Not only are you religiously checking for signs that you’re ovulating, your husband has switched from tight boxers to well-fitting briefs. You’re both eating your veggies ― but you’re still not seeing any results.
Infertility affects about one in six Singaporean couples and it’s defined as the inability to conceive after 12 months of unprotected intercourse if the woman is below 35 years old and six months if she’s above. One-third of the fertility issues are due to women, one-third to men, and the remaining one-third are complications from both partners or from unknown causes.
We round the most common factors that may be sabotaging your efforts to conceive narturally.
First and foremost, you should consider your age when you’re trying for a baby. A woman hits her reproductive peak in her 20s ― she has a 20 per cent chance of falling pregnant every month. This dips to 5 per cent by the time she’s in her 40s. Although the numbers aren’t as shocking for men, they are also more likely to be infertile as they age. If your man is age 30 or younger, his chances of fathering a baby is 32 per cent every month ― this drops to 20 per cent when he’s over 50.
THE SOLUTION: Most doctors urge couples to start family planning early. If you do end up trying to conceive later in life, don’t wait too long to consult your doctor if you don’t see results. It’s also a good idea to go through pre-conception screening first to quickly detect any underlying health problems before you even start trying. For more help, check out our guide to boosting your chances at conception at every age.
As sperm stays in the body for several days, this means doing the deed a couple of days before and after the estimated ovulation date can boost your conception chances.
2. Too much sex or doing it at the wrong time
Frequent intercourse for the sole purpose of conceiving can take a toll on any couple. It could become routine, boring and you may end up feeling too tired to do it during the woman’s fertile phase ― the most important time! Then, there are couples who save it all for when the woman is ovulating, so they cut down on the amount of sex they have. What they don’t realise is that most women’s exact ovulation date isn’t accurate. Follow this ovulation chart if you’re not sure.
THE SOLUTION: As sperm stays in the body for several days, this means doing the deed a couple of days before and after the estimated ovulation date can boost your conception chances. Also, don’t forget how fun sex can be, and don’t make it feel like a chore. Check out our guide to putting the za-za-zoo back into your lovemaking.
This is a hard one, but if you’re in a high-stress job and compound it by worrying that you might not be able to conceive, then this might reduce your chances of conceiving. SmartParents expert and Gleneagles Hospital consultant ob-gyn Dr Christopher Chong also highlights that stress can affect a woman’s ovulation, result in irregular periods and even affect implantation. By the way, a tense woman is also not going to be able to achieve orgasm, since climaxing helps to “suck” the sperm into the body and direct it to the uterus to fertilise her egg.
THE SOLUTION Cut down on the stress! Easier said than done, we know. If possible, switch to a less-stressful job, this will be a wise choice in the long run, especially after you have a baby. Otherwise, go on regular vacations to reconnect again as a couple. Here are our top baby-making hotels and staycation spots. Remember to try some fun sex toys ― check these out for some inspo!
4. Running to the bathroom or having a shower right after sex
The deed itself is fun, but the end result can get messy. So, many of us dash to the toilet or bathroom to clean up. But did you know that you’re actually washing away or killing the sperm?
THE SOLUTION “Wait 15 to 20 minutes before going to the bathroom,” suggests Dr Chong. “You can also put a pillow under your bum for this period of time.” This directs the sperm up your uterus to speed up fertilisation.
5. Being over or underweight
Weight plays an integral part in both male and female fertility. Being significantly overweight can cause a hormonal imbalance in women and affect ovulation and disrupt sperm production in men. “Studies have suggested that a 10kg weight gain can decrease male fertility by approximately 10 per cent,” notes Dr Yeong Cheng Toh, a consultant gynaecologist and reproductive endocrinologist at Virtus Fertility Centre Singapore. Being underweight doesn’t help either as you may be at higher risk for nutrient deficiency which can also affect ovulation. By the way, there is such a thing as being too fit to conceive. Over exercising can cause anovulation ― the failure to release an egg for more than three consecutive months.
THE SOLUTION “Lose weight healthily,” Dr Chong advises. Eat well, include plenty of folate-rich leafy greens into your diet to boost your chances of conceiving, and exercise moderately. If you need to put on some weight, don’t eat junk like doughnuts and crisps. Instead, see a fertility specialist or a nutritionist who will put you on a healthy eating plan to get your weight up. Another tip: Adopting a healthy lifestyle also means cutting down on drinking and stop smoking.
6. Using too much lubricant
Lubricants sure do help move things along, especially if you’re experiencing issues such as vaginal dryness, even as these heighten sensations during sex. But did you know many emollients are made from sperm-killing ingredients?
THE SOLUTION Always read the list of ingredients before purchasing it or better yet, speak to your doctor first. Sperm/conception-friendly lubricants are available, you just need to know which ones to buy.
7. Tubal problems in women and men
Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes prevent the egg from meeting the sperm, which means that fertilisation won’t take place. Your tubes may be blocked or damaged for many reasons, which includes complications from previous surgeries, sexually transmitted diseases, a ruptured appendix and ruptured cysts. For men, twisting, swelling or scarring from an injury or infection can block the testicular tubes. Sometimes it could also be varicocele, when the veins around the testicle dilate, resulting in varicose veins that can trigger blockages and cause a condition called azoospermia. Men with this condition will still ejaculate during intercourse, but no sperm is present in the ejaculate as a result of the obstruction.
THE SOLUTION Surgery can unblock both men’s and women’s tubes. Alternatively, you can also opt for IVF, Dr Chong says.
Diabetes in men… High blood sugar levels can damage the nerves and blood vessels in the penis, causing erectile dysfunction.
8. Cervical mucus problems
The state of your cervical mucus is directly related to your fertility because its quality and quantity affects the sperms’ entry into the womb through the cervical canal. A lack of mucus may be a sign that you’re not ovulating. The perfect consistency for mucus is like raw egg white, so if your mucus looks thick, dry or sticky, it could be a side effect of certain medications you’re taking or a sign of a hormonal imbalance. A bacterial or yeast infection can also create acidic mucus, which can be hostile to sperm.
THE SOLUTION Speak to your doctor at once if you think the consistency of your mucus is not normal or if you have an infection down there. Also good to note ― certain lubricants can affect the consistency and PH balance of your mucus, so use ones that are sperm- and conception-friendly.
9. Hormonal imbalances in women
Having too much or too little of certain hormones can wreak havoc on your fertility. For example, low progesterone levels can affect ovulation and implantation, plus, increase your risk of having a miscarriage. Low oestrogen levels can cause vaginal dryness, which can make intercourse painful. Certain autoimmune diseases such as an overactive or underactive thyroid gland can also affect ovulation and cause irregular periods.
THE SOLUTION Oral medication can help to regulate your thyroid gland. Your doctor can also give you progesterone shots or vaginal inserts.
10. Diabetes in men
While gestational diabetes in pregnant women can pose a threat to their pregnancy and the foetus’ health, diabetes in men can give rise to several fertility issues, doctors say. It can lower sperm count and can cause retrograde ejaculation ― the ejaculate flows back into the bladder instead of outwards. High blood sugar levels can also damage the nerves and blood vessels in the penis, causing erectile dysfunction.
THE SOLUTION If you have a family history of diabetes or suspect you have it, see your doctor and get tested. Certain supplements, trace minerals and vitamins can boost the male libido, but if you’re suffering from retrograde ejaculation, artificial insemination is the best course of action.
11. Exposure to harmful chemicals
Health issues aside, did you know that external factors such as environmental pollutants can also affect your fertility? Even things lying around your house can contain harmful chemicals and pollutants that can hinder your baby-making or increase your chances of a miscarriage. These include oil-based paints, paint thinners, anti-ageing face creams containing retinoids, nail polish removers and even body soap.
THE SOLUTION Avoid, avoid, avoid. If your house is being painted, go on a vacation during this time or move elsewhere. Throw out anything that contains harmful chemicals such as glycol, biocides, lead and mercury, parabens, phthalates and formaldehyde.
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