Trying To Conceive Myth #2 – Infertility is Always Due to the Female*

Trying To Conceive Myth #2 – Infertility is Always Due to the Female*

In clinical practice, there tends to be an over emphasis on treating female infertility. Instances occur in which the male can remain untested only for him to be later identified as the greater contributing factor. Approximately one third of infertility cases can be attributed to the male and 7% of the male population will be affected by infertility.

There are a number of causes of male infertility. They are categorised as being either, pre-testicular, testicular or post-testicular. Example of each are as follows:

Pre-testicular: smoking; recreational drugs; alcohol; and strenuous bike riding.

Testicular: age; genetic defects; abnormal chromosomes; trauma; and previous health conditions (cancer, mumps or malaria etc).

Post-testicular: Infection and obstructions.

Sperm quality can be assessed with an andrology test. This generally consists of three main enquires. These are sperm count, morphology and motility.

Sperm count: Measures the concentration of sperm in the semen.

Morphology: Assesses the amount of sperm which are considered to be of normal shape.

Motility: Considers the sperm’s ability to move.

If you are experiencing infertility, it is advisable to consider asking for an andrology test. It is a cheap and easy way to exclude a significant potential cause. Moreover, if a problem is found, it may be easily treated. This is especially true for morphology and motility cases. After approximately three months of treatment, significant improvement can be experienced. In contrast, low sperm count is difficult to treat, but it can be however over-come with assisted reproductive procedures such as ICSI.

*This is the second 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 #1 – Getting Pregnant Will Be Easy*

Falling pregnant is not necessarily easy. Given infertility is a topic which is usually not openly discussed, its prevalence in those amongst us, largely goes unnoticed. Consequently, it is more common than many realise. One in six couples in Australia will experience difficulties conceiving. A formal diagnosis of infertility can be given once a couple has been trying for one year without success. Though, on the positive side, most healthy couples manage to conceive within three months of trying.

The causes of infertility can be attributed to factors involving both females and males. 40% of cases are the result of sperm problems, and equally, 40% are due to problems within the female reproductive system. 30% of cases involve issues with both sexes.

A healthy couple has a 20% chance of conceiving in any one given cycle. So, it is more than likely that a few attempts will be required. Given this, when is advisable to seek help? Before racing down the path of treatment, it is best make sure the process of falling pregnant is understood. For example, it is important to know when ovulation occurs and the optimal timing of intercourse. If you are however under the age of 35, it is advisable to seek assistance after one year of trying. Those over 35, should do so after six months. If there is a known condition which may affect fertility, then seeking help sooner is advisable.

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

Trying To Conceive – The Top 13 Myths

After being in clinical practice for a number of years, I have heard a multitude of myths concerning fertility. Some of these may appear to be plausible, whilst others border on the ridiculous. Dr Minna Geisler from The Waterstone Clinic in Ireland has put together a list of the top most frequent fertility myths. In the coming blogs, I have decided to individually address each of these myths and add in a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective where it is applicable.

Dr Geisler’s list is as follows:

  1. Getting pregnant will be easy
  2. Infertility is always due to a problem with the female
  3. After stopping using the pill, it will take a while to conceive
  4. 4. It is best to have sex at the same time as ovulation
  5. Lifting the legs in the air after sex will increase the chances of conception
  6. 6. It is best to wait for your temperature to raise before having sex
  7. IVF is the only treatment option
  8. Given I already have a child, it is safe to assume it will be easy to conceive again
  9. Relax and take your time, IVF will allow you to conceive at any age
  10. Body weight has no influence on someone’s fertility
  11. Levels of exercise have no effect on fertility
  12. Stress does not play a role in infertility
  13. Only women need to take folic acid.

Endometriosis: Part 5 – Why Is Treatment Important?

endometriosisIn an early blog post it was pointed out that endometriosis is the growth of the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) outside of the uterus. For a more detailed explanation, refer to the previous blog titled “Endometriosis: Part 1 – What Is It?”. Given endometriosis is outside of the uterus, and not causing a problem within the uterus, then it may be assumed there is no risk of a problem. There are however two possible ways endometriosis can still affect fertility.


The female reproductive system is made up of more than just the uterus. Blockages in these other areas can be detrimental to fertility. The most obvious one being, the potential blockage of the fallopian tubes.


In the most recent research there is a growing body evidence suggesting that within the peritoneal fluid of women who have endometriosis, there are increased levels of cells called cytokines. These cells are suspected of playing a role in endometriosis related infertility. Though further research is needed for clarification. Researchers are uncertain of the critical point where the severity of the endometriosis will indicate a fertility related issue with the cytokines.

Endometriosis: Part 4 – Treatment (Medical Approach)

Endometriosis acupuncture

Endometriosis does not always require treatment. Mild case may not need any treatment at all, and if left untreated, can improve. Though most cases will remain unchanged without treatment and may even get worse. Western medical science has two approaches in treating endometriosis, drug therapy and surgery.

Drug Therapy

Drug therapy can be used to treat the symptoms associated with endometriosis. This approach is mostly employed for the purposes of pain relief. It involves prescribing over-the-counter pain relief medication (such as panadol) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. Alternatively, drug therapy can involve hormonal treatment. This approach is designed to suppress the menstrual cycle. In turn, this will have the affect of slowing the growth of the endometriosis. The most common drug prescribed for this purpose is the contraceptive pill.


Keyhole surgery (otherwise known as laparoscopy) can be used as either a method of diagnosis (to locate the endometriosis) or as a form of treatment. When used as a form of treatment it involves surgically cutting out the endometriosis or the use of a laser to burn the endometriosis. The surgical approach is needed when there are cysts on the ovaries. Without surgery, it is unlikely these will resolve on their own (and they cannot be treated using drug therapy).

Endometriosis: Part 3 – The Causes



Little is understood in regards to the causes of endometriosis. Each case has its own unique characteristics and in turn probable causes will vary on a case-by-case basis. Despite this, there are two key risk factors which are more commonly associated with endometriosis. These are family history and retrograde menstruation.

A woman is seven to ten times more likely to get endometriosis if they have a relative who has the condition. The closer the family relationship with an endometriosis sufferer, the greater the chance a female will also get endometriosis.

Retrograde menstruation is also a common risk factor for endometriosis. This involves the flow of menstrual blood heading back into the vagina through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvis area. This blood contains endometrial tissue. For the majority of women, this tissue will break down and be reabsorbed and no symptoms will be experienced. For those with endometriosis, this tissue may start to grow.

There are a range of other symptoms which may be associated with endometrioses. These include: the arrival of a menstrual cycle before the age of 11 years; recurring menstrual cycles of less than 27 days; delay in childbirth; falling pregnant at a young age; the use of alcohol; and low body weight.

Endometriosis: Part 2 – The Symptoms

In last week’s blog a simple explanation of endometriosis was offered. If you are unsure of what endometriosis is, please refer to the blog titled “Endometriosis: Part 1 – What Is It?”. This week’s blog will address the symptoms associated with endometriosis. These include:

Endometriosis Pain

Pain – This is the most common symptom of endometriosis and it occurs in the abdominal region, back and pelvis. It is mostly experienced before or during a period as well as at ovulation. Sexual intercourse may also cause pain, so too can passing stools and wind.

Period– Most women with endometriosis experience abnormalities with their period. This can involve heaving bleeding; irregular cycles or long periods. Bleeding or spotting may also occur before the period.

Vagina– A searing or tearing pain may be felt during sex or when inserting a tampon. This occurs in response the natural reflex tightening of the muscles in the wall of the vagina.

Bowel and Bladder– Stool patterns may change leading to constipation or diarrhoea. There may me an increase the frequency of urination. Bleeding can also come from both the bowel and the bladder.

Bloating– This is experienced in the abdominal area around the time of menstruation.

Endometriosis: Part 1 – What Is It?

Endometriosis is a condition which is frequently encountered at the Fertility & IVF Acupuncture Clinic. I therefore think it is important to share some of the things I have learnt during my time in clinical practice.


Endometriosis: What is it?

Endometriosis is a chronic condition which affects the female reproductive system. In the uterus (womb), there is an internal lining called the endometrium. This is shed during menstruation and it is seen as clots in the menstrual blood. The endometrium regrows during each menstrual cycle. The condition of endometriosis involves over active growth of endometrial lining so that it is found on areas which are outside of the womb. Endometriosis is most commonly found around the pelvic area, the abdominal organs and the ovaries. Rarely is it found anywhere else.

The symptoms of endometriosis will be discussed in next week’s blog.

Cervical Mucus & Its Role In Fertility

When treating infertility, monitoring a patient’s cervical mucus can be very informative. Cervical mucus is a key ingredient to aid conception. It is needed to assist the sperm to journey deeper into the female reproductive organs to be ready in position for when the egg is released at ovulation.

Cervical mucus goes through changes in viscosity. The different types of cervical mucus are produced by different parts of the cervix. Each type of mucus has its own unique characteristics which help the sperm in a specific manner. Oestrogen peak starts six days before ovulation, and this is the start of the mucus production. Leading up to ovulation, the mucus will change in viscosity and the production will also increase in volume. Both of these factors are why cervical mucus can be used as an indicator of an impending ovulation.

Once the bleeding from the period has stopped, cervical mucus should be monitored daily.To check your mucus, insert your finger at the entrance to your vagina and collect any mucus which is present. If you do not find any, carefully insert your finger deeper to the entrance of your cervix. Rate your mucus in terms of watery, sticky or lubricating. Watery is as it sounds, when the mucus is like water. Slippery is when the mucus stretches between your fingers and it has a consistency similar to egg white. Lubricating is less thick and stretchy, and it feels lubricating and more slippery. Also rate the volume of your cervical mucus as either light, medium or heavy. Try your best with this rating, but do not worry if you are unsure. It will become easier to rate as your mucus changes during your cycle or as it changes in response to treatment.

BBT Charts: Advice On Thermometers

When trying to conceive, women often turn to using a basal body temperature chart to gain a better understanding of their menstrual cycle. Charting was first used a method of contraception. Essentially the chart graphs body temperature, which is taken from the moment of waking up each morning. After ovulation, the temperature increases. Couples then know they can have intercourse and reduce the risk of pregnancy.

ovulation thermometer

A key component to being able to ensure an accurate BBT chart is to have a reliable and accurate thermometer. BBT charts are sensitive to small changes in temperature. The greatest expected change in temperature is 0.4 of a degree, which occurs at the time of ovulation. So, it is imperative the thermometer is accurate. Using a mercurial thermometer is ideal. These are however no longer sold because they are more expensive to manufacture than their digital counterpart.

Tips to ensure your digital thermometer gives an accurate reading:

  • Buy a BBT specific digital thermometer. These cost about $20 compared to the $10 for a standard thermometer, but they are worth the extra investment.
  • Look after the thermometer and don’t knock it around. Damaged thermometers cannot be recalibrated.
  • If you thermometer is old, buy a new one. It best to have the peace of mind knowing it is in top working order. This also eliminates the chance of a worn battery.