Making the decision to start a family is life changing. It is an exciting time but can also be quite daunting.
You are probably worried about the huge responsibility of parenthood, but that is totally natural and should be embraced. If you now feel financially able to care for a child and have reached a stage in your career where you feel now is the right time to have a baby, then congratulations!
Read on to be totally prepared for your path to parenthood. Getting pregnant is not as easy as it seems, and many factors can influence the outcome.
Maternal and paternal age play a big part on how easy it is to become pregnant. For women, fertility starts to decline after the age of 35 and fertility specialists advise women under the age of 35 to seek medical advice if they don’t conceive after 12 months of having regular unprotected sex. If you are over 35, then you should seek medical help if no pregnancy occurs within six months. As men age, so does the quality of their sperm. We’ll talk more about semen analysis further on.
To achieve a successful pregnancy, weight is also a factor to consider. Being underweight can impact your menstrual cycle as can excessive exercise. The same can be said for being overweight. There are certain female medical conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) that can impact your weight. Obesity in the male partner can also impact the quality of their sperm.
3. General health
Pregnancy puts a huge strain on your body, so it is advisable to be at your optimum in terms of general health before you attempt to conceive. Both partners should cut down on their alcohol intake, and if you are a smoker then seek help to quit. The same goes for the use of recreational drugs. You should also adopt a healthy, well-balanced diet. Things you can eat that can improve your egg health and sperm quality include oily fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, and nuts. The Mediterranean diet is favored by many health experts.
To conceive, it is important to track your cycle and pinpoint that one day each month when you release an egg. There are many apps on the market which track your menstrual cycle. The downside of these apps is that they presume that all people ovulate in the middle of their cycle, which isn’t always the case as each person is different. A physical test, such as a urine test or device to measure body temperature, is a better indication of ovulation. These devices can also highlight any underlying fertility issues.
PCOS is a hormone imbalance in the ovaries. It is important the condition is managed by your healthcare provider as this condition can impact your ability to conceive. The good news is that only 5 percent of PCOS patients will need IVF to conceive. Symptoms include no periods or irregular cycles, excessive facial and body hair, acne, obesity, and hair loss.
Endometriosis is a very painful condition. Normally during the menstrual cycle the lining of the womb thickens in anticipation of pregnancy. In endometriosis patients this endometrium lining grows outside the womb attaching itself to other organs. If you suffer with endometriosis, then you may need assisted reproduction techniques such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) to conceive. Symptoms include heavy periods, pain in the lower abdomen and pelvic area that worsens during your period, pain during or after intercourse, and difficulty in trying to conceive.
7. Sperm analysis
Sperm quality is as important as egg quality to create the perfect embryo. The semen that is ejaculated during intercourse needs to contain healthy sperm that can swim (motility) to meet and fertilize the egg. There needs to be lots of sperm in the race (quantity) and the sperm needs to be strong enough to penetrate the egg (quality).
To save embarrassment, you can do a simple sperm analysis from the privacy of your own home. These tests will look at quantity, quality, and motility and give advice on how to improve with lifestyle changes. This also highlights any underlying issues that require medical investigation.
There are many supplements that you can take to improve sperm and egg quality. There are also supplements you can take to help you conceive when you suffer from PCOS. It is important that you consult your physician before taking supplements.
9. Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
This is a painless procedure that takes about ten minutes. Prepared sperm is placed directly in the womb for same sex female couples and couples who are not achieving a pregnancy naturally.
Over eight million babies have been born through IVF. The female partner takes medication to stimulate her ovaries. Then after careful monitoring, those eggs are collected using a fine needle under sedation. Those eggs are then fertilized with the male partner’s sperm and the best embryo is selected for implantation.
11. Donor sperm and eggs
Depending on the female egg quality or the partner’s sperm quality, your best chance of IVF success might involve using a donor egg or donor sperm.
For some couples, the only option to have a child is by using a surrogate. There are many options for family building via this route. The beauty of a surrogate is that the child can be genetically related to you by using a female partner’s egg or a male partner’s sperm. There are many reputable surrogacy agencies in the United States who will find the right surrogate for you and help you through the legal process.