A nice couple gets married and begins their life together. They are still young and only in the beginning of their careers so they choose to spend a few years getting established in their jobs and in their marriage before starting a family. After a few successful years of marriage, they decide that it is time to have a baby. They stop using birth control and impatiently wait for the good news. The first couple of months pass with no positive pregnancy test. Three more months pass, and still no pregnancy. Before they know it, a full year has passed without having used birth control and the pregnancy test still reads “negative.” This scenario can be devastating to some trying to conceive and it is unfortunately a common occurrence. However, when this happens, it is nowhere near time to give up. There are several things to do in order to increase the chances of conception, but first and foremost a couple should learn everything they can about fertility and conception.
The basis of a woman’s fertility all revolves around her menstrual cycle. Every woman who is interested in conceiving needs to understand all of the ins and outs of her menstrual cycle.
The minute a baby girl is brought into the world she already has all of the eggs that she will ever use throughout her reproductive years. It is estimated that most baby girls are born with 400,000 eggs; all of which are stored in follicles inside her ovaries. When the girl begins to mature and reach the age of puberty, her body starts to produce several different hormones. The first hormone produced is known as Hormone Releasing Factor (FSH-RF). The release of FSH-RF sends a message to the pituitary gland which in turn releases two other hormones; Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Leutenizing Hormone (LH). These two hormones travel to the ovaries through the bloodstream and cause the eggs to mature. This process signifies the beginning of a girl’s menstrual cycle.
Ovulation means to release an egg. A healthy woman should ovulate once a month from the time she begins puberty to the time she reaches menopause. During the ovulation period, the ovaries are supplied with an increased amount of blood-flow. This causes the ligaments to contract allowing the ovary to move in next to the fallopian tube. When the ovary releases the egg, it will enter the tube where it will be pushed through by tiny projections known as cilia. The cilia move the egg into the uterus in which, if sperm are present, fertilization can occur. Sometimes a woman will release two eggs in one month. If each is fertilized it will result in twins. On rare occasions, an egg will be fertilized by a sperm while it is still in the fallopian tube. This is known as an ectopic pregnancy. In cases like these, the pregnancy must be terminated as it could be fatal to the mother.
When a woman is in the middle of her cycle, the follicle that has released an egg will burst and turn into the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum or yellow body will then produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone. The progesterone causes the lining of the uterus (endometrium) to secrete mucous. The increased blood-flow collects in pools (venous lakes) inside the uterus which fill up and then burst. The endometrial lining then disengages from the uterus to produce the menstrual flow. The average length of the flow is between four and eight days.
Derived from the French word fertilite’ meaning “from the soil,” in a nutshell, the word fertility means to successfully produce offspring. In humans this occurs when a sperm enters an egg and causes the egg to begin developing. Besides the fertilization of an egg by a sperm, there are several other outside influences that involve successful fertilization. For instance, a person’s age, health and nutrition all have great influences on their body’s ability to be fertile. Because of the body’s response to stimuli, a more mature woman will not produce as many viable eggs as a woman in between her twenties and early thirties will. Environmental factors such as toxic waste or air pollutants can severely damage or even kill a woman’s ability to conceive.
To calculate the beginning of a pregnancy, a doctor will normally count from the first day of a woman’s last menstrual cycle. This period is known as the menstrual age and is approximately two weeks prior to the actual date of conception. A
fter ovulation occurs and the follicle bursts, the corpus luteum releases its hormones to perform their task. The progesterone thickens the uterine lining to prepare the uterus for an embryo to attach itself for development. The released egg will then move into the fallopian tube. The egg will remain in the tube to wait for fertilization by a single sperm. This can happen up to twenty-four hours after the start of ovulation. This process typically occurs on an average of two weeks after the woman’s last menstrual cycle.
If there are no sperm present to fertilize the egg, it will break down along with the corpus luteum and the high levels of hormones will be removed. This process causes the lining of the uterus to break away which will result in vaginal bleeding thus continuing the menstrual cycle.
When the egg has been fertilized by a sperm, it starts to rapidly divide to form several cells. This process will occur within twenty-four hours of fertilization. The fertilized egg, now called a zygote, will typically remain in the fallopian tube for three days as it continues to divide. It then travels to the uterus in attempt to attach itself to the uterine wall. The zygote changes to a solid mass of cells which will later become hollow. This hollow mass is called a blastocyst. The blastocyst then releases its outer layer and attaches itself to the uterine wall. During this period, it is not uncommon for the woman to notice some slight bleeding or “spotting.” This should only last a day or two and it is completely normal. The uterine wall begins to thicken and a plug of mucus seals off the cervix. The blastocyst cells start to develop groups of cells within itself thus forming the embryo’s first nerve cells. This process occurs within three weeks of conception. Eight weeks after conception, the embryo is considered a fetus.
There are several health issues that can lower fertility. However, with modern medicine many of these issues can be rectified through medication or a simple change in lifestyle.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common conditions that can cause fertility issues in women. With this condition, several cysts which have been caused by a hormonal imbalance develop on the ovaries. A woman with PCOS will normally have irregular periods and because of the ovarian cysts, she may not ovulate monthly giving her less opportunity to conceive. Without treatment, more serious health issues such as heart disease or diabetes may occur.
Symptoms of PCOS vary from patient to patient; some will only show a few and some will have all of them. The most common symptoms are as follows:
To diagnose Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a physician will ask about the patient’s symptoms and medical history. PCOS does run in the family and can be passed down by either side. The physician will then perform a physical exam looking for ovarian cysts as well as elevated blood pressure and excessive body hair. Lab tests will include blood glucose levels and hormone levels. It is common for thyroid disease to cause many of the same symptoms of PCOS, so this must be ruled out during the hormone level test.
To help reduce some of the symptoms a physician will recommend a regular exercise regimen as well as a proper heart healthy diet. This will bring down any high blood pressure and cholesterol levels to lower the patient’s chances of developing heart disease or diabetes. Supplements may be prescribed in order to help balance the hormone levels. Patients who smoke will be urged to quit because smokers have elevated androgen levels which contribute to the condition. Medicines that may be prescribed are birth control pills to regulate the menstrual cycle, spironolactone to lower the androgen levels, and metformin to help restore fertility.
Other possible contributing factors for a woman’s infertility are as follows:
In general, about one third of infertility problems occur because of issues involving the male partner. His infertility may be caused by a low sperm count, the sperm’s inability to make it to the egg, or an inability to effectively fertilize the egg. A male’s overall lifestyle can be a big contributing factor to his infertility. Alcohol abuse, obesity and poor nutrition are all factors that may cause a fertility issue.
A low sperm count can be caused by a number of influences. Some of these are abnormally high fever with repeated infections, undescended testicles, and genetic defects.
The inability to effectively deliver the sperm to the egg can be caused by a number of sexual problems such as retrograde ejaculation or premature ejaculation. Other causes can be genetic disorders or blockage issues which prevent the sperm from leaving the testicles. If a male has had to undergo cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation, depending on the proximity of the treatment, this can damage his ability to produce sperm. In general, a male is most fertile between the ages of 18 and 40.
In many cases, male infertility can be treated to result in producing a pregnancy. Some of these treatments are as follows:
If it is a neurological disorder that is preventing a male from ejaculating, this can be an effective treatment. In this procedure, an electrical probe is inserted into the rectum to stimulate the nerves that induce ejaculation. Semen that comes from the urethra is collected for later insertion into the woman’s uterus.
If there is an obstruction in the testicles, sperm retrieval can be performed by way of micro-epididymal sperm aspiration (MESA). In this procedure, an incision is made in the scrotum to allow the physician to collect the sperm for later use on his partner.
When there is a problem with the sperm’s motility, this procedure may be performed. After obtaining the specimen, the healthiest sperm are collected and prepared for insemination.
This procedure may be performed when a couple has normal reproductive organs and is having unexplainable fertility issues. With this method, the healthy sperm and mature eggs are mixed into a syringe and are directly injected into one of the woman’s fallopian tubes. This procedure can be done without the invasiveness of a large incision by use of laparascopic surgery. If an embryo is produced it will move into the uterus and attach itself to the uterine wall.
This procedure works by increasing the quality of the sperm as well as the quantity.
The reproductive system uses vitamins and minerals to perform all of its tasks, therefore proper nutrition is more important than most think. Improper nutrition causes a decrease in sperm production as well an increase in abnormal sperm production. A physician will tell his patient to consume natural foods as much as possible. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are all part of a healthy diet. The patient should eliminate all processed food such as white flour, caffeine, and junk foods. Pumpkin seeds are a good snack since they are full of zinc which is essential to the male reproductive system.
There are several supplements that are said to improve a male’s sperm count. They are as follows:
One of the simplest ways of achieving pregnancy is learning how to relax. When a couple has been trying to conceive for several months without any luck, they continuously get more and more stressed as time passes. Allowing stress to take over your body is a sure way to slow down all of your natural bodily functions. Some proven methods of relieving stress are as follows:
If you or your partner smokes, drinks or takes illegal drugs, stop immediately. These are all things that will hinder your achieving a pregnancy. Eat a heart healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Start a moderate exercise program and stick to it; your body should be in top physical condition in order to achieve a pregnancy.
Prenatal supplements are mostly made up of folic acid. Doctors recommend that women who are interested in conceiving take 400 micrograms of this a day before conception and 600 micrograms a day after pregnancy is achieved. This significantly reduces the chances of birth defects.
Women who suffer with depressive disorders are far less likely to achieve a pregnancy. Before trying to conceive, visit a mental healthcare specialist to make sure you are in good mental health.
Studies show that women who have a body mass index that ranges between 20 and 30 will have an easier time getting pregnant. If you are overweight or underweight, the reproductive system is not working at its full capacity.
For optimum chance to achieve pregnancy, learn all about your menstrual cycle and when you are ovulating. This will allow you to know when you are your most fertile so you and your partner can be sure to have sex on those days.
For those who are not sure, there are several products on the market that are able to predict the exact time of ovulation. Use one of these every month and when you are ovulating, have as much sex as you can.
Some sexual positions are more likely to result in a pregnancy because of the flow of semen. Try to avoid positions that have you standing or sitting upright since these will not allow the sperm to easily flow through the vaginal canal and into the uterus. For best results, the missionary position will allow an easy flow.
New studies show that when a woman has an orgasm it changes the acidity of her vagina which produces a friendlier environment for the sperm. If the couple orgasms within the same time-frame the sperm have a much higher chance of surviving their trip into the uterus.
Try to exchange your milk, cheese, yogurt and sugar for vegetables, beans, enriched flour and leafy greens. Dairy products are known to suppress ovarian function which significantly lowers the chances of achieving pregnancy.
There are several things that damage or kill sperm. Make your vagina “sperm friendly” by avoiding all lubricants, vaginal deodorants, scented tampons, douching and saliva. All of these things can cause a pH imbalance which, when coming into contact with, can kill the sperm.
It is most important to follow this rule during the days preceding ovulation. Sperm have a short life-span and decrease in strength as they get older. Replenishing the sperm every other day will allow for better opportunity to fertilize the egg.
Studies show that frequent bicycle riding decreases a man’s fertility by way of friction on the testicles. This creates heat which is not conducive with healthy sperm.
For the same reason, the male should avoid extreme heat such as hot baths or long Jacuzzi soaks. Healthy sperm survive best in cool temperatures.
Because of the heat factor, the male partner should wear boxer shorts instead of tight briefs. Boxers will allow the testicles to hang away from the body where they can stay cooler.
Even if it is a solo performance, the male should try to ejaculate daily. This will assure that the sperm that are going to be ejaculated into the vagina are fresh and therefore more viable. The older sperm will become sluggish and damaged.
Going through the steps of trying to get pregnant is one thing, but what if you are of a certain age, your biological clock is ticking, and you just don’t have that much time to waste? There does happen to be a few things to try in order to speed up the whole process of conception.
For many couples who are trying to have a baby, this can be a roller coaster ride of emotions. Month after month they stand over a home pregnancy test only to be disappointed by a negative reading. The lucky few that are able to pop out babies like they are going out of style take their ability to conceive for granted. They have no clue what a trying time this can be for couples who are dealing with fertility problems. Whatever road a couple must take in order to conceive, in the end, a precious new life has been created, and it makes no difference whatsoever how it came to be. A precious life is still, a precious life.
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