both of you being honest about your sexual history. Often, a simple course of medication will clear up all but the most serious infections.

Improving your natural fertility potential

Many couples can resolve their problems by tackling these mainline health issues, thus improving their natural fertility potential.

Keeping track of your menstrual cycle is perhaps one of the best ways to increase your chances of conception. Because you can easily miscalculate the day of ovulation, when an egg is only viable for less than 24 hours, sex in the immediate run-up to ovulation is more likely to lead to conception. Remember that sperm can survive for a number days in the female reproductive tract.

There’s no real rule as to how often you should be having sex to beat improve your natural conception chances. Some couples try for a baby every day, others every second day. Twice a week at least is optimal.

Trying for a baby—especially when it really does become “trying”—can be immensely stressful for both man and woman, leading to stress, anxiety and even depression, which in turn lower your chances of success.

While it’s easier said than done, find ways to unwind and relax. Pursue your hobbies, enjoy the outdoors and if it suits you, try alternative therapies. Many people respond well to acupuncture, hypnotherapy and massage.

Try not to make it a chore!

The key thing to remember is that sex is fun, not a chore. If you treat your baby-making like a Herculean labour, you could be doing more harm than good by saddling pressure on both you and your partner.

Everyone is different, and factors or combinations of factors that work for others may not work for you. Thankfully, many troubles with conception can be dealt with naturally, through simple lifestyle adjustments. Others, however, are rooted in physiology and may require treatment like IVF.

Declan Keane is a Senior Clinical Embryologist and fertility expert at ReproMed fertility clinic, based in Dublin and Kilkenny.

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Declan Keane

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