Couples who are planning a baby often wonder how they can improve their chances for success. A search of the internet for tips on how to improve your chances to fall pregnant may leave you confused. A group of American fertility specialists recently published guidelines based on expert opinion and science. This advice is applicable to couples with no history of fertility problems.
What we know so far:
How fertile are human beings?
80% of couples will be pregnant within 6 months of trying for a pregnancy.
What is the effect of aging?
Women in their late thirties are about half as fertile as women in their early twenties (consider freezing your eggs if you are in your thirties and not planning a pregnancy soon). Men experience a smaller decrease in fertility after age 50.
Infertility: what does the word mean?
If a woman is not pregnant within one year of trying, the condition called infertility may be present. Women older than age 35, who do not conceive within 6 months should be investigated.
How often should a couple have intercourse for best results?
If a couple has not had sex for 7 days, the quality of the man’s sperm starts to decrease. A man’s sperm count usually remains normal, even with daily sex. Daily sex, and sex every other day, give the same success rate. The success rate is halved if a couple has sex only once a week. The best chance for a pregnancy will be if a couple has more sex in the time after menstruation stopped, till the time of ovulation. However, forcing this routine may add to stress in a relationship.
What are the signs of ovulation?
Some women feel a pain in the side of the lower abdomen around day 14 of their month. Many women are able to track their ovulation by observing the quality of the vaginal discharge. A discharge that is “slippery” and clear during the week after menstruation stopped, is usually an indication of ovulation. This method is free and for many women as effective as urine ovulation kits.
Do positions during sex make a difference?
There is no scientiﬁc proof for the belief that a woman should lie down or even lift her pelvis after sex. Sperm can be found in the pelvis and tubes within minutes after ejaculation. It is fascinating to know that the sperm will even travel to the side of the ovary where the egg is. The woman’s or the man’s position during intercourse therefore, has no effect on pregnancy rate, and the timing of intercourse also has no effect on the gender of the baby.
When K-Y jelly is added to sperm in a test tube, most sperm will stop moving. Canola oil and mineral oil does not have this effect, and is recommended by these authors.
Diet and lifestyle:
Women who have a body mass index (BMI) outside the ideal (19-25), may sometimes skip menstruation (and ovulation). There is good evidence that weight control can improve ovulation and fertility. Vegetarian diets, low fat diets, vitamin enriched diets, antioxidants, or herbal remedies do not seem to have any effect on fertility or the gender of the baby. All women who are attempting to conceive should take a supplement of 400 microgram folic acid daily in order to reduce the risk for spina biﬁda (open spine) in the infant.
Smoking depletes the eggs, therefor women who smoke take longer to conceive, have more miscarriages and also have an earlier menopause. Alcohol abuse, and the use of illicit drugs has a detrimental effect on both partners’ fertility.
The fertile window lasts for 6 days and ends on the day of ovulation. The days with most vaginal mucus discharge (especially if is clear and slippery) are the most fertile days. Positions during intercourse, or lying down after sex, has no effect on falling pregnant. If a couple does not live together, or have infrequent intercourse, an ovulation kit may help.
1. Women who are older than 35 years and who are not pregnant after 6 months of planning a pregnancy, should consider a consultation with a reproductive specialist.
2. Frequent sex (every day or every second day) during the fertile window gives the best results, but 2 or three times per week are almost as successful.
3. Protect your relationship: keywords are communication and respect.
4. Speciﬁc positions during or after sex has no impact on fertility.
5. Ovulation kits may be helpful, but many women are able to monitor the quality of their vaginal discharge just as effectively.
Reference: “Optimizing natural fertility: a committee opinion Fertility and Sterility 107 (1) Jan 2017; 52-57
Dr Victor Hulme
Aevitas Fertility Clinic
Vincent Palotti Hospital