Fertility Womens Health

Fertility 101

Your fertility window is unique to you. Here is what you should know...

The number one thing I’ve heard when it comes to a couple getting ready to have a baby, is the plan! However as you dive further into fertility, it becomes very clear that few couples can stick to a plan because fertility often has plans of its own! 

What do I mean by that? You’re about to find out. 

Contraception, fertile windows, tracking ovulation, PCOS are just a few elements that can change the plan. Coming off of contraception like birth control might mean you’ll be able to get pregnant in 2 weeks or a year. You might find out that you have a hormone imbalance and that you aren’t ovulating at all. Maybe you only have a period once every three months. Now what? 

Here are questions to ask yourself if you are considering pregnancy. 

When to stop contraception 

A study was performed to test how long it took to get pregnant after being off oral contraceptives (birth control pills) and they found that 72% to 94% became pregnant after one year.

However some women get pregnant just days after they’ve stopped taking birth control… so what gives? The reality is, we’ve been lead to believe that getting pregnant is way easier than it actually is. For some people yes, this does happen but the majority of women have to work a lot harder. This is because you have approximately a 30% chance of getting pregnant each menstrual cycle. Your partners fertility also plays a role. Not to mention factors like smoking, weight, stress and lack of sleep play a roll in your chances of conceiving. 

The fact is, even though some tests seem to prove it can take a year to get pregnant, it’s not necessarily your contraceptives that are to blame. In fact even people who were using non-hormonal forms of contraceptives like condoms, still took almost a year to get pregnant.  What it comes down to is age. The quantity and quality of your eggs isn’t what it once was. Your fertility actually decreases every year after the age of 25. 

When to get pregnant

Your fertility window is unique to you. Though on average a menstrual cycle is 28 to 35 days. Many women have a 28-day cycle, which means for them, ovulation generally happens on day 14. However, individual cycles vary, yours might be longer or shorter. To figure out the exact day you ovulated, you need to count 14 days back from the day you started your period. (That’s because while not everyone ovulates on the 14th day of their cycle, your period almost always begins 14 days after ovulation.)

Typically you’ll release one egg a month. This egg will dissolve if it isn’t fertilized within 24-36 hours. After that, you won’t be fertile again until your next period.

Your fertile window is about 5 days before ovulation plus the day you ovulate giving you about 6 days. Sperm can live up to 5 to 6 days in a woman’s reproductive tract. That means that you can have sex 6 days before you expect to ovulate and then become pregnant.

When to see a doctor 

If you still haven’t been able to get pregnant after a year of trying, visiting your doctor for suggestions and an evaluation is often recommended. If you are over the age of 35, visit your doctor if pregnancy doesn’t occur within 6 months. 

How is infertility defined?

Infertility is defined as the inability to become pregnant after one year of unprotected sex for women under 35 and six months for women 35 and older. 

After that amount of time, an infertility evaluation is usually recommended. As there is a possibility that something is preventing pregnancy. However don’t go to the doctor alone! Infertility problems can also be from your significant other. 30% of infertility cases can be caused by low sperm count, abnormal sperm movement, or past trauma, drinking/smoking or diabetes.

The causes of infertility 

Irregular menstrual cycles make it difficult to get pregnant because it means you’re not ovulating. Note: spotting or bleeding can be mistaken for a period but it actually doesn’t mean you’ve ovulated. 

Most women can tell if they haven’t had their period or if they are sometimes two weeks early or two weeks late. Learning how to track your ovulation and find ways to re-regulate your period is key. A common cause of an irregular period is PCOS. Though other reasons can be a sugar-rich diet or chronic stress. 

The main cause of infertility in women is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). It affects anywhere from 5-10% of women between the ages of 20 and 40. Furthermore, 30% of women may have some of the symptoms associated with PCOS without being diagnosed with the syndrome.

PCOS can’t be cured but it can be managed with the right diet and supplements. S’moo was created to help balance hormones. Getting yourself on a healthy diet and finding ways to counter your stressful situations are also key.

Why does PCOS make it hard to get pregnant?

Well for one, most women with PCOS have fewer menstrual cycles per year (about nine). PCOS also causes heavier than normal bleeding during your period because the ovaries fail to produce hormones that keep the cycle regular. These irregularities disrupt ovulation which makes conception more difficult. These disruptions in your ovulation can make them irregular or non existent. This is commonly caused by higher male hormone levels from insulin resistance which is your bodies inability to get blood sugar into your cells to use as fuel.

Other causes of infertility besides PCOS?

  • Ovulation disorders, which affect the release of eggs from the ovaries.
  • Uterine or cervical abnormalities, including abnormalities with the cervix, polyps in the uterus or the shape of the uterus.
  • Fallopian tube damage or blockage, often caused by inflammation of the fallopian tube (salpingitis).
  • Endometriosis, which occurs when endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus, may affect the function of the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes.
  • Primary ovarian insufficiency (early menopause), when the ovaries stop working and menstruation ends before age 40.
  • Pelvic adhesions, bands of scar tissue that bind organs can form after pelvic infection, appendicitis, endometriosis or abdominal or pelvic surgery.
  • Cancer and its treatment. Certain cancers — particularly reproductive cancers — often impair female fertility.  

Improving your fertility with diets, supplements, exercise

For women the right vitamins and minerals can help with menstruation and ovulation, thyroid function, energy production, immune function, oocyte (egg) quality and maturation of those eggs. These vitamins and minerals can create the right environment for  a healthy pregnancy. Some might even reduce symptoms from PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) which is a common cause of infertility.

1. Acetyl-L-carnitine: This can be used by men and women. For men it can help with sperm motility. For women it promotes a healthy female reproductive system. Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) is a form of the amino acid L-carnitine which helps your body turn fat into energy.  ALC has powerful antioxidants that can improve symptoms of PCOS, endometriosis and amenorrhea (the absence of a period).

2. Folic acid: Folic acid should be used for women to help with getting pregnant, it’s also helps improve the chances of a positive outcome if you’re undergoing fertility treatments.  If you’re trying to conceive adding folic acid supplements to your diet has been associated with a greater chance for getting pregnant, improved success with fertility treatments and its also good to take while you’re pregnant. It’s important to get tested for a vitamin D deficiency in order to find the proper supplemental dosage from your doctor.

3. Coenzyme Q10: Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is for men and women. For men it increases sperm motility. For women it improves ovarian response in vitro fertilization (IVF).  CoQ10 is something your body already produces but increasing the amount  with supplements may help you get pregnant, especially if you’re in the process of doing any assisted reproductive technology like IVF.

4. Inositol: Inositol is great for women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) it helps regulate their bodies and has been found to improve PCOS symptoms and regulate their menstrual cycle and help with ovulation. You’ll find your daily dose of Inositol in S’moo, however you can also find Inositol at any health food store. Some studies have shown it can help with  the number of good quality oocytes (cells in the ovaries), clinical pregnancies, and delivery rates in women with PCOS.

5. Iron: An iron deficiency can cause a lot of issues with fertility for women. This is because when our iron levels fall to an unhealthy range, red blood cells stop developing and it decreases oxygen to your body’s tissues like your ovaries and uterus. Iron supplements have helped women decrease the risk of ovulatory infertility. Even if you don’t have an iron deficiency and get pregnant, once you are pregnant it can be difficult to get enough iron in your diet (especially if your vegetarian or vegan).  There are side-effects to taking too much iron so ask your doctor what the proper dose would be for you.

6. Omega-3s: Omega-3s are great for men and women for your health in general but it also is great as an infertility supplement. It can improve sperm quality in men and for women, if you’re trying to conceive over the age of 35, studies show this supplement can help you achieve this. Omega-3 fatty acids may help lessen chronic inflammation-related fertility problems.

7. Selenium: Selenium is great for men and women, for men it helps improve sperm quality and for women it helps reduce the risk of a miscarriage. This mineral isn’t talked about much but it does play a role in the reproductive system.  Studies show that a selenium deficiency can be a factor for some miscarriages, it also can help maintain the health of follicular fluid surrounding a woman’s eggs.

8. Vitamin C: For infertility supplements this one is for the men! Vitamin C supports sperm count and mobility. It’s a powerful antioxidant that can reduce cellular damage and increase iron absorption. Some studies suggest taking vitamin C with vitamin E to seem better results.

What about Prenatal Vitamins?
Reproductive health can be complex and sometimes it can be hard to know what supplements are best for fertility. Some might say just taking a prenatal vitamin is the way to go. So why would you decide to take the above supplements versus a prenatal vitamin? That’s a great question and the answer really depends on your own body and fertility obstacles you’re dealing with and what your body needs. Maybe you’re thinking taking a prenatal vitamin while trying to conceive isn’t normal… but it isn’t a bad idea. Some doctors suggest to start taking these prenatal vitamins three months prior to conception.

Stop asking yourself “what is wrong with me?”

If you haven’t been able to conceive yet, the biggest thing to remember is there is nothing is wrong with you. The fact is, fertility can be tricky and having a baby isn’t as easy as the world lets you believe. Todays generation is talking about it more but past generations often didn’t mention how many miscarriages they had or how long they tried. Think about it this way, if everything is in perfect balance, women still only have a 1 in 4 chance of getting pregnant each month when they are 20-30 years old. After 30 they have a 1-10 chance of becoming pregnant each month.

Find other women to connect with! Having others who understand what you are going through is key. The S’moo app is a perfect place for you to talk to other women and get advice but also to remind yourself that you aren’t not alone!


Medical Disclaimer

This content is strictly the opinion of S’moo and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither S’moo nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.

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