Understanding Fertility Problems: Improving Your Chances
Your doctor may suggest some simple methods to help you get pregnant. Most focus on predicting ovulation-the time when sex has the best chance of success. Your doctor may also advise working on other factors that can affect fertility.
Conception is only possible when a woman is ovulating. One signal of ovulation is a surge in the hormone LH. Other signals include changes in body temperature and changes in cervical mucus.
Ovulation Predictor Kits
One of the best signals of ovulation is a sudden increase in the hormone LH. A simple urine test called an ovulation predictor kit (available at most drugstores) can help pinpoint this surge. Have sex the day you notice the surge. Keep having sex daily over the next 3 days, or as often as your doctor suggests.
Body Temperature Changes
A woman's resting temperature (basal body temperature) often drops just before ovulation. Your doctor may ask you to take your temperature each morning to pinpoint this change. Have sex the day your temperature drops. Keep having sex daily until the day after your temperature rises again.
Cervical Mucus Changes
Shortly before ovulation a woman's cervical mucus gets clear and stretchy. The mucus also increases in quantity. This makes it easier for sperm to travel through the cervix. Not all women notice these changes. But if you do, begin having sex daily until the mucus thickens again.
Working on Other Factors That Affect Fertility
Certain lifestyle and health habits can affect fertility. Be sure to talk with your doctor about these issues. You may be able to make some simple changes to improve your chances of conception. Keep in mind, though, that it can take time for healthy changes to improve your fertility.
Being overweight or underweight can affect hormone levels. In women, this can impair ovulation. In men, obesity can decrease sperm count.
Medications, Supplements, and Herbal Remedies
Medications, supplements, and herbal remedies can affect hormone levels in men and women. They can also affect the quantity and quality of sperm. Be sure to tell your doctor about any substances you take.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can scar the reproductive organs in both men and women. If you've had an STD, be sure to tell your doctor.
A man's testicles are normally a few degrees cooler than the rest of his body. When the testicles are too warm, sperm production may decline. Try to avoid excess heat from things like hot tubs and saunas.
Smoking, Alcohol, and Drugs
Smoking can affect estrogen levels and decrease egg production in women. Men who smoke may have lowered sperm count. Excessive alcohol or drug use can also decrease fertility in both men and women.
"When I found out smoking could keep me from getting pregnant, I made up my mind to stop that day."
Certain chemicals can affect hormone levels. Talk with your doctor if you're regularly exposed to strong chemicals. You should also ask about lubricants used during sex. Some types can be toxic to sperm.
Excessive exercise can decrease hormone production. It can also cause irregular menstruation in women. Ongoing stress is another factor that may affect fertility and cause ovulation problems.