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Pregnancy

Five Things To Know Before Starting Fertility Treatment

If you want to start a family, but are struggling to get pregnant you may feel that your world is over. However, you need to know that you are not alone. Statistics show that one in six couples will suffer from infertility and require treatment.  Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant after one year of unprotected sex (this is reduced to 6 months for women over 35 years old). 1

It is important to realise a diagnosis of infertility does not mean that all hope is lost, there are many options available for couples who are struggling to conceive naturally.

The following are some of the most important things to remember when you are considering and undergoing infertility treatment.

1. Understand the fertility treatment options and which is best for you.

It is impossible to know what option is likely to best for you as a couple without getting professional advice, however, your clinician or specialist does not need to be the only source of information. There are excellent sources of information both online and from various organisations including fertility clinics and charities.

Often when people think of fertility treatment they immediately think of IVF, however, this is just one option amongst a wide selection including surgery, drug treatment and surrogacy.2

If you are not suitable for one type of treatment there will be others which can work for you, taking the time to understand what is possible will reduce the stress of the whole experience.

2. Ensure you are fit and healthy for fertility treatment

As with any pregnancy, it is good practice to ensure you are as fit and healthy as you can be. Improving your diet will ensure you have healthy eggs and sperm. A healthy diet for conception should include:

  • Plenty of fruit and vegetables – try adding fruit with your breakfast and green vegetables or salad with your main meals
  • Complex carbohydrates – these include whole grains such as brown rice, oats and wholemeal bread. Simple changes like using brown rice instead of white and enjoying wholemeal bread instead of processed white will help.
  • Try to include oily fish, nuts, seeds and natural oils
  • Increase the amount of fibre you eat
  • Reduce the amount of red meat you eat
  • Try to avoid additives, preservatives and chemicals including artificial sweeteners
  • Reduce or avoid sugar – be aware of the amount of sugar in manufactured food.
  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine, e.g. coffee, tea, chocolate, colas and alcohol
  • Try to drink at least 1½ litres of fresh water per day, this will help your hormone balance and blood flow.

You should look to reduce your alcohol intake and of course quit smoking. Following these simple steps will increase the chance of your treatment being successful.

3. Consider your age

When considering treatments such as IVF, age is important. Doctors can support your biology and will do their best to help you become pregnant however they cannot change your body.

A survey in 2006 showed the average age of a mother at the birth of her first child was 25 (up from 21.4 in 1970).3 Statistics are now showing that many couples are planning to wait until they are at least 30 before starting a family stating that focusing on their career or being able to afford to start a family being the major reasons stated for the delay in starting a family.

Whereas the reasons for the delay are understandable, couples should be aware that the later you leave having a family the more difficult it may become.

As you can see from the chart, once you reach 35 years old your chances of having a successful pregnancy via IVF reduces rapidly. It is a similar case for natural pregnancy with the risk of miscarriage or Down syndrome increasing above the age of 35, and you are more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy.

This does not mean that you cannot have a family if you are above the age of 35, however, you should ensure you are aware of the risks and speak to specialists to ensure you are provided with the most suitable infertility treatment. If you are told that treatment is not advisable you should not give up hope, there are options like surrogacy, fostering or adoption.

4. Understand this is going to be a stressful journey…

Going through any form of infertility treatment is going to be a long and often stressful journey for both of you, statistics show 61% of couples feel infertility is more stressful than divorce 4 You need to be a strong team and be prepared to support each other. The outcome is highly likely to be positive, however, the light at the end of the tunnel may seem a long way away.

Your partner needs to understand that, with your hormones unbalanced due to infertility drugs or pregnancy, you may have moments when anything they do will be wrong or that you will be over emotional and stressed. Certain fertility drugs can cause mood swings and you both need to be aware of this and be ready to support each other.

Infertility treatment will be series of highs and lows. It may be that the first attempt of any treatment fails to achieve the successful pregnancy you crave, the pressure and stress of waiting for a positive result only to find it has not occurred can be crushing. In IVF, for example, you will be told to give the process three full cycles which, for a woman under 40 years old, will generally yield a greater than 70% success rate. After this, if you are part of the small percentage for which this treatment fails, there are still other options available to you.

You need to build a strong team around you, with your partner and supportive members of your family (you have the right to be selective and pick those who will help you on your journey!) There are also online groups and Facebook groups where you can meet like minded couples and get shared advice and support. Of course, you have your medical professionals you can turn to when you need to. Remember, whatever happens, you are not who are not alone and there are people who can help you.

Ensure that you make time for yourself, even if it is just five minutes per day to relax and reduce your stress levels.5

5. All’s not lost…

After struggling to conceive naturally it can feel that you will never hold your own child, you may feel like a failure or that you have let your partner down. None of this is true.  You are not a failure and you are not alone, many thousands of couples are going through the same feelings right now and many more thousands now have their own families thanks to successful infertility treatment or surrogacy.

Infertility treatment is changing all the time, for example in 2016 scientists were able to sustain the life of an embryo beyond the seven days previously thought possible. This innovation will allow doctors to better monitor the embryo and improve the chances of successful implantation. 6

It is true infertility treatment will seem stressful at times, however, the potential outcome will make it all worthwhile!

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