Fertility worries for women

800px-Woman-typing-on-laptopNew research has suggested that many young women are worried about their fertility, and that conflicting information and pressure from friends and family all contribute to the problem. It is not clear from the press release for this study how many women were surveyed or how the survey was carried out, but it has apparently suggested that:

For women who were concerned about getting pregnant, nearly half (49%) of those surveyed were worried that they may have a fertility problem that they didn’t know about..

Dr James Nicopoullos, Consultant Gynaecologist at The Lister Fertility Clinic, said:
“It’s understandable that women are feeling both worried and confused about their fertility. There is so much information (and also misinformation) out there which in some situations is causing unnecessary stress, but the truth is that there’s no one size fits all approach to fertility advice.”

The consumer research apparently suggested there was some confusion about factors that can affect fertility, and James Nicopoullos, Consultant Gynaecologist at The Lister Fertility Clinic, has addressed some of these issues.

Respondents to the survey said: Being on the pill for a long time could make it harder to get pregnant (41%)

James said: This is a common myth that I hear, but it’s actually false. 75% of women ovulate and cycle normally within a month of stopping the pill and 90% within 3 months. Those who don’t have regular cycles thereafter may have some underlying issue causing this (such as polycystic ovarian syndrome).

They said: Doing regular exercise can help improve fertility (64%)

James said: There is no consistent evidence that regular exercise negatively effects fertility so I would always suggest keeping in shape is a good thing. In extreme cases, there have been instances where women have decreased their body fat stores through exercise, leading the body’s hormonal production to switch off and prevent periods, which negatively impacts on fertility.

They said: Drinking alcohol can make it harder to get pregnant (60%)

James said: Some studies have indicated that alcohol can affect fertility so decreasing intake or stopping completely is never a bad thing. The evidence, however, at low levels is inconsistent. National guidelines suggest no more than 1-2 units of alcohol once/twice per week.

They said: Smoking can affect your fertility (66%)

James said: Smoking tobacco even a small amount can significantly impact on fertility and the evidence for this is much more clear-cut than with alcohol. There is evidence of a negative effect on natural fertility, an increase in miscarriage risk, ectopic pregnancy risk as well as lower chances with assisted reproduction. There is even a significant risk of earlier menopause. Some studies have also shown a correlation with number of cigarettes smoked. Just as important are the increases in risk in pregnancy of complications such as preterm labour, stillbirth and placental problems.

They said: A positive state of mind can help improve fertility (47%)

James said: Stress is a very hard thing to quantify but my motto is “don’t be stressed about being stressed”. At extremes, it can again cause periods to cease but in most this will not be an issue. A large study in the British Medical Journal suggested that stress caused by fertility problems or other life-events did not seem to impact on the outcome of fertility treatment.

They said: Being overweight or obese can make it harder to get pregnant (71%)

James said: Both extremes of weight can be detrimental. Those underweight may have issues with their cycles stopping affecting chances of natural conception and as body mass index rises above normal there are risks to fertility and once pregnant. Studies have shown that it may be harder to conceive naturally, as well as lower chance of success with fertility treatment. Miscarriage rate is also higher as BMI increases. Ideally we should aim for a BMI of 19-25 and strongly recommend a BMI of <30 when trying to conceive.

They said: ‘Wearing loose clothing can help improve fertility’ (12%)

James said: This is a myth. While some studies have suggested that wearing tight underwear may affect sperm production in men, the same can’t be said for women.

They said: Pilates and yoga can improve your fertility (21%)

James said: Anecdotally, I would say that being calm, happy and in good shape could help you conceive, but whatever works for you. I think it would be false to attribute good fertility to doing yoga.

Dangers of online slimming pills

imagesWe know that being very overweight can have an impact on your fertility, but sometimes messages like this become distorted as shown the tragic case of a young woman who died after taking diet pills she’d bought online because she wanted to get pregnant and had been told losing weight would help. In fact, Rachael Cook was not overweight at all but she bought the pills, dinitrophenol (DNP), online and died of a heart attack after taking one. The drug is an industrial chemical and is not meant to be consumed.

This is such a terribly sad story – Rachael was only 25, and should have had so much to look forward to, but it is a real warning about the dangers of taking any drugs that you buy online. You can read more about the risks of DNP here.

POSTSCRIPT:  I have had an email about this post, pointing out that actually Rachael had originally got these pills after being told she needed to lose weight in order to have treatment – but she continued with the pills and was no longer overweight at the time of her tragic death. I would also like to thank the person who emailed to point this out – I did try to email you back to say thank you but the email bounced straight back


Does your weight affect your fertility?

120px-ZAYİFLAMA-İP-UCLARİWe are forever being told that weight affects fertility, but what isn’t always clear is quite how overweight or underweight you have to be for this to start having an impact. If you’re going to have IVF treatment, the cut off point for over weight is often a BMI of 30 and over – but if all you know is how much you weigh, that’s not a lot of help.  If you want to find out your BMI yourself, it’s actually not difficult as you can use an online BMI calculator like this one http://www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/Healthyweightcalculator.aspx

It is evident that maintaining a healthy weight can make a difference, and that applies to being very underweight as well as overweight as at either end of the scale, there can be an impact on ovulation, or egg production. One of the difficulties of keeping to a healthy weight is that eating can be so tied up with emotions for some of us – and if you are feeling miserable about not getting pregnant, it can become a vicious circle of comfort eating to try to console yourself. Having some chocolate or a glass of wine now and again is fine, but it’s when you find yourself eating too much on a regular basis because you are feeling unhappy that it becomes an issue.

If this is how you feel, it’s always a good idea to try to get some support. Don’t feel embarrassed about talking to your doctor about this as they can help – see here.  Eating well can make you feel better altogether, and can ensure your body is ready for conception. You may also be surprised at the impact it can have on your overall sense of well-being so do get help if you need it.

Research on female weight and fertility

If you’re very overweight, it can be hard to lose the extra pounds when you’re feeling low about not being able to get pregnant, but new research from Australia shows how excess weight affects fertility – and how the damage can be passed on if you do get pregnant.  The research team, led by Rebecca Robker from the Robinson Research Institute at the University of Adelaide, found that if women were obese when they were pregnant, this changed the way their offspring grew during pregnancy, and permanently altered their metabolism – making it more likely that they would be overweight too. You can read more about the research here

Eating a balanced diet will help break this pattern as it will not only help you get to a healthy weight, it will ensure you have all the vitamins and minerals you need in order to get pregnant and will also make you feel better in yourself – which can only be a good thing when you’re trying to get pregnant.

Some women do seem find it easier to stick to a healthy diet than others, and if you’re someone who resorts to comfort eating when you’re unhappy, you can feel as if you’re stuck in a vicious circle when you’re trying unsuccessfully to conceive. If you’re finding it difficult, your GP may be able to help with a weight loss programme or support, and seeing a counsellor may help you to break your eating patterns. Getting more exercise is the other half of the battle, and joining  a yoga class or going to the gym will make all the difference. The vital thing is to do it in ways that you enjoy – and to make getting fitter fun.

Finally, it is important to bear in mind that this research is about obesity – which is not the same as having a curvy figure. If you aren’t sure whether you might fall into the obese category where your weight will affect your fertility, you can check it out using an online BMI calculator like this one 


Body Mass Index – does it need changing?

How much we weigh and whether or not we are over or underweight is an important issue for many fertility patients. NHS treatment is often confined to those who fall within the “acceptable” range and are not considered to be obese or underweight as it is known that  this can affect fertility.  However, the ways in which we judge what constitutes obesity or low weight have often come in for some criticism.

The BMI formula which uses your height and bodyweight to work out your position on a weight scale has now been challenged by an Oxford Professor who feels it is flawed and has devised a new formula.  You can find more details here and can assess your weight using his revised working.

Having always fallen into the normal weight category using BMI, I wasn’t delighted to discover that I’m on the cusp of being overweight using this new scale, but apparently the main change in this new proposal is that many short people (like me!) who had a normal BMI will become overweight and many tall people who were obese or overweight will now fall into the normal category.

Perhaps it just goes to show that weight isn’t quite as cut and dried a matter as we tend to believe!