TIMING OF SEXUAL INTERCOURSE
Having sex every 2-3 days throughout the woman’s menstrual cycle, particularly during the week before ovulation, increases the likelihood of there being sperm already present in the female reproductive tract when the woman releases an egg from her ovary (ovulates). This will improve the chances of pregnancy.
The fertile window (the time in her cycle when a woman is most likely to conceive) is about five days before predicted ovulation until the day of ovulation.
Most women will ovulate about 14 days before the next period. It can be helpful to use a calendar or smartphone app to track the menstrual cycle and work out when the fertile window is.
There are simple ovulation calendars available online. Other changes in the body such as a slight rise in body temperature, changes to the vaginal discharge (cervical mucous is runnier when a woman is fertile) and the use of ‘ovulation kits’ can help a woman to identify her fertile window.
Both being overweight or underweight can significantly affect fertility. Women who are either overweight or underweight may not ovulate. Women who are overweight also have higher risks of miscarriage and pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure and diabetes of pregnancy. Aiming for a Body Mass Index of between 20–25 kg/m2, eating a healthy, balanced diet with folate supplements and taking moderate exercise can improve natural fertility.
Smoking tobacco (including passive smoking) can decrease both female and male fertility. Men who smoke have higher rates of erectile dysfunction, a lower sperm count and sperm quality. In a woman, it is thought that the nicotine can interrupt the female hormones and smoking affects the transportation of the egg. Smoking in pregnancy can affect the placenta leading to higher rates of pregnancy complications, miscarriage and stillbirth and childhood asthma.
It is estimated that after 1 year of not smoking all of the negative effects have reversed.
ALCOHOL AND DRUG USE
The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that for women who are pregnant, planning pregnancy or breastfeeding not drinking alcohol is the safest option.
When you are planning a pregnancy, it is also important to be aware that alcohol can reduce fertility in both men and women. Alcohol can greatly increase the time it takes to get pregnant and affect the quality of men’s sperm and women’s eggs. If you are trying to get pregnant you should consider not drinking alcohol at all (www.alcohol.gov.au).
Recreational drugs, including cocaine, heroin, cannabis and ecstasy, have also been shown to affect male and female fertility and should be avoided.
WHEN IS IT TIME TO SEEK HELP?
Most healthy, fertile couples will conceive within 12 months of trying. If no pregnancy has occurred after 12 months (6 months if the woman is aged over 35 years), then it is advisable to see your GP or family planning clinic. If there are known or suspected fertility issues then seeking earlier advice is recommended.
This fact sheet has been republished with permission from Family Planning NSW for more information see details below: