Fertility faux pas

Here's a list of some common mistakes that couples commit in their quest for parenthood

unhappy coupleHaving a baby changes your life. But couples that are unable to have one are deprived of the joy a baby brings along. They go through immense suffering and try everything that they get to know of—from indigenous remedies to super-speciality treatments—in the hope of a child. Unfortunately, many of them are not aware of the basics of fertility and pregnancy.

Timing

A woman with regular monthly cycles often ovulates [releases eggs] on the mid-cycle days [about the 14th day of a 28-day cycle]. The period over the second or third day before or after ovulation is known as the fertile period. Having intercourse during this time gives the best chance of pregnancy. You can detect ovulation with the help of home tests that use saliva or urinary samples.

Lubrication

The next time you reach out for that jar of cold cream or oil, remember that most of the creams, gels and oils can harm a man's sperm quality. Instead, try something like a romantic dinner, a glorious massage or soft music with wine and chocolates. This can build the mood and give you the most natural lubrication… with fringe benefits too! Or else, good ol' water or a water-based lubricant prescribed by your gynaecologist should do the trick.

Ignoring genital and urinary infections

Urinary burning, persistent or foul-smelling white discharge, and pelvic pain in women and urinary complaints with or without testicular pain in men can signal genito-urinary infection, which may lead to tubal block and uterine inflammation in women and blockage of the vas deferens [the tube that carries sperms to the exterior] in men. Report these to your doctor immediately and get them treated.

Weight issues

If you have a weight problem, get back to your ideal body weight for your height. This is because obese women have reduced fertility due to less frequent ovulation. They also risk developing Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome [PCOS]. Very thin women too may have fertility issues, due to less oestrogen in their body to support ovulation. Such women benefit from putting on some weight.

Lifestyle

Regular exercise can ward off stress, restore hormonal balance, and help you maintain your body weight. It also improves pelvic circulation. So put on your jogging shoes or don that swimsuit. Choose an exercise option that suits you best.

Putting off pregnancy

Though there are numerous examples of older moms delivering healthy babies, it is always wise to plan a pregnancy in your 20s or early 30s. After 35, there is a steady decline in fertility among women, with more miscarriages and poor pregnancy outcomes. There is also an added risk of developing abnormalities in the baby as age advances.

Expecting too much too soon

How often do we hear these words, "We have been trying for three months now, but nothing seems to be happening!" Sometimes, it is one of the partners, who 'wants a baby badly'. This can subconsciously work to increase stress in your partner and can even precipitate erectile dysfunction in some men! Don't let sex become work. Let nature take its course.

In the best of times, you have about 20 per cent chance of conceiving in a given month. Most couples take about five to six months to conceive a baby.

If you do not get pregnant after a year of regular unprotected intercourse, seek professional help. If you are older than 35, or if you have reasons to believe something is amiss [say irregular cycles or pelvic pain], you may consult the doctor sooner.

Being unfaithful

Having more than one sexual partner can increase your risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections and jeopardise fertility. More the number of partners, more the risk.

Diet

fruitsJunk food lives up to its name. It can load your digestion, cause constipation and build-up harmful by-products and chemicals, which can damage your reproductive health. Sperms are particularly vulnerable and men who swear by junk food had better decide to go the healthy way.

Women should steer clear as well, to maintain a healthy body weight, optimum menstruation cycles and ovulation.

On the other hand, healthy foods like whole grain cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds, veggies and fruits contain micronutrients that boost general health and fertility.

Blame game

A baby should be the culmination of a beautiful relationship, and certainly not the reason for strife. Playing the blame game, subtly or overtly, is not only unfair, but is also damaging to the relationship. It adds to stress, which can lead to failure of your fertility treatment.

The demands of fertility treatment [regular visits to the doctor, programmed intercourse and financial drain] can worsen stress levels. So, be supportive and communicative and stay in it together.

Denial

This is a common problem with couples, especially men, who would like to believe that there is nothing wrong with them. Men often delay semen testing [a very simple test] for fear that there may be a problem. Any couple, which has been trying for two years to conceive should not postpone treatment. Delay in the diagnosis of certain conditions, which affect fertility can worsen your prospects of conceiving.

Consulting quacks

Beware of 'self-styled doctors' who promise magical results. There are no guarantees in fertility treatment. Wasting time with quacks can cause more harm than good—it can delay getting proper treatment, or worse, get you faulty treatment.

Switching doctors

Seek references, find an infertility specialist you trust and then give him/her time. Gather information, ask questions and understand the treatment. Then stick it out for at least six months. Changing doctors frequently leads to unnecessary duplication of tests and treatment, and gets you nowhere.

No matter how badly you might want a baby, it is important to understand that brooding will do no good. Take the right steps and leave the rest to Him. Man proposes, God disposes—this dictum is best applicable to fertility treatment. Let go, relax and enjoy all the goodies that life has to offer even while on treatment.

Couples that have explored all options and have given sufficient time but have not succeeded, should probably consider adoption. Coming to terms with reality is also an important aspect of life.

Unhealthy habits

Smoking, even in moderation, can reduce fertility in men by affecting sperm quality and quantity. In women, it affects ovulation. It also increases risk of miscarriage. Alcohol should be limited to social occasions, and caffeine intake to not more than two cups of coffee or 3 – 4 cups of tea per day.If you really want that baby, recreational drugs are a strict no-no.

Hurry and worry

Stress is one of the main reasons today for marital discord, infrequent sex among partners, irregular cycles and ovulatory disorders such as PCOS.

Couples need to spend more time with each other and prioritise their relationship. Working couples may practise yoga or go for walks together. Meditation is a great way to relax the mind and body. Try meditating before hitting the bed or early in the morning.

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Suman Bijlani
Suman Bijlani, MD, is a leading gynecologist, obstetrician and infertility specialist. She is a trained hysteroscopy and laparoscopic surgeon and has recently completed her Diploma in Guidance and Counselling. She practises in Mumbai.

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