HOPING for a baby? Whether you want to get pregnant now or someday, you may wonder if your body will cooperate.
Some people get pregnant quickly, but for others it can take longer so it’s helpful to know your fertility status.
Knowing what the signals and signs are that you might struggle to conceive, is key in getting you on the path to resolving the problem and boosting your fertility.
We’ve spoken to Dr Matt Prior, Consultant and Subspecialist in Reproductive Medicine, to find out the key warning signs you might struggle to conceive.
The Medical Director at Dr Fertility said training in fertility is one of the longest of all medical specialties.
He said: “I qualified as a doctor in 2007 and spent the next ten years working in Women’s Health, learning about reproductive health and completing a PhD on the way.
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“In addition to my role as medical Director at Dr Fertility, I am also an NHS consultant doctor working at Newcastle Fertility Centre at the International Centre for Life.
“Reproductive medicine is my specialty and I am passionate about helping people with fertility problems using a holistic approach.”
Dr Matt Prior revealed some warning signs that people might struggle to conceive.
He explained that he likes to keep things simple and it really only takes three things to get pregnant – eggs, sperm and the opportunity for them to meet.
The fertility expert revealed period problems are a warning sign.
He said: “These include irregular periods, heavy or painful periods or not having a period at all.”
Medical problems can also affect fertility, advised Dr Matt Prior.
He said: “For women, this includes endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or any chronic health condition.
“For men, this includes problems with the testicles, previous surgery or problems with erections and ejaculation.”
PREVIOUS SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS
Dr Matt Prior also added that previous sexually transmitted infections are a risk factor for blocked fallopian tubes.
PROBLEMS WITH SEX
While any problem with having sex, ranging from pain to not having it frequently enough, can be a warning sign too.
Female age is an important predictor of natural fertility, said the fertility expert.
Dr Matt Prior added: “Perhaps more importantly, how successful fertility treatments are.
“Women who are over 36 years old should speak to a healthcare professional if they do not conceive within 6 months.”
Lifestyle factors including being overweight, smoking or drinking too much alcohol can also affect both male and female fertility.
He said: “Anabolic steroids and protein supplements are harmful for male fertility.”
But there are certain things people can look out for.
The fertility expert explained that one of the key factors women should monitor is their cycle health.
Firstly, it is important to track the length of her menstrual cycle.
Dr Matt Prior said: “The menstrual cycle is the time from the first day of a woman’s period to the day before her next period and it varies from woman to woman.
“The average is to have periods every 28 days. Regular cycles that are longer or shorter than this, from 21 to 35 days, are normal.
“If their cycles are longer or shorter than this, then they should speak to their GP or a fertility healthcare professional.”
If men or women observe any of the potential signs or feel concerned that they may have fertility issues, they should speak to their GP or a fertility healthcare professional.
He also advised that if her periods suddenly stop, are painful or she has very heavy or light bleeding, it is advisable to see a doctor as they may be a sign for conditions such as PCOS and endometriosis.
For men, they should regularly check their testicles for any lumps, swelling or pain, said Dr Matt Prior.
Also, problems with erections and ejaculation not only present challenges when trying to conceive, they can also be a sign of medical conditions such as diabetes.
Fertility expert Dr Matt Prior also revealed the top things people should do if they notice these signs.
He said: “If men or women observe any of the potential signs or feel concerned that they may have fertility issues, they should speak to their GP or a fertility healthcare professional.
What do fertility tests measure?
- Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH)
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
- Luteinising Hormone (LH)
- Oestradiol (E2)
- Vitamin D
- Thyroid function
- Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG)
SPERM TEST – Dr Matt Prior added: “Men should have a semen analysis and there are two ways to do this.
“Dr Fertility provides easy and earlier access to fertility doctors and nurses when people feel they need more support.”
He said there’s lots of possible options for people who are struggling to conceive.
He added: “The first step is to have some basic fertility tests to assess both partners’ fertility and to rule out any issues.
“These include blood tests, many of which can be done at home with a simple testing kit.”
“For those men that don’t feel ready or comfortable providing a sample in a clinic, they can start with a home sperm testing kit.
“The limitation is that most home tests only test the sperm count, with a few testing how well sperm swim (motility) as well.
“A clinic test will also look at the percentage of abnormally formed sperm.
ULTRASOUND – While the expert explained that a fertility ultrasound scan is used to check a woman’s ovaries and womb.
The scan can help to identify conditions that can affect fertility, including fibroids and endometriosis.
Both an abdominal (external) and trans-vaginal (internal) are recommended for a comprehensive check.
He added: “A specialist type of ultrasound called HyCoSy can also help to identify blocked fallopian tubes (the tubes that connect the ovaries and the womb), which prevents the eggs from travelling along the fallopian tubes into the womb.
“This can also be done with an x-ray (HSG).
“Many couples will be reassured everything is fine and have a very good chance of getting pregnant naturally.
“If not, they should be referred to a fertility specialist to discuss treatment options.”
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