Pre-Pregnancy & Fertility
Thursday, February 13, 2020

The stats

Approximately 1 in 6 couples in Ireland may experience issues with fertility. Just over one third of couples will conceive in the first month of trying.

For others, factors such as age, general health and reproductive health can affect how long it takes to conceive.

The growing demands of today’s modern lifestyle have a significant impact on our nutritional health, which in turn can affect our reproductive health. Factors like stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, dieting and poor nutrition impact our bodies and their ability to absorb the nutrition needed to optimise reproductive health.

This goes for both men and women – making improvements in your nutritional health and overall lifestyle for as little as 3 months before trying to conceive can make a marked difference. Both the male and female reproductive systems require adequate nutritional support to contribute to egg and sperm quality.

Factors that may affect fertility

  • Age – for women, the most fertile period is in their mid-twenties. Fertility starts to decrease after the age of 35. For men, sperm is also strongest in their mid-twenties and starts to decrease after 40
  • Smoking – as well as being detrimental to your overall health, smoking can affect fertility in both men (affecting sperm quality) and women (affecting chances of conceiving)
  • Alcohol – for women planning to get pregnant, the HSE recommend the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all. For men, drinking alcohol in excess can affect sperm quality
  • Diet & lifestyle – the HSE recommends that all women begin taking folic acid at least 3 months before they hope to conceive. Other supplements such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids can also be highly beneficial if you find it difficult to get all the necessary supplements in your diet through the food you eat
  • Stress – stress can affect both your sex drive and your relationship. In severe cases, it can affect ovulation and production of sperm
  • Weight – a BMI of 30 or above is known to reduce fertility in both men and women. For women, being underweight (a BMI of less than 18) can affect ovulation

Key nutrients for conception

  • Folic acid – this contributes to normal maternal tissue growth during pregnancy. The HSE recommends all women start taking 400ug folic acid at least 3 months before hoping to conceive
  • Minerals ­– Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Copper (gluconate), Manganese, Selenium, Chromium, Molybdenum, Iodine and Boron work together and are essential for both male and female reproductive health
  • Vitamins – these are essential for the production of energy in the body, which is vital when it comes to reproductive health. Key reproductive vitamins include: Beta Carotene, Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), Folic acid, Inositol, Biotin, Vitamin C, D, E and K1
  • Amino acids – these are the building blocks of proteins necessary for growth and repair in the body. Look for: L’Arginine, L’Carnitine, L’Citruline, L’Glutamine, N-Acetyl-L-cysteine, Glycine and Taurine
  • Antioxidants – such as Co-Q10 are important for reproduction. Co-Q10 is a powerful antioxidant and energy powerhouse
  • Omega-3 – during pregnancy, essential fatty acids are vital for the brain and eye development of the baby

Fertility supplements

Fertility supplements can help to amend nutritional deficiencies associated with reproductive health, supplying the reproductive system with what it needs to function optimally.

Ask your local CarePlus Pharmacist about what fertility supplements, vitamins and mineral supplements you may need.

Expectant mothers can be reassured that provided you eat a good balanced diet during your pregnancy, it is not necessary to invest in expensive multi-vitamin supplements. Adding folic acid and vitamin D supplements should be all that is required to ensure the best possible health outcomes for both themselves and their babies.

For women:

These fertility supplements can support the nutritional needs of the female reproductive system. Key factors when trying to conceive include getting the environment right and developing good quality egg cells.

Nutrients play an important part when it comes to developing the egg, womb and hormonal system. Egg quality can be improved if it is released into a healthy, nutritious environment.

Having a good, healthy diet and ensuring you are taking the needed nutrients can positively affect your egg health and subsequently the development of the foetus.

For men:

Men have to produce between 40 and 300 million sperm cells to be fertile. The energy involved in the process of creating these cells is significant.

Again, ensuring the environment is right and good quality sperm cells are developed are key factors when trying to become pregnant. A deficiency in any nutrient may have an impact on male fertility.

Improvements in both sperm quality and quantity can be made in as little as 3 months.

These days, statistics show that many people are now starting families older, and this is set to continue.

More women than ever are deciding to have children later in life, and many will turn to their local Pharmacy for ovulation and pregnancy self-testing kits, supplements and advice.

Ovulation and pregnancy testing

Ovulation testing

Many at-home tests are available for detecting ovulation and pregnancy. Your local CarePlus Pharmacist can help you in your selection of such tests and how to use them.

Approximately 1 in 6 women in Ireland face problems with their fertility that affect them having a successful pregnancy. For some, this may be due to irregular ovulation or male sperm count may have dropped.

Devices used to predict ovulation work by monitoring the natural hormone changes during a woman’s menstrual cycle. Such products include:

  • thermometers that measure basal body temperature
  • urine tests
  • fertility microscopes
  • saliva tests

Women are advised to adhere to the testing directions provided by the manufacturer and should read the testing procedure before starting the test.

It is important to note that medical conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and menopause may cause false-positive test results due to high levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) in the body.

The use of fertility medications, a patient recently discontinuing the use of oral contraceptives or impaired hepatic and renal function can also cause false-positive results.

If you do not have pregnancy success after more than 3 months of trying, you should speak to your GP.

Pregnancy testing

Early pregnancy tests mean women can confirm a pregnancy and thus receive early prenatal care.

Again, stick to the testing directions provided with the test. Most tests can be carried out in an easy, one-step procedure. The newest type of tests are digital, so they display readings of “pregnant” and “not pregnant,” which make interpreting the results much clearer and more accurate.

Taking a pregnancy test too early after a missed period may result in a false-negative result. It can be best to wait to take a test until at least one week after an expected cycle. If you get a negative test result, it is advised to re-test if menstruation does not begin as expected. It is also advised to seek medical evaluation from your GP for a serum hCG test and physical examination.

Fertility lubricants

In some cases, women may need artificial lubrication due to decreased cervical mucus production that may be caused by medical conditions such as diabetes and IBS. This can also be caused by medications such as antihistamines, stimulants, anticholinergics and antidepressants.

Some regular lubricants can actually prevent sperm from moving or even kill them, thus making it harder to conceive.

Lubricants specifically designed for conception help with sperm viability and mobility. They also match the body’s internal PH levels, which change during ovulation.

There are a number of fertility-friendly lubricants available that will not damage sperm, simply ask your CarePlus Pharmacist for advice on which would be best for you.