The Fertility Journey

 

The fertility journey is different for everyone. This time in life is really important and often overlooked or poorly understood. Medical statistics can be daunting when we don’t know how to interpret them. One of my goals is to use fact-based fertility information to our advantage. Knowing what is normal, even if it’s not ideal, can improve the experience entirely. So, let’s break these facts down and make them make sense. After years of working in fertility I have found some useful tips and tricks to help ground individuals and couples to create a more positive environment. These are what I call my Fertility Hacks. 

 ‘Don’t have sex or you will get pregnant and die!’- Mean Girls 2004. 
Folks, we have been sold a lie.  We have been taught that pregnancy is the easiest thing in the world to achieve. We have been told that when we stop birth control, we will become pregnant immediately and somehow miscarriage is rarely mentioned. When couples don’t immediately conceive, it can be devastating, alarming and causing couples undue stress in the relationship. (*Disclaimer; this is not a recommendation to discontinue birth control if you are not hoping to achieve a pregnancy.) This is the reassuring fact that only one fifth of couples conceive the first month they try. This brings me to one of my first Fertility Hacks. 

 

Assume you are couple number 90

Assuming you are the 90th couple can be extremely helpful to couples embarking on their fertility journey. Let’s consider a couple where the female partner has a regular cycle that have not had any investigations. Statistically, it is normal if it takes up to a year to conceive. 


If 100 couples that try to conceive 20 will be pregnant in the first month. That’s one fifth of couples or 20%. To get 50 out of 100 pregnant takes six months. In order to get 90 out of 100 couples pregnant it will take 12 months. It is normal for some couples to take one year to conceive. Assuming this is you will reduce stress as each month passes. So, if you are trying to conceive for the last few months and it’s all getting on top of you please, assume you are couple number 90 and be kind to yourself.


 

Prepare yourself physically and mentally

Use this time to find habits and routines that enhance your life. Improve your sleep cycle. Exercise, nourish your body and find habits you can employ anytime the journey becomes a little tough. Even if you are part of the first 20 couples these habits will be beneficial long term. 

There is no ‘best’ exercise. Do what’s right for you. Meditation won’t suit everyone. Reading a book or watching a movie may be the trick that takes your mind off a stressful period in your life. Use your mind and body and its positive hormones and endorphins in your favour. Pregnancy and fertility are life changing you will be so proud of your past self for taking power back and finding habits that help you.


 

Protect your relationship

Exercise, nourish your body and always remember the importance of your relationship. Talk to each other. Try keep some romance. Date each other. Laugh with each other. Basically, try to keep a little bit of fun between you. I know it is hard. It can become all-consuming but remember who you want to have a baby with. Something women often say is that they were so caught up in it being their fault that they forgot about the men. The men that may have the very same fear. You are a team. Try to remind yourself of that even on the tougher days.

 

DATE NIGHT

 

What if it’s not happening. What happens next?

If it’s not happening it might be time to test. The recommendations for testing are indicated mostly due to female age. This is because there is a strong and important link with egg quality and female age. Generally, we recommend you try for 12 months if you are 35 or under. When the female is older than 35, we recommend the couple have basic investigations in order to maximise time. 


Sometimes the 35 years fear is over used. Think of it this way. We want you to have your family so we want to maximise age and egg quality. If there is a reason that you may not conceive it’s worth knowing sooner rather than later. If both fallopian tubes are blocked or maybe the sperm numbers are very low it’s worth knowing rather than torturing yourselves for another few months isn’t it?


Testing is relatively easy. The clinic will test hormones by doing simple blood tests days 2,3 or 4 of the female cycle and again seven days after ovulation. This gives us an overview on how everything is functioning hormonally. The AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) will be tested to look at the ovarian reserve. This blood test often comes with confusion. It does not indicate how many eggs are left rather the monthly potential of the ovaries. It mostly gives us an indication about treatment options and success rates. If the number is low, even with fertility treatment, we may have some difficulty.


An internal ultrasound scan will also be completed to visualise the female anatomy and potentially identify structures that may be interfering with conception. 

 

FERTILITY Finally, a semen sample will be performed for the male partner and a plan will be discussed. Remember, fertility is like a jigsaw; every piece is important. Never get too disappointed in a single result rather get the big picture. That is what the team is there to help you understand. Advice and treatment vary hugely. Everyone’s experience will also vary widely. Ask all the questions you can. The clinic shouldn’t be a scary place. We are here to help and we understand how tough the journey can be. 


Be careful with what you read online (she says online).  If you are unsure of anything or read something that concerns you read reliable, informed, evidence-based information. The HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) website is a fantastic resource from the governing body over all UK clinics. It has simple and accurate advice to empower individuals and couples on their journeys. 

 

The journey is different for everyone. Take it a step at a time and surround yourself with positive and accurate information. Use the Fertility Hacks to make your journey easier. Build a support team around you that will allow you to speak openly and honestly and improve the experience. Use the resources that are out there. Please know that we are here to guide and support you. Mind yourself and each other.


Wishing you all the Love and Luck in the world,


Laura Hackett

(aka. The Fertility Hack)