A lot of couples have infertility problems. About one-third of the time, it is a female problem. In another one-third of cases, it is the man with the fertility problem. For the remaining one-third, both partners have fertility challenges or no cause is found.
Many women experience miscarriages or pregnancy losses, or cannot conceive at all (infertility). Infertility in women can be caused by age, health problems (like PCOS), uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and pelvic inflammatory disease, and negative lifestyle factors, according to a renowned gynaecologist and obstetrician, Dr. Abayomi Ajayi.
Infertility in men may be caused by sperm gene defects, negative lifestyle choices (alcohol, cigarette and drugs), toxins (lead, pesticides), STDs, diabetes, and prostate or testicular problems.
If you are a woman trying to conceive, you have the best chance of success if you are aware of your menstrual cycle and changes that happen to your body during that time.
It helps to know when you are fertile and able to get pregnant. A woman’s fertile time is usually a few days per month in the middle of her menstrual cycle and represents the time when a woman ovulates.
There are three ways to track your fertile times: basal body temperature method, calendar method, and cervical mucus method (ovulation method).
There are several treatment options for infertile couples including drugs, surgery, intrauterine insemination, assisted reproductive technology, third party assistance (donor gametes and surrogacy), adoption, and foster care.
Being aware of your menstrual cycle and the changes in your body that happen during this time can help you know when you are most likely to get pregnant.
The average menstrual cycle lasts 28 days. But normal cycles can vary from 21 to 35 days. The amount of time before ovulation occurs is different in every woman and even can be different from month to month in the same woman, varying from 13 to 20 days.
Learning about this part of the cycle is important because it is when ovulation and pregnancy can occur. After ovulation, every woman (unless with a health problem that affects her periods or she becomes pregnant) will have a period within 14 to 16 days. Knowing when you’re most fertile will help you plan or prevent pregnancy.
The basal body temperature is your temperature at rest as soon as you wake up in the morning. The basal body temperature rises slightly with ovulation, so by recording this temperature daily for several months, you’ll be able to predict your most fertile days.
You are most fertile and most likely to get pregnant two to three days before your temperature hits the highest point (ovulation), and 12 to 24 hours after ovulation
A man’s sperm can live for up to three days in a woman’s body. The sperm can fertilise an egg at any point during that time. So if you have unprotected sex a few days before ovulation, you could get pregnant.
Many things can affect basal body temperature. For your chart to be useful, make sure to take your temperature every morning at about the same time. These include drinking alcohol the night before, smoking cigarettes the night before, getting a poor night’s sleep and having a fever.
The calendar method involves recording your menstrual cycle on a calendar for eight to 12 months. The first day of your period is Day 1. Circle Day 1 on the calendar. The length of your cycle may vary from month to month. So write down the total number of days it lasts each time. Using this record, you can find the days you are most fertile in the months ahead.
To find out the first day when you are most fertile, subtract 18 from the total number of days in your shortest cycle. Take this new number and count ahead that many days from the first day of your next period. Draw an X through this date on your calendar. The X marks the first day you’re likely to be fertile.
To find out the last day when you are most fertile, subtract 11 from the total number of days in your longest cycle. Take this new number and count ahead that many days from the first day of your next period. Draw an X through this date on your calendar. The time between the two Xs is your most fertile window.
This method always should be used along with other fertility awareness methods, especially if your cycles are not always the same length.
Cervical mucus method (also known as the ovulation method) involves being aware of the changes in your cervical mucus throughout the month. The hormones that control the menstrual cycle also change the kind and amount of mucus you have before and during ovulation. Right after your period, there are usually a few days when there is no mucus present or “dry days.”
As the egg starts to mature, mucus increases in the vagina, appears at the vaginal opening, and is white or yellow and cloudy and sticky. The greatest amount of mucus appears just before ovulation. During these “wet days” it becomes clear and slippery, like raw egg whites.
This is when you are most fertile. About four days after the wet days begin the mucus changes again. There will be much less and it becomes sticky and cloudy. You might have a few more dry days before your period returns. Describe changes in your mucus on a calendar. Label the days, “Sticky,” “Dry,” or “Wet.” You are most fertile at the first sign of wetness after your period or a day or two before wetness begins.
The cervical mucus method is less reliable for some women. Women who are breastfeeding, taking hormonal birth control (like the pill), using feminine hygiene products, have vaginitis or sexually transmitted infections (STIs or STDs), or have had surgery on the cervix should not rely on this method.
To most accurately track your fertility, use a combination of all three methods, called the symptothermal method. You can also purchase over-the-counter ovulation kits or fertility monitors to help find the best time to conceive. These kits work by detecting surges in a specific hormone called luteinising hormone, which triggers ovulation.