Just decided to try for a baby?
People are often surprised to hear that they have the power to influence the health of their future child.
Making a few positive lifestyle changes in the 3-4 month lead up to conception can make all the difference to how easily you fall pregnant and will also reduce the risk of miscarriage. The egg and sperm quality is not 'set in stone' you have an enormous ability to influence the DNA quality of what will become your future baby by the choices you make in your daily life.
The sperm take 70-90 days to be produced, while the eggs take 90-120 days to mature for ovulation. Hence why a little preparation and taking the time to get your diet in order can have such a substantial impact on your ability to conceive naturally.
Should we get a check-up first?
If you have a past or current gynaecological condition (e.g. PCOS, Endometriosis), if your periods are irregular or particularly scant/heavy, if there is a history of genetic conditions in your family (e.g. Downs Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis) or if you have previously had abdominal surgery, then it would be wise to have a basic screening completed before trying to conceive.
What tests should we consider?
Women- a day 3 & day 21 blood test will give you an indication of how well your ovaries are performing. The FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) level on Day 3 should ideally be less than 10 as this means your ovaries are responding well to stimulation. A very high score may be an indication of premature ovarian failure and should be investigated. That said, FSH scores can vary, so any result you receive should not be viewed in isolation, other biomarkers should also be considered before coming to any conclusions about your fertility status. Your Luteinising hormone (LH) and Oestradiol may also be checked at this stage.
The Day 21 portion of the test looks at your Progesterone levels as this will indicate if ovulation is happening or not. If your Progesterone levels are very low (e.g. <30) it is reasonable to assume that you didn't ovulate on that particular cycle and measures should be taken to improve your hormone levels. Some clinics prefer to see Progesterone ranges in excess of 60 for natural conception but make sure to check the reference ranges as they can differ depending on which lab conducts the test for you.
Internal investigations such as a laparoscopy or hysteroscopy may be required depending on your medical history to rule out any anatomical issues that could prevent conception. e.g. blocked fallopian tubes.
Men- a semen analysis is usually the first test recommended for the male. This test will tell you the count, motility (swimming ability), morphology (shape of the sperm) and if there are any sperm anti-bodies present. This test could help you avoid wasting valuable time as the sperm are made on a daily basis and in most cases will respond quickly to diet and lifestyle changes.
If there are any problems with sperm count in the ejaculate a referral may be made to a Urologist for further investigation.
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