inability to conceive children or young.”
That’s the most basic, oversimplified definition for all the trying, all the crying, all the exhaustive cycle-tracking and strategically timed sex, all the pregnancy tests and newfound optimism that seems to come with the latest herbal remedies, that still, always, seem to end in disappointment when you see that little bit of blood on your underwear as you begin yet another menstrual cycle.
Nor is it descriptive of just how extensive the process of getting pregnant may be before we all too quickly label ourselves "infertile".
The truth is, it’s a lot more complicated than one’s inability to conceive. The factors that we think may be signs of infertility could very well just be part and parcel of the journey, as trying as it may be.
In her book, Taking Charge of Your Infertility, fertility expert Toni Weschler elaborates on 8 reasons people are misled to believe they’re infertile, with the first being one that may resonate with the majority of couples: ‘We’ve just been trying for so long’.
1. ‘But we’ve been trying for so long’
Weschler writes that couples, after having unprotected sex, often assume that they’re infertile if they haven’t fallen pregnant within a year.
While it could be because either partner is infertile, it could also be for numerous other reasons, including the fact that sex, perhaps, simply wasn’t planned during and around the time of ovulation.
There are therefore many non-medical interventions that can increase your chances of getting pregnant. It could very well just be a case of understanding your body and observing the signs.
For more on this, also read: Signs of ovulation
2. ‘But my irregular cycles are the reason I can’t fall pregnant’
From as early as high school, even primary school – whenever you get your very first period talk – you’re taught that a supposedly healthy cycle is 28 days.
The truth is, according to Mayo clinic, a woman’s cycle can be anywhere between 21 and 35 days and still be considered normal.
So having cycles that vary from the 28-day adopted norm would subsequently change the rest of one’s cycle.
Assuming you’d be ovulating on day 14 and timing sex accordingly then it wouldn’t make sense.
It’s therefore more about understanding your body than following everyone else’s tried, tested and perfectly-timed (for them) method to fall pregnant.
Click here to work out when ovulation occurs for you: Ovulation Calculator
3. ‘But we’ve been to the doctor’
You may have been to the doctor and tried every fertility procedure there is without considering that the problem may not be with you, or your partner, but in not trying the simplest of methods to fall pregnant (again, like timing sex according to your body’s cycle, specifically).
Weschler suggests that the couple should, before any invasive and aggressive procedures, get the man’s semen tested and begin charting the woman’s cycle, as well as her fertility signs.
4. ‘But the doctor said to focus on basal temperatures and it's not working'
There are three main signs that indicate a woman is ovulating: a rise or drop in basal temperature; the soft, high, open and wet position of her cervix; and the quality of her cervical fluid that will usually resemble a slimy egg-white fluid.
The problem, however, is that many doctors only focus on basal temperature when, in fact, your temperature only changes after ovulation has already occurred.
So while it’s an indication of ovulation, technically speaking, it’s an indication that you have ovulated and may have missed the boat.
Cervical fluid is therefore the better bet when it comes to charting and determining when exactly you’re most fertile.
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5. ‘But I’ve done so many fertility tests’
It doesn’t matter how many fertility tests you do if not a single one of them is timed or performed correctly.
Weschler refers to both an endometrial biopsy that should be done at the estimated time of menstruation, and the postcoital test that should be performed around the woman’s ovulation.
However, she explains that both seem to be carried out at around day 14 of a woman’s cycle.
Assuming a woman ovulates on day 14 will not yield any results. In fact, she explains, “In the case of the postcoital test, the only information to be obtained from performing it on Day 14 on a woman who ovulates on Day 20, for example, is to prove that Fertility Awareness can also be effectively used as a method of birth control!”
6. ‘But I’ve tried Clomid. Even that's hasn't worked’
You may feel as though, after charting month after month, and trying every natural way to fall pregnant, it’s time for some medical intervention.
And that’s completely fine if you’ve been properly informed by your doctor about the particular drug she recommends you take.
Although the popular ovulatory drug Clomid, for example, has helped many women fall pregnant, it also has particular side effects like the all-too-important fact that it reduces your cervical fluid and makes the second half of your cycle (luteal phase) a lot shorter.
Of course, this may then ironically prevent the very thing you’re attempting to remedy. It’s important to therefore make sure that you speak to your doctor about what’s right, specifically, for you.
7. ‘But I’m using the ovulation predictor kits, and yet not falling pregnant’
While ovulation predictor kits can be very useful and they are readily available, they may not always be accurate, and for a number of reasons.
These reasons include the fact that the kit tests only for the occurrence of the luteinising hormone surge and therefore rules out many other indicators of a woman’s ovulatory period, as well as the very simple fact if the kits are exposed to heat during delivery and storage, they may just have been compromised and no longer work.
So yes, they’re useful, but they’re not always accurate, and they certainly shouldn’t be considered a viable determinant of one’s fertility.
8. ‘Could I be getting pregnant but miscarrying?’
You may undoubtedly have a problem getting pregnant, one which could very well require medical intervention, but it may not necessarily be infertility.
Conceiving only to miscarry happens to women all the time, the only problem is, early on it’s not as easy to tell if you’ve miscarried.
Weschler says it can simply be mistaken for menstrual blood.
But she continues, “A woman trained in Fertility Awareness knows that she needs a history of at least 10 days from ovulation to menstruation for implantation to later occur, and that 18 consecutive high temperatures after ovulation almost always indicates a pregnancy.
“She would therefore be able to determine with a high degree of accuracy whether or not she was indeed pregnant before she bled.”
So again, and again and again, we cannot stress enough how important it is to understand your body and chart your cycle, including your basal temperature, your cervical fluid and your cervical position.
It might not be a question of one’s fertility but instead, in this instance and almost every other listed above, optimising your chances of getting pregnant.
Did you initially have trouble conceiving? What worked for you? Send us your story.
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