New Year’s Roadmap for Fertility
Hurray! A New Year has arrived! No matter how challenging or rewarding the last year has been, the beginning of the new year is accompanied by the excitement of a fresh slate, a turned over leaf and chances for a new beginning.
If you’re struggling with infertility, this is your opportunity to create a Fertility Roadmap of sorts, planning a month-by-month guide to help you along your journey to a fertile future.
Month-by-Month Roadmap For Fertility Success
This New Year’s Roadmap isn’t about resolutions or hard-core commitments (although a commitment to some of these Roadmap stops will certainly help your cause). Rather, it’s a guideline you can follow, beginning any month of the year – to provide an idea of the types of things you can do to increase your chances of fertility success.
Our “January” can be your March, June or September, depending on when you land on this post. Never hesitate to contact RRC if you have questions or concerns regarding your own infertility diagnosis and fertility treatment options.
January – Moderation is the Key to a Healthy Lifestyle
There are so many different components involved in fertility, but physical and emotional well-being are two of the most important. Women (and men!) with body mass indexes (BMIs) lower than 19 or higher than 25 have a hard time getting pregnant. High stress levels have also been associated with infertility. For this reason, eating well, exercising in moderation and finding healthy ways to manage stress are some of the most important things you can do to increase fertility chances.
Other suggestions include:
- Limit caffeine consumption to one serving a day. Caffeine doesn’t affect fertility but it does increase the chances of miscarriage. Women who drink four or more servings (that’s four mild cups of coffee, two strong espresso shots or two to four cans of caffeinated sodas) a day have higher miscarriage rates. Limiting yourself to a single serving is a smart choice.
- Quit smoking and make your partner quit too. Smoking has an undeniable effect on fertility, embryo health and miscarriage rates. Second-hand smoke is just as unhealthy. Quit smoking ASAP.
- Take a break from moderate to heavy drinking. The most recent studies show that drinking four or more alcoholic beverages per week can negatively affect fertility rates in women. Men should limit drinking to one drink per day, otherwise libido, sexual function and sperm can be compromised.
Give yourself the gift of a new outlook on lifestyle. It will benefit you in more ways than one, and will make you a happy and healthier parent when that magical day arrives.
February – Learn Your Ps and Qs About Timed Conception
The myths around ovulation and conception abound. One of the most common is that the day your temperature increases (measured by a special basal temperature thermometer) is the day you should have sex. Or that the + on the home ovulation predictor kit means you’re ovulating right there and then.
Both of these are wrong. Your temperature increases AFTER ovulation, so you might have already missed your fertility window, and home ovulation predictor kits give you a 12- to 72-hour prediction window so sex needs to be timed accordingly.
Men with healthy sperm and their partners should have sex every day during the days surrounding ovulation (before and after) because the more sperm that are waiting to meet the egg, the better. Men with low count or morphology should have sex every other day in the few days leading up to ovulation and a couple times afterwards in case the egg presents itself a little later than predicted.
March – Give Yourselves the Gift of Fertility Testing
Fertility testing – the full battery of tests – is the smartest and most efficient way to determine exactly what is preventing you from conceiving and to identify the best mode of treatment. We recommend that couples come in together for their first appointment. Infertility factors are shared equally between men and women, so there is no point in only testing one of you.
Another important thing to note: unless a male sperm sample has been tested in a lab specific to infertility diagnosis, the results may not be accurate. While most lab technicians are good at determining normal sperm count, they aren’t as good at determining healthy sperm motility (swimming ability) or morphology (the way they’re shaped). Your man may have an “all clear” from a GP or Urologist when, in fact, there are male fertility factors involved.
The results of your infertility tests may mean you’re ready to move on to fertility drugs, or they may fast-forward you right into the in vitro fertilization (IVF) track, which may require time to plan, save and prepare.
April – Think About Financial Obligations and Financing Options
Tax season is a good time to reconfigure your financial plans to accommodate fertility treatments and any unpaid work time those may require. Evaluate your current health plan and speak to your HR department, or contact various health insurance carriers, to see who offers the best fertility treatment benefits.
You may also want to see if your company offers any chances to work from home or bank hours now so you can be paid for time required for traveling, treatments or recovery, that will result in missed work days or unpaid time off.
Finally, look into your fertility clinic’s financing options and potential specials that can help you budget for treatments – including discounts on repeat IVF cycles if necessary.
May – Give Yourself the Gift of Each Other
Sure, Valentine’s Day was a couple months ago, but a couple of months of trying – and coming up with a negative sign on the pregnancy stick – can seem like forever. Routinely timing sex and working through fertility treatments can wreak havoc on a relationship. It can take the fun and intimacy out of sex, and that is a recipe for relationship disaster.
Make a conscientious effort to connect and bond, focusing on the interests and shared activities that brought you together in the first place. Plan some date nights or outings that have absolutely NOTHING to do with fertility treatments, babies or conception – unless you want to get it on for fun…that’s highly recommended.
June – Regroup if Necessary
By now, you may have already tried one or two fertility treatments with no success. The first step for many fertility diagnoses is fertility pills and/or injectable fertility treatments. The former may be paired with timed sexual intercourse while the latter is almost always paired with IUI to increase the chances for success and limit the amount of months required since the side effects can be more dramatic.
If these treatments aren’t working, or if the side effects are exhausting you, it may be time to regroup and consider IVF.
July – Take a Month Off
It’s the middle of summer, and it might also be a good time for you to take some time off from the fertility treatment bandwagon if you need a little break. Use this time to go somewhere special, whether it’s a vacation that would be impossible to enjoy with a baby (you’ll need to plan family-friendly vacations before you know it) or taking advantage of a budget-friendly staycation, devoid of exhausting travel arrangements. Everyone needs a little vacation to recharge and gear up for the rest of the year.
August – Consider Seeing a Fertility Counselor
At this point, you’ve had eight months (or longer) of living and coping with the frustrations of infertility and the emotional rollercoaster that fertility treatments can take you on. If you haven’t already, consider seeing a counselor who specializes in infertility. It’s a wonderful way to express your feelings to someone who totally “gets it” and who doesn’t have a medical agenda. Work on the emotional blocks and issues that your diagnosis (or your partner’s) brings up for you. You will also learn stress management strategies and how to work on your partnership so you can maintain your loving bond along the road ahead.
September – Learn all You Can About IVF
For women 40 and over, or women who weren’t helped via fertility meds and IUI, in vitro fertilization is the piece de resistance. Your chances of giving birth to a healthy baby are dependent on a range of factors including:
- Your age. Maternal age affects egg quantity and quality, the latter of which isn’t able to be determined until embryos are made and genetically tested.
- Your infertility diagnosis. Women who don’t ovulate due to tubal blockages or due to severe endometriosis or PCOS are prime candidates for IVF.
- Medical history and lifestyle. Certain medical conditions, prior surgeries or your lifestyle can affect your body’s ability to conceive without the assistance of IVF, a donor egg, or perhaps a surrogate or gestational carrier.
- Unknown factors. There is still so much to be learned about the human body, hormones and what makes individuals fertile or infertile. Sometimes, couples get an “unexplained infertility” diagnosis – and IVF is their final stop if other fertility treatments have been unsuccessful.
September is “Back to School Month” and you can use that energy to start learning about all that is involved with IVF so you can make the right decisions for you and your partner when it’s time to go that route.
October – Evaluate Your Communication Strategies
Almost a year in, you may have found you regret sharing so much of your infertility struggle and/or commitment to fertility treatments because those who love you can’t stop hounding you about it – even when you wish they wouldn’t.
Use this time, pre-holiday season – to regroup and see if you’re sharing too much or not enough. Are you and your partner on the same page about who knows what and when? The two of you may determine a new communication strategy is in order, and that may require setting new ground rules with family and friends “in the know.”
November – Start Planning for the Holidays
The holidays can be an incredibly tricky time for couples dealing with infertility. The first couple of years, you’re constantly fielding the “when are you going to give us a grandchild/niece/nephew/etc.” questions. Now, family and friends who know you are pursuing fertility treatments may be relentless with questions and unsolicited advice. If so, it’s time to start thinking about a game plan – whether that means attending fewer events, taking a pass on holiday traditions this year or communicating your wishes to have a “infertility-free conversation” at this year’s holiday tables and parties.
The sooner you have a plan and let others know about it, the less stressed out about the holidays you’ll be.
December – Give Unto Others
There are so many non-profit organizations and charities that need help from able-bodied people like yourself this time of year. Step outside your normal holiday routine and look for volunteer opportunities in your community. Giving to others makes our world a better place and can help you gain a better, broader perspective about the world-at-large as well.
How is your journey along the roadmap of fertility proceeding? Need advice or a little help along the way? Contact us here at RRC and we’ll help you get back on track.
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RRC has over 200 years of combined experience. As a leading reproductive health, infertility, and in-vitro fertilization (or IVF) center based in Kansas City, we're proud to have the highest level of expertise available to our patients.