Thinking fertility? Your questions answered

Struggling to conceive can put a strain on your relationships and your wellbeing. There are many reasons why it may not be happening for you right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a way through it.

Once you have made up your mind to have a baby, it can be difficult to face the reality that it might not be as straight forward as you thought. It can be a highly emotional and frustrating time. Consultant gynaecologist, Dr Helen Lyall from Nuffield Health Glasgow Hospital, has some answers for those thinking about fertility. 

How do we increase our chances of conceiving?

Have more sex
Regular intercourse throughout the woman’s cycle, two to three times per week gives the best chance of conception.

Watch your Body Mass Index (BMI)
Make sure you aren’t over or under weight and stay within a normal BMI - between 18.5 and 25. That goes for both of you.

Get healthy
Exercise regularly, cut down on alcohol and stop smoking.

Get checked
For women, if you have had an irregular cycle or if your periods have stopped you should consult a GP. Similarly if you have had any history of a pelvic infection or of surgery to the abdomen or pelvis you should see your GP for advice.

For men, you should do the same if you have ever had surgery, infection or an injury to the testicles. Similarly any previous treatment which may have had an effect on fertility such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy should prompt a consultation.

Everyone should be vigilant for anything out of the ordinary and seek help if they are worried.

When should we seek advice?

It can take time to get pregnant naturally. You shouldn’t rush to a clinic if you don’t conceive straight away. Age is important, especially for women. If you are around 30 years old you can wait over 12 months before seeking help provided there are no issues of concern. If you are over 35 then you should seek help sooner.

Who should we go to for help?

Fertility is a sensitive issue, so the main thing is to be comfortable with the people and the environment at any clinic you’re thinking about visiting. Success rates are important, but nothing is ever guaranteed, so you should feel relaxed with the people who are treating you.

Trying to conceive is an emotive time. There are thousands of myths surrounding fertility which are in part due to a glut of unregulated information available. Always seek professional advice if you have any concerns.

What causes infertility or low fertility?

There are many possible causes. It’s important not to rush to conclusions or try to place blame.

For the woman there may be problems with ovulation or with the tubes. Other conditions such as fibroids or endometriosis may also affect fertility. For the man, his sperm count may be low or he may not be producing any sperm at all. In some cases there is no identifiable cause for either the man or woman and the reason for the difficulty in conceiving is 'unexplained'.

What options are available if we need intervention?

There are many different options available depending on the underlying problem. The important thing is to be properly assessed as a couple so that treatment can be tailored to you.

Assessment will identify of the most appropriate treatment and give you a full explanation of the process involved. It’s very important that any decision to start treatment is a fully informed one and appropriate to your needs as a couple.

Treatments to be aware of include: In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), Ovulation Induction (OI), Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI).

Last updated Monday 30 April 2018

First published on Tuesday 25 August 2015