As an obstetrician and fertility specialist, I see couples on a daily basis who are struggling to conceive.
This means I am often asked the question “How can we increase our chances of conceiving naturally?”
To be able to answer this in an accurate and meaningful way, first I need to focus on investigating a couple’s baseline fertility. This process will allow me to identify what factors a couple have working in their favour and also those that we may need to work on overcoming, to improve their chances of conceiving.
Once we are empowered with this knowledge, together we can workshop a plan that is specifically tailored to suit their unique fertility situation.
It is important to understand that everyone’s final plan will be different but there are key stages along the journey that are common for all. Those are investigation, review, planning and then implementation.
Here is some information I hope you find helpful as you start your journey to becoming pregnant.
Undergo a fertility assessment
If you have been trying to conceive for some time but are yet to fall pregnant, the first priority is a thorough and methodical fertility assessment and a pre-pregnancy check-up. This is where an experienced fertility specialist, obstetrician or GP will look at your medical history, your fertility journey (i.e. how long you have been trying to conceive, what steps you have been following to increase the chances, and what tests have already been done) to get a good understanding of your unique situation.
This information will then guide further investigation for both a woman and her partner. This assessment can include blood tests, ultrasounds and often a sperm test. Some of these tests are performed at a time that is specific to the menstrual cycle and all of the results are back within a month.
In order to prepare a woman for a healthy and safe pregnancy, her immunity to chicken pox and rubella should be checked as well as her thyroid function, iron and vitamin D levels. If there are any issues, these can be corrected before conceiving. All couples should also be aware that they can be screened for being a carrier for up to 300 genetic conditions.
A good quality ultrasound will identify any abnormalities with the uterus or ovaries and where applicable, a test can also be done to check if the fallopian tubes are open.
For the man, a sperm and blood test will help identify any fertility issues.
Monitor your fertility/ovulation window
This can be done separately or during the same month you are having your fertility tests. Monitoring helps to identify when you ovulate in your menstrual cycle. It is important to acknowledge the stress that is often associated with ovulation tracking and timed sex. Our goal should be to learn more about your cycle in a relaxed, collaborative and supported way.
Options can include home ovulation kits bought from the pharmacy or formal, bulk billed (meaning no out of pocket expense) ovulation tracking at a specialist fertility clinic.
Optimise health through diet and exercise
I think it is important that any plan aimed at improving your lifestyle needs to be flexible and realistic. Many couples who are struggling to conceive are already and incorrectly feeling “at fault” and prescribing an impossibly difficult lifestyle regime will only make this worse.
For both the man and the woman, diet, weight loss, smoking and supplements are all things that are worthy of a consideration by you and your doctor.
Often including a holistic practitioner or psychologist in your team adds an important level of additional support for those couples who have a longer road to pregnancy. Making sure you are cared for on a medical, emotional, financial and spiritual level is very important.
Importantly, an often-overlooked step when planning a pregnancy is deciding what type of antenatal care you want to have when you do become pregnant. Do you want to have your baby in a private or public hospital? Often patients who want private care are not able to easily access it, as they forgot to check whether their private health policy includes pregnancy. Or, they have upgraded their policy too late meaning they are caught short as their baby is due within the 12-month waiting period. So, amid all your efforts to try and conceive, take a minute to stop and think about what type of pregnancy care you want and ensure your insurance is consistent with that.
FREE WEBINAR – 17TH SEPTEMBER
About Dr Justin Tucker and the Mater Hospital’s upcoming Fertility Health webinar .
Dr Justin Tucker is a fertility specialist. He has a Masters in Reproductive Medicine and is passionate about helping couples overcome obstacles to have a baby.
On Thursday, 17 September at 7pm, Dr Tucker and the Mater Hospital’s Maternity Services Manager, Geraldine Cole, will host a free Zoom webinar for women and couples looking to conceive. The event will cover the A-Z of natural fertility.
See the Zoom registration page link here, which is the link for the webinar on the night.