Hundreds of women put questions about their fertility to Dr Hans Arce of ReproMed. Here’s what he said …
ReproMed, Ireland’s leading IVF provider, recently launched an awareness campaign entitled #letstalkfertility, aimed at women in their 20s and early 30s. The #letstalkfertility campaign seeks to open up the narrative around reproductive health so it is discussed in a more positive and meaningful way. The campaign also seeks to educate and empower women and afford them the opportunities to take their fertility health and reproductive future into their own hands.
Through open forums, such as the platform offered by ReproMed Campaign Ambassador, nurse and social media personality Terrie McEvoy, the focus is on changing people’s perceptions towards reproductive health and giving women the information and advice they may need to take control of their fertility.
As part of the campaign, Terrie, ReproMed and readers of thegloss.ie put a call out asking for women to send in any questions they would like answered by Dr Hans Arce, Medical Director of ReproMed for an IGTV on Terrie’s Instagram account. There was an enormous response to this call out which shows that there is a huge appetite to understand more about fertility.
Here are some of the key questions from Terrie answered by Dr Hans:
What can you do a year ahead of starting to try for a baby? A year ahead, just focus on general health and a good diet. Eat well and exercise within reason and stop smoking! It’s not necessary to cut out alcohol as much as people say, as long as you keep within the approved recommendations. But, fertility is a normal human function, try not to put too much pressure on yourself in preparation.
How do you lower your stress levels if all you can think about is getting pregnant? Stress does not affect things as much as people think and it’s important to get that message across. However, what is true is that stressed-out couples have less sex and getting pregnant without having sex tends to be harder! So, what I would recommend is just to forget all of that, all of those extra pressures people are putting on you. Just normalise sexuality, normalise fertility and just keep on trying. There’s no need to focus on when you’re ovulating to have sex, just have regular sex twice, three times a week. If you want more, even better!
When should you seek help with your fertility? If you’re experiencing missed or irregular periods, very painful periods or anything you may be worried about, don’t ignore them: go to your fertility clinic and get tested, if nothing more than to give yourself peace of mind. The recommendation when it comes to actively trying for a baby is if you are under 35 and trying for a year, see a specialist and if you are over 35 and trying for six months, go see a specialist. Fertility is age sensitive and yes, the reason you go to see a specialist earlier is because if there is a need for any action, we might have less time the later you leave it.
How easy is it for both males and females to get their fertility checked? It is quite simple depending on the scenario of course. If it’s a couple that has been trying for a period of time, that means we have an infertile couple. So, I would do a semen analysis and an AMH blood test on the woman to check her ovarian reserve. Depending on whether or not the couple have been trying to get pregnant or not, I would follow with some more tests to understand the situation a bit better.
What is AMH and how is it tested? AMH is a hormone which is produced by the amount of eggs that women produce every month. So, that amount of eggs that women produce every month is very directly associated with the amount of eggs she has remaining. Remember, you are born with whatever amount of eggs you have, you can’t make more of them and they reduce over time. So, this AMH test is a simple blood test which can be done at any stage of your cycle and gives me a measurement of how much time I might have if I need to start fertility treatment.
How do you test the quality of eggs? An AMH test checks for quantity of eggs, not quality. The only marker of quality that I have is age. We don’t have tests for quality outside of an experimental scenario. So, we just go by age because as I say, it’s very easy for me to ask a man for a sperm sample and analyse it but for me to get your eggs, I would have to make you go through IVF to get those eggs and test them for quality.
What is egg freezing? Egg freezing is one of the fastest growing fertility treatments and success rates are improving all the time. It involves the collection of a number of eggs from a woman’s ovaries which are then frozen for potential use in the future for the purposes of having a baby. The process involves some basic fertility tests followed by stimulation of the patients’ ovaries using hormone injections.
What are the common reasons why a woman would consider egg freezing as an option? There are so many different reasons and I am certainly somebody that advocates for egg freezing, but it has to be for the right and very well-informed reasons. One scenario is in the case of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. There is also societal egg freezing, when a woman wishes to freeze her eggs until she is ready to use them and I advocate in favour of this too but the patient must be very well-informed.
What is the optimum age for egg freezing? The optimum age for egg freezing would be under 35 but not too young either because the younger you are, the less likely you will use the frozen eggs and by this I mean you may just naturally get pregnant anyway at a later stage. But, let’s say you’re 34 and you want to travel the world and you don’t want to think about kids yet, egg freezing is certainly something I would recommend as it relieves any pressure and you have eggs banked.
To get fertility levels checked, how long do you need to be off the pill? This is a really good question. Firstly, you don’t need to come off the pill to get AMH levels checked. What we generally say is get the AMH test done, if the results come back on the low side, we then say, come off the pill and we will re-do the test.
Can being on the pill for years negatively affect fertility? No. The pill empowers women to have children when they want. The way the world and society are moving, we are choosing to have children later and it’s that age drop in fertility that is making it harder to get pregnant but it has nothing to do with being on the pill for years.
How can PCOS affect fertility? The main issue with a woman who has PCOS is that they don’t ovulate. So, it is one of the simplest scenarios to solve – let’s make them ovulate and send them off to have intercourse at home and try and get pregnant naturally. We then give it three to six months and if we don’t have any success with this, we might then consider IVF. So, you don’t have to jump straight into something but of course, all factors involved would be taken into consideration.
Can a specific diet help to improve your fertility? We always advise a fresh, Mediterranean diet as it’s just a really heathy diet to follow. A plant-based diet is a good option going forward for general health. We are not carnivores, we can enjoy meat every now and then, but there’s no secret diet that’s going to improve your natural fertility. What you can do is not make your health worse by having an unhealthy diet.
Planning a family might be the very last thing on your mind right now but if babies are in your future, it’s important to be aware of your reproductive health by taking the time now to understand the options available.
There are so many questions around fertility and we hope we have answered some of yours here but if you need some more information or would like to speak to a fertility specialist, head over to www.repromed.ie where you can find lots more information and book an appointment.
Get involved in the conversation #letstalkfertility and take control of your fertility journey.
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