Trying To Conceive Myth #12 – Stress Does Not Play a Role in Infertility *

Out of the 13 myths proposed by Dr Geisler, this is the one which I discuss with patients most frequently and it is clearly the most controversial.

A consensus on the influence of stress on fertility is yet to be established. Generally speaking, there are two schools of thought. Some fertility specialists say the connection has no scientific proof. They reason there is no physiological mechanism through which the link can be explained. Conversely, other specialists acknowledge there may well be no proof, but are of the opinion (through their clinical experience) that stress may have a negative influence. In turn, these specialists offer the advice to keep stress to a minimum as a precautionary measure.

Unfortunately, the relationship between stress and health is not easy to measure or explain. Psychogenic symptoms (those caused by stress) can manifest in many different ways. Moreover, the timing of the appearance of the symptoms is impossible to determine. Despite this, physiology in accordance with the Chinese Medicine model can offer an account for how stress may affect fertility.

Chinese Medicine considers the moment of qi and it is said that stress can cause qi to stagnate. This can affect fertility in two ways. Firstly, it may cause disruption to the menstrual cycle possibly leading to irregular periods and/or unreliable ovulation. Secondly, if energy does not flow freely, it can lead to an inefficient use of energy. This is effectively like having deficiency of energy. To amend the deficit, extra energy is taken from what could be likened to a reserve storage (this is called jing). Excessive depletion of this reserve is said to cause premature aging and may in turn affect fertility. This could manifest in the form of low ovarian reserve and poor egg quality.

*This is the twelfth of a list of 13 myths concerning conception which was compiled by Dr Minna Geisler from The Waterstone Clinic in Ireland.

Trying To Conceive Myth #11 – Exercise Has No Effect On Fertility*

There is such a thing as too much exercise and this can definitely be the case when trying to conceive. Over exercising can affect both female and male fertility.

For females, over exercising can become a problem when it leads to being underweight. When body fat falls below twelve percent of total body weight, it may interrupt ovulation. Body fat is used to store oestrogen. Low levels of body fat will reduce the amount of oestrogen. This in turn will affect ovulation and the menstrual cycle.

If a female engages in intense exercise for more than one hour per day, she is at risk of depleting her hormone levels. This can lead the ovaries to become under active which may then cause an under production of oestrogen and eggs. In addition, the endorphin’s released from exercise can suppress follicle stimulating hormone and luteinising hormone. This will further exacerbate irregularities in the menstrual cycle.

Male infertility should not be forgotten since it accounts for 40% of all fertility cases. It is common for men who are experiencing problems with their sperm to also engage in excessive exercise such as cycling and triathlon. Such activities may cause prostate irritation, lower testosterone and place stress on the body. Research has found that men who moderately exercise for one hour three times a week, are more fertile than those who train longer and harder (such as triathletes and marathon runners).

In order to maximise the chances of falling pregnant it is best for both men and women to follow two bits of advice in regards to exercise and weight management. Firstly, to engage in moderate exercise, and secondly to keep body weight within a healthy range (BMI 18 to 24.9).

*This is the eleventh of a list of 13 myths concerning conception which was compiled by Dr Minna Geisler from The Waterstone Clinic in Ireland.


Trying To Conceive Myth #10 – Body Weight Has No Influence On Fertility*

Body weight does have an influence on fertility. It is advisable for both men and women who are trying to conceive to ensure their weight is within a healthy range. This can easily be assessed by calculating Body Mass Index (BMI). This considers ideal weight with respect to height.

Being overweight will increase the likelihood of taking one year to conceive. Some overweight women have a condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). This is characterised by a decrease in the female hormones which are needed to simulate egg maturation. Conversely, PCOS can also involve an increase in male hormones via the increase in insulin. This will result in making ovulation more difficult.

For underweight women, their likelihood of conceiving within a year is half that of women who are within healthy weight range. Fat is used to store oestrogen. If there is not enough fat to store oestrogen, it will affect the regularity of ovulation and the menstrual cycle.

This myth can be a strange one to get the head around. Some women find it hard to accept they need to lose weight when they have seen women, who are much more over weight, have no troubles in conceiving. Please be aware excess weight will affect people differently. So, if you are carrying extra weight and trying for a baby, it will be wise to shed the weight as a prevention.

Even if an obese woman manages to conceive, there still remains potential problems during pregnancy. These may include: miscarriage; hypertension; pre-eclampsia; gestational diabetes; infection; blood clotting; stillbirth and increased rates of caesarean.

*This is the tenth of a list of 13 myths concerning conception which was compiled by Dr Minna Geisler from The Waterstone Clinic in Ireland.

Trying To Conceive Myth #9 – IVF will allow you to conceive at any age*

This myth could well be the most common of them all. There appears to be a growing school of thought which suggests that having children can be postponed to later in life. This is frequently qualified by an intention to go down the IVF path if confronted with difficulty. Contrary to the ease at which this point of view is expressed, the problematic nature of this plan is significant.

Dr Minna Geisler from The Waterstone Clinic in Ireland quoted some very eye opening statistics from the CDC in the United States. The chance of one completed IVF cycle in leading to a birth is between 40-50% when the prospective mother is under the age of 35. This probability is reduced to 20-25% at 38-40 years and then to a very low 4-5% chance when over the age of 42.

It is important to understand a treatment is yet to be developed which can reliably and significantly improve egg quality. So, if you are planning on postponing having children, please be aware you will be doing so with an egg quality which will be consistent with your age.

I would advise you ignore what is reported in the media. The stories of celebrities having children well into their forties tend to omit that donor eggs would have been used. Also ignore the stories about mature women who were able to conceive naturally. Although this is possible, at some of the ages reported, is not probable.

*This is the ninth of a list of 13 myths concerning conception which was compiled by Dr Minna Geisler from The Waterstone Clinic in Ireland.

Trying To Conceive Myth #8 – If you have a Child, Trying for Another will be Easy*

It is common for some women to think that because they already have child, that having another will be easy. This may not necessarily be the case. It can even be true if there were no difficulties when trying to conceive the first child. This problem is common enough for it to have its own name, it is called Secondary Infertility.

The most common cause secondary infertility is age. It stands to reason that when it is time to conceive another child, a woman would be older than when trying to conceive any previous children. The average age for having a first baby in Australia in 1997 was 28.2 years. This is much older than what it was in previous generations. If a mother decides to leave a gap between her children, then she will be moving closer to an age where she will experience lower egg numbers and poorer quality eggs. More interesting was how 15% of first time mothers were aged over 35 years. Consensus suggests that at this age egg quality and quantity start to experience significant reductions. For these women, the attempt to conceive a subsequent child will be expected to be met with greater difficulty.

Secondary infertility can also be caused by a side effect from previous pregnancies. For instance, a caesarean may cause uterine adhesions. Alternatively, an infection in the womb, or any retained placenta, can cause scaring in the endometrial tissue. This can lessen the chances of implantation for subsequent pregnancies.

*This is the eighth of a list of 13 myths concerning conception which was compiled by Dr Minna Geisler from The Waterstone Clinic in Ireland.

Trying To Conceive Myth #7 – IVF is the Only Treatment Option*

IVF is not the only treatment option for infertility. From a medical science perspective, there are a number of fertility problems which can be resolved by other forms of treatment. In addition, there are simple things, which when addressed, may help. Some examples of these include:

Ovulation treatment – This involves taking medication to induce ovulation.

Blocked Fallopian Tubes – There are procedures which can be carried out to unblock tubes.

Endometriosis – This is the growing of the endometrial lining outside of the uterus. It can cause a physical obstruction preventing pregnancy or it can elicit a problematic autoimmune response.

Natural Killer Cells – These are autoimmune cells which can jeopardise the early stage of pregnancy. This a topic of much conjecture. A clear consensus on the influence of killer cells is yet to be achieved amongst fertility experts.
Timing of Intercourse – This is important to optimise the timing of intercourse.

Needing more time – There is about a one in five chance of conceiving in any one cycle. There are instances when nothing is wrong and couples just require patience.

Have you considered an alternative?

Chinese Medicine (CM) has a long history of treating women’s health and infertility. In contrast to modern medical science, CM works at an energetic level. It’s method of diagnosis identifies the underlying energetic imbalances which give rise to signs and symptoms (in this case, infertility). Treatment involves the use of acupuncture and/or Chinese Herbal Medicine to restore balance.

Historically CM was, and still is, used as a stand-alone fertility treatment. More recently it has been used as an adjunct treatment to other assisted reproductive therapies. Acupuncture is well suited to being used as an adjunct therapy because it is non-pharmacological by nature. This has helped acupuncture to be increasing used to enhance chances during IVF.

*This is the seventh of a list of 13 myths concerning conception which was compiled by Dr Minna Geisler from The Waterstone Clinic in Ireland.

Trying To Conceive Myth #6 – Wait for Your Temperature to Raise Before Having Sex*

This myth needs to be put into context before it will make sense to some. Changes in body temperate can indicate the time of ovulation. After ovulation occurs and the egg has already been released, body temperature will increase. The increase in temperature will typically be by about 0.4 degrees. This method requires temperature to be taken first thing after waking each morning. Body temperature is at its lowest when first waking. This allows for standardisation to facilitate comparison between days.

This myth suggests that, in order to increase the chances of a conception, it is best to wait until body temperature increases before having sex. This advice, is not the ideal. When body temperature increases, ovulation has already taken place. This will result in leaving a very small window of opportunity. After being released, an egg will only remain viable for 12 to 24 hours. Is contrast, sperm can last up to five days whilst waiting in place for the egg to be released. Given this, it is therefore better to have sex before the temperature increase. This will widen the window of opportunity and increase the chances of a conception.

You may then ask, what is the benefit of taking temperatures? It can be informative when done over more than one cycle. The historical timing of ovulation can offer a good indicator for the timing of future ovulations.

*This is the sixth of a list of 13 myths concerning conception which was compiled by Dr Minna Geisler from The Waterstone Clinic in Ireland.

Trying To Conceive Myth #5 – Lifting Legs During Sex Helps*

This myth is one which I do not come across often. It suggests that the act of the female lifting her legs during sex will aid conception. To clarify, this myth is assuming the female is laying on her back during intercourse. The lifting of the legs is thought to angle to pelvis so as to enable gravity to assist the sperm to pass through the cervix. There is no solid evidence to support this claim. No posturing of the body during or after sex has been found to facilitate conception.

So, what are the factors which do make a difference? The answer for the men is quality sperm, and for the women, cervical mucus. In order for the sperm to play its role, it needs to be plentiful and be able to move. Sperm count and motility can be easily tested with an andrology test. If both of these are within normal range, it will indicate there are numerous sperm which are capable to making the journey to meet the egg. Cervical mucus is released during the build-up to ovulation. The volume and viscosity changes as ovulation draws nearer. This mucus works as the conduit through which the sperm can swim. Ideally the volume of the cervical mucus will increase (peak) just before ovulation. In addition, the viscosity will change to resemble that of “egg white”.

*This is the fifth of a list of 13 myths concerning conception which was compiled by Dr Minna Geisler from The Waterstone Clinic in Ireland.

Trying To Conceive Myth #4 – Sex Is Best Timed At Ovulation*

I think is not so much of a myth, but a misunderstanding. I am repeatedly amazed by the number of patients, who during an initial consultation, have revealed their lack of understanding in regards to the ideal timing of intercourse. This surprisingly can even still be the case after previous medical consultation. Surely the timing of sex should be first point to be clarified.

To make it clear, it is not best to have sex at the time of ovulation. Instead, it is best to have sex before-hand. Given the right conditions, it is possible for sperm to survive for up to five days inside a woman. On average, with the right conditions of cervical mucus, the sperm is expected to last for three days. In contrast, the egg will only last somewhere between 12 to 24 hours once it is released. Ideally, it is best to have sex before ovulation and have the sperm in place waiting for the arrival of the egg.

The trick then becomes to figure out in advance when ovulation will occur. The most common way to do this is to use an ovulation predictor kit (OPK). These measure the Luteinising Hormone surge which occurs in the process of ovulation. They offer a 24-36-hour warning before the egg is released. OPKs can however be unreliable. You may need to try a couple of brands before you find which is best for you. OPKs are either saliva or urine tests and they can be purchased from pharmacies.

*This is the fourth of a list of 13 myths concerning conception which was compiled by Dr Minna Geisler from The Waterstone Clinic in Ireland.


Trying To Conceive Myth #3 – It Takes Time To Conceive After The Pill*

There is some confusion surrounding the relationship between stopping taking the contraception pill and the speed in which conception is possible. A well-worn myth suggests that it always takes a period of time for the body to readjust. This is often coupled with another myth which suggests the longer the pill had been taken, the longer the length of time required for that readjustment to occur. Neither of these are always correct.

Once the contraceptive pill is no longer taken, it is possible for a conception to occur during the next ovulation. Menstruation will generally occur two to three weeks after the pill is stopped. There is also no evidence to suggest that long-term use of the pill will have any effect on fertility.

Now, this is where things get tricky. The pill can be prescribed for a number of reasons other than to avoid pregnancy. For instance, it can be used to treat the symptoms of endometriosis. Those experiencing endometriosis may suffer dysmenorrhea (period pain) and/or irregular periods. Both of these symptoms can lead to problems with fertility. Those concerned who stop talking the pill, may experience a protracted effort to fall pregnant. This however is not a side effect of the pill, instead it is due to an underlying medical condition.

Cases of post-pill amenorrhea are possible and the extent will vary between women. If you are experiencing difficulty in conceiving after stopping taking the pill, relax and keep trying, then seek medical help when it is advisable for your situation. Be mindful that it takes on average four to five months for a couple to conceive. Moreover, that 85% of couples may take up to one year. 

*This is the third of a list of 13 myths concerning conception which was compiled by Dr Minna Geisler from The Waterstone Clinic in Ireland.