At what point do you draw the line? When does a male infertility test become a necessary evil?
Jo and I have been trying to conceive for 5 months and are growing increasingly impatient, Jo in particular. Everything you read suggests that patience is the key.
80% of couples will conceive in the first year and stress is likely to harm your chances. Moreover, many of those that don’t conceive in the first year will conceive in the second.
Nonetheless, there is still an alarming percentage of people that aren’t able to conceive.
In an unfathomable number of ways, the Internet has improved our lives. However, piece of mind and anxiety, it certainly hasn’t provided. With just a 30 minute investigation, you can find dozens of conditions that will render your member impotent. I don’t know about you but once I know there is something that could be wrong, I need to know.
We could be trying for another year before getting tested, go through the highs and lows each month, when there could be an underlying condition that means that it is all futile.
As a result, last week, I took the decision to have a fertility test.
Where Can You Get Sperm Count & Quality Checked
It was unsurprising to find out that there are dozens of different home kits, some of which have very good accuracy ratings. There are even apps for it!
While the idea of a home test did sound much more appealing than having to have the conversation with the doctor and other medical staff, how accurate was it really going to be?
I thought to myself, the home test isn’t really going to provide the peace of mind that I’m looking for. I’m not a lab technician and I’m certainly not a doctor. I really wouldn’t trust myself to get it right.
There would still be a doubt that the test hadn’t been right, if we still struggled to conceive for the months to come. I would end up going to doctors and hospital anyway. If I’m going to bite the bullet and do the test then I may as well do it properly.
For those of you looking to have a test at home, there are dozens to choose from. There are some more expensive options that will give you the answer in your own home. Others allow you to collect your sample and send away. There is a whole industry that has developed.
Book An Appointment With The GP
It really is as simple as booking an appointment with the GP. Due to a number of reasons, the GP will only refer you to get checked if the issue is time critical (you’re getting on), you have reason to believe there is an issue (previous conditions) or you have been trying to conceive for a long time without success. As you can tell, while reading through the criteria, I met none of these criteria. Consequently, I told a little white lie to the GP. I said we had been trying for 18 months without success.
The GP then asks you a series of questions to check that there isn’t anything obvious that you’re missing out:
How many times are you having sex? Once every 2-3 days is the recommended amount.
Do you smoke?
Do you drink?
Are you following the right diet?
Have you suffered any previous trauma to the groin area? (This one did get me thinking about unfortunate incidents with a football but surely it needs to be more severe?)
After saying that none of the above reasons were the cause of the lack of pregnancy, the GP headed off into another room. On his return, he was holding a rather small plastic tub.
He then instructed me that I was to abstain for 3-5 days before providing my sample. My sample then needed to be kept warm and transported to the local hospital in under an hour. I am a relatively mature 28 year old but there is still something unusual about having a conversations with a stranger about your sample and what you are going to do with your sample.
The Actual Process
If you are a man reading this, you will be unusually alarmed by just how small a specimen you’re able to provide.
However much you think you are going to be producing, trust me you won’t. The actual act is easy enough, most men have been training for this very act for years.
I must note that it isn’t as easy to aim the initial ‘spurt’ into the tub, as you’d think. I lost what felt like half of my sample.
Nonetheless, I managed to collect enough of my sample (I hoped) and Jo dropped it off at the hospital (wrapped in a tartan scarf to keep it warm).
Then, you have the agonising wait to see if there is actually anything wrong with you. The doctor suggested that the results would take 2-3 weeks but I was calling after the first week, having read online that the results are often back sooner.
Sure enough, at the start of the 2nd week my results were ready and I booked a phone call with the doctor to learn the verdict.
I’m pleased to say that I am okay! This blog post had been sitting in drafts while I awaited the results and I’m not sure that it would have seen the light of day if the results had been negative. I can honestly say that it is one of the most nerve-racking experiences that I have had the misfortune to go through.
In the time I had to wait for the results, I had stressed myself out by thinking about why a negative result would be so bad for me.
I’m young, I don’t drink much, I don’t smoke, I have no major known conditions and I have a healthy diet. If there was something wrong then it would have to be something I had no idea about and potentially pretty damn serious. There weren’t really anymore lifestyle changes that I would be able to make.
It would be easy for me to say to try and put the result out of your mind. The reality is, if you have cared enough to get it checked, there is no way that you will be able to take the results off your mind. The best you can do is to try and manage during that time. If your partner is awaiting fertility test results, please try to be understanding if they are a little on edge and try to avoid the subject!
So What Do The Results Actually Show You?
I was going to add a picture of the results on here but then the thought of my sperm analysis results being on the web forever was a little off putting. Although Jo did actually go and collect the paper results for me with her mother. While having a close relationship with your in-laws is a good thing, there should still be some secrets.
The things that are included in the results you get back are:
Sperm motility (motive, non-motive and progressive) – basically, are the swimmers heading in the right direction?
While there are different benchmarks in each of these categories, the main thing to worry about is the number of motive progressive sperm that you have. For example, your motility rate could be lower than average but if you are producing many more sperm than average then the potential impact is countered.
Annoyingly, the GP was keen to stress that the results were benchmarked against the lower end of normal and that this test was just the beginning. Jo would also have to be checked and I would likely have to be checked again too. This advice was given against the backdrop of Jo and I trying to conceive for 18 months.
At this stage, I’m just happy that I have sperm and enough of them are heading in the right direction. If we’re still have issues in the future then we cross that bridge.
The Male Fertility Test Verdict
I think if you’ve been trying for over a year or two then visiting your doctor is definitely the best bet. If you have been trying for less than a year but don’t feel bad about lying to the doctor then the doctor route is also the best way to go. I feel that the results are more reliable. It is easier to take the next step and if there is something wrong and it is free.
Many of the home tests do seem to work well from the reviews. However, for me, they would never provide the full peace of mind I was looking for. Plus, if there had been an issue with the home test, I would then have to go through the process of getting tested by the doctor anyway.
While the anonymity and lack of awkward conversations can seem appealing, I think a visit to the doctor is the best option.
I’m going to cover this in another article but I must also note that my test results would suggest that cycling doesn’t cause impotence. At least my cycling commute didn’t seem to have had any negative impact, despite Jo’s protestations.
There is a LOT of misinformation floating around about trying to get pregnant in your thirties.
Depending what you read, if you are conceiving after thirty then you’re dramatically reducing your chance of conceiving. It seems like there is the perception that some sort of switch gets flicked on your 30th birthday. What’s more, you’re being selfish. Really, selfish?! It is up to me when I squeeze a melon out!
In 2018, there are so many reasons that you, like me, might’ve waited to take the plunge into motherhood.
You’ll learn in this article that there are ways to ensure 30 is just a number. There are sex positions, lifestyle choices, foods and more to make sure that 30 is just a number.
An article on Time Magazine suggested: “A healthy 40 year old can have a much less risky pregnancy than a healthy 28 year old,”. If you know the secrets, follow the right advice and prepare then age doesn’t have to be a barrier.
Feel free to read the whole article or skip to the chapter that interests you most.
Chapter 1 – Why Are Women Leaving It Later?
Before we jump into the why, I thought it should at least confirm that women are in fact leaving in later.
Within my group of 30 something friends, none of us have children. However, I didn’t want to rely on my own biases and experiences. Maybe I’d just surrounded myself with people like me. So, the next couple of paragraphs look at the trend in the UK, US and across the world.
The results are even more surprising than I expected!
The Overwhelming Evidence
Since the 70s, there has been a steady climb in the average of age of first time mothers in the US. While the age looked to be stabilising in the early 2000s, it has kicked on again since. The US isn’t the only country seeing this trend. It is something being seen across the developed world:
The same trend is being seen in the UK:
The Guardian shared a Google sheet of data for live births in the UK in 2012. In this data, for babies born within marriage, the 30-34 and 35-39 categories were far and away the most popular categories:
Births In Marriage/Civil Partnership
The top row is the age of the mother and the 1st column is the average age of the father.
45 and over
65 and over
When looking at the data for births outside of marriage, there was an interesting change:
Births Outside Of Marriage
Like before, the top row is the age of the mother and the 1st column is the average age of the father.
45 and over
65 and over
Conclusions From The Data
Firstly, the number of of births outside of marriage had almost caught up the number of births inside of marriage. While I know that getting married to then have children is a little traditional, I’m surprised the numbers were so close.
Secondly, the average age for those outside of marriage was distinctly lower than those in marriage. For those outside of marriage, the most popular groups were 20-24, 25-29 and 30-34. By comparison, the popular groups for those in marriage were, 25-29, 30-34 and 35-39.
Finally, there were almost 10,000 births to fathers over 50 and almost 2,000 to women over 45.
There are some quite fun things to spot in the data if you have the time 🙂
For example, there were 4 women ages 40-44 that had a child with men/boys under 20… 29 women in that age group were married to men aged 20-24.
So what are the reasons that women are choosing to wait later.
Just Why The Wait?
It seems like a cop out but each and every woman will have their own reasons. Only you will know why you haven’t decided to try to become a mother yet.
From my perspective, I know some of the reasons I’ve waited:
Wanting to have a career.
Not being with the right partner.
Fear of what would happen to my body.
Wanting to have financial security (the average estimated cost of raising a child is £200,000)
Having friends in the same situation.
Anxiety about whether I could cope being a mum.
Wondering if am I really grown up enough?
Wanting to test out my skills with a pet (the dry run).
Plus hundreds more that I might not even realise.
However, branching out from my own ideas and reasons, these were the top reasons I found from research:
Reasons Women Are Having Children Later
There are dozens of different reasons and personal circumstances that mean women are choosing to wait that little bit longer to have a family. A heap of these reasons apply to me. That’s probably why they’ve made the list.
1 – Wanting To Enjoy Life
This is a really vague reason. It covers a host of things but is often the one I hear most. The logic being that enjoyment ends when the baby comes. From TV, film and other media, it seems that life as you know it basically ends when you have a child.
While this may or may not be true, it does mean that women are thinking twice before making the decision. In my brain, if I had had a child in my 20s then I wouldn’t be ready to party again until my 40s and partying in your 40s is just a little sad. How do you ever really know that you are ready for a baby until you have one?
The thing is, I don’t think it is even that I want to party, it is more that I don’t want the freedom to choose to be taken away from me.
2 – University/College
More and more women are going into advanced education. That means, by the time you finish, you’re already into your early 20s and saddled with mountains of debt. I don’t think it is all that surprising that women aren’t then thinking, “I want to start a family” straight after they gradate. For me, I also left university in the middle of the recession. I was lucky enough to find a full-time job that was relevant to my degree, despite the low pay. My first thoughts were to find somewhere affordable enough to rent so I could start saving for a deposit on a property. Babies were kind of an assumption, but as they say, they were not even a twinkle in my eye at this point!
I think one of the reasons that university and college are impacting on the average age of conception is the fear of ‘wasting’ your degree.
What was the point in me doing my degree if I was only going to pop out a kid?
I’m over £50,000 in debt and yet in the same position as if I hadn’t bothered.
I know this is a simplistic way of thinking about it but the thought does cross your mind. If you’ve completed a degree then you want to do something with it, or at least try to. Only once you’ve tried, whether the result is failure or success, do you then want to start thinking about children.
What’s more, by going to university, you’ll have surrounded yourself with others that don’t have children on their mind. The friends you had from school that chose to start a family when they were young have probably been left behind. That’s natural, you are doing different things and in different places. Nonetheless, you are inadvertently surrounding yourself with people that also want to wait to have kids.
3 – Having A Long Term Partner
Most of us seem to have an idealised plan in our head. Does this sound familiar:
Together for 2 years.
Then live together for a year.
Then married a year later.
Then wait a year to try for our first.
While this might not be your exact plan, there are loads of us that have something like this in our heads. If we discount the high school and university sweethearts then this plan is pushing conception later and later. If we met our partner at 24 then the we’re not trying to conceive until 29. If we don’t meet our partner until 27 then it moves to 32.
For me, I had to throw my plan out of the window. At 29, I had to leave my long term relationship and abandon my 5 year plan (it got changed to a 2 year plan). To be honest, the 2 year plan might scare most men off, thankfully not in our case.
Plus, in 2 years can you really get to know someone well enough? A child is a bigger commitment than marriage, you don’t want to rush into anything and the 5 year plan does make perfect sense. Just in a world of online dating and more time ‘having fun’, the average age of conception keeps climbing.
I love this piece on Vogue, it really encapsulated my daily struggle. People asking what my age is, then asking if I had a child. When I then answered no, I was greeted by a face that is both a combination of a grimace and an empathetic smile. It really is the sort of face you want to slap! 🙂
If its some kind of family member that you haven’t seen in ages (like this last weekend at my younger cousins baby shower) they’ll ask you your age, and then say no more. You can almost hear the thoughts whirling around their minds. What’s more, I’ve even pretty much come to expect these responses from these people.
4 – Childbirth
There is nothing about childbirth that makes me think it will be a pleasurable experience. Yes, you get the reward at the end, but is the pain really worth it? All mothers will say that it is but that didn’t suppress my doubts. In fact, the lack of women that don’t say to the contrary is a little suspicious. Is this something that mothers just feel obliged to say? Do they deep down think, “God, I’m not sure I’d go through that again?!”
However, there is a significant proportion of mothers that choose to have a 2nd, 3rd, 4th… baby.
While this often isn’t the only reason that women are putting off having a child. It is definitely something in the ‘wait a bit longer’ column.
5 – My Body
This kind of follows on from the childbirth. Like most women, I have a never-ending battle to keep my weight under control. Even after a weekend binge I feel a bit bloaty, let alone a 9 month binge. I know that there are women that still control their diet while pregnant. I just know that I’m not going to be one of those people. Once I’m pregnant then I’m going to go straight for the chocolate, crisps and other yummies!
Both my aunt and my mum are now larger than they’d like to be and both blame baby weight they couldn’t shift. Reading more online, while there are super human instagrammers that lose it straight away, it is a definite struggle.
This sounds like a really vain reason to put other having a baby but I do still care how I look. I want to feel comfortable in my skin. It feels like giving up on my diet and exercise will mean that I’m officially old and I’m not there yet.
Yes, I know that having a baby doesn’t mean diet and exercise have to change but I just know it will. I’m not strong-minded enough to eat healthy and exercise when I’m feeling less than my best.
And its not even the fear of weight gain. It’s the fear of the most horrendous stretch marks (yup, my mum still has them- though back then they literally did tell expectant mums to eat for two!) some women are very lucky and escape them, but yep the fear is real. I know that once we are lucky to conceive I’ll be going through tubs and tubs of tummy butter. Then what happens to your boobs, god knows, there are many a horror story of them becoming saggy and flat, especially after breast feeding. But I’m not one of those women whose kids will be bottle fed as soon as they’re born for fear of droopy boobs.
And what’s more, I know I’m a fairly sleepy person. I know the overwhelming tiredness will hit me like a lorry once I’m a mum. And that’ll be hair and make-up out the window. I do really admire those ‘yummy mummies’ I literally have no idea how they look so good and continue to function as human beings. I know I will probably be rocking the homeless look, and really just wanted to enjoy my late twenties wearing nice clothes and having good hair, ideally with a glass of prosecco in hand.
6 – Your Career
While the world is becoming a more equal place, having children is definitely something that is still a disadvantage. You have the initial 9 months of pregnancy while you are not at your best. If you’re lucky you have an understanding boss, who generally doesn’t mind if you have to leave your desk for the occasional vom or cry in the loo. You then have a year out, which in my industry may as well be a lifetime despite the keeping in touch days.
Then, you’ll being operating on minimal sleep and have to leave work randomly for appointments, nursery pick ups, school assemblies and ear infections for years to come. I admire the women that are able to juggle both, I really do. Coupled with clean hair and ironed clothes? I take my hat off to you, you’re a superwoman!
However, the reality is that it is still a definite choice. I know women that have managed to remain focused on their careers, but then their child has suffered. I don’t want to put work beyond my children. If I’m taking the plunge then I’m going to do it properly, otherwise I know I’ll regret it.
7 – Choosing Not To
I wasn’t alive decades ago but I’ve watched the films, heard the stories and read my history books. In years gone by, it was a woman’s duty/role to have children. My grandparents will sometimes ask about babies before asking how I am. It offers an insight in the mindset of the previous generations.
Now there are millions of women choosing not to have children. They have complete lives and don’t feel like they have any ‘gap’ that they need to fill. They’ve never got that feeling, that maternal feeling. Or, they just don’t feel like they’d make a good mum, having only just mastered their own lives.
With an increasing number of women deciding against children, it’ll become more commonplace.
8 – IVF & Other Fertility Treatments
We will cover this topic in more detail later on the article but IVF is becoming an increasingly popular choice. Moreover, IVF isn’t the only option for older women wanting to have a child. With celebrities managing to have children in their 40s, women aren’t feeling the same urgency. In the past waiting could’ve been considered dangerous. What’s more, you might have been risking not being able to have children altogether.
Nowadays, the landscape is completely different. There isn’t the same level of pressure. Effective marketing by fertility clinics is convincing women that they can wait and wait and wait. The reality is very different but if you are already wavering, the fertility treatments offer a great way to push the decision down the road.
Chapter 2 – How Does Fertility Change With Age?
Unfortunately, like the rest of our body, our eggs grow old. We have a finite number of eggs and they do age. As we grow older, both the quality and quantity of our eggs decreases. In fact, Your Fertility describes age as the single most important factor affecting your fertility (they also have some other great resources, not directly related to this article). While the age of the man does also have a negative impact on his fertility, it isn’t to the same extent as for women.
At the age of 30, a woman has approximately a 20% chance of conceiving each month, by the time she is 40, the chance falls to 5%. While the chance of conceiving decreases from the age of 32, it accelerates from 35.
Unfortunately, the more and more I read online, the more I’m realising that for every story of a 40 year old first time mum, there are likely to be hundreds of heartbreak stories that just don’t get the same attention. Celebrities can use expensive treatments to improve their chances but even then, the odds are not in their favour.
What Are The Reasons
Before we examine, the reasons, the good news is that if you are patient, you’re likely to be rewarded. If you’re aged 30-34 then you have a 94% chance of conceiving in 2 years. If you are 35-39 then you have a 90% chance. For all the doom and gloom that I have read in researching this article, those numbers are somewhat reassuring.
There are a couple of main reasons that fertility declines quite dramatically with age.
Firstly, the quality of the eggs that you are releasing declines with age. A decrease in quality means there is a reduced chance of conception. Furthermore, some women can even reach their menopause or experience the early signs of it before 40. Having irregular periods or no periods will make it even more difficult to conceive.
Secondly, as you grow older, the likelihood of blocked fallopian tubes increases. This is because, as times progresses, if you have a pre-existing condition or an infection you are not aware of, this will have had time to develop into something like pelvic inflammatory disease, which can block your tubes. Making conception impossible. In addition, if you suffer from a condition like endometriosis, the progressive thickening of the fallopian tubes, due to scar tissue, can make conceiving increasingly difficult.
Increased Chance Of Genetic Disorders
While there will be reasons that mean it is more difficult to conceive as the years pass, there is also the increased chance of genetic disorders. Some of the best known genetic disorders include:
Down syndrome – This occurs when someone has a full or partial copy of their 21st chromosome pair. The physical changes caused by the condition include minimal muscle tone, smaller stature and unfortunately life expectancy is lower. If you want to find out more about the condition then NDSS.org have a great resource.
Turner syndrome – This is a condition that will only affect girls.
Sickle cell disease
One of the big reasons for the increased chance of genetic disorders with age is old eggs. During the dividing process, chromosomes are more likely to be displaced in older eggs.
Chapter 3 – The Lifestyle Choices You Can Make To Improve Fertility?
From doing our reading over the last five months there are multiple ways of helping to boost your chances of conceiving naturally. From diet choices; you know the drill, eat natural healthy foods– lean meats, dairy, oily fish, whole grains, pulses, fruits and vegetables. I feel like I have definitely upped my intake of pulses including chickpeas and lentils, spinach for folate (in addition to taking the supplements) salmon, broccoli, berries, avocado and full fat Greek yogurt.
To doing regular exercise (not sure I’ve done so much exercise in my life!) including Pilates to build strong back muscles and increase pelvic floor strength and yoga to help calm my frantic mind and swimming. Generally I find water quite calming so head to the pool for a few laps when the anxiety creeps up on me. Exercising also helps to increase the quality of your sleep, which is important to ensure that you are rested and relaxed enabling your body to recover as well as to produce the hormone leptin. Leptin is the hormone which is responsible for regulating your cycles which makes it easier to time having sex.
They say to cut down on caffeine, which saw me kick my daily diet coke habit. Now I have one can maybe every few weeks (usually after I get my period as some kind of sad brown fizzy consolation prize) first I switched to a decaff coffee in the afternoon just to wean myself off a bit. Then after a while I didn’t even really miss it, and when I had it I’m not even sure I was that fussed.
Neither of us smoke or do drugs or any kind so this one was easy. However, I did used to enjoy a drink while out at dinner or meeting friends at the weekends. I have definitely cut down on my drinking, and find that I don’t even really want to drink anymore.
They say that stress can often be a factor in the chances of conception, and personally I find I always have something to stress over the last few years or so whether its big or small. Most recently, having changed jobs I’ve probably been under more stress than before, while I think the whole anxiety around conception is also putting us under stress as a couple, which is hardly ideal.
People often say, relax and it’ll happen, which is hard to hear when you feel that you are trying to do everything right. Personally right now, it would be easy to relax safe in the knowledge that I was about three years younger with more time for things not to be happening. This is definitely the flip-side to leaving it later in life to try for a child.
Lastly, its important to maximise the production of healthy sperm. Get your partner to trade his tight clingy pants for loose cotton boxer shorts, avoid the sauna or steam room at the gym to reduce over heating the testicles and cut down on the cycling.
Chapter 4 – Why Having Your First Baby After 30 Could Be The Best Decision You Ever Make
Studies suggest that women who conceive later in life are, on average, more educated and more affluent. How can it be worse to bring a child into a more affluent family? Yes, there are hundreds of reasons the situation isn’t this simple. You do get unhappy children in wealthy families, I know that.
Nonetheless, I would still like to be a position to provide for my child. I wouldn’t want them to be worrying about money. I don’t think i’d want to be so strapped for cash that I couldn’t be the best mum that I could be. For me, having that freedom means being able to work part-time if that’s what I choose. Which means, hopefully having more quality time to spend with my child. It also means weekends can be spent having family time, days out out to the farm and so on without the worry of having to get all the cleaning/food shopping and washing done before it’s time to go back to work again.
Yes, there are hundreds of thousands of mothers that do amazing jobs with virtually no money. I’m not sure that I would have it in me to be one of those mums. I don’t think i’d be able to separate my money worries and be myself.
I admire those that can but I don’t think that would be me. Plus, just from my speaking to my friends, I think a lot of women feel the same way.
More and more women want to be in a secure position before they take the plunge. Motherhood is a challenge on its own, without other stresses and worries.
Today marks day 24 in our third cycle of trying to conceive. According to the stats it’s estimated that around 60% of couples conceive within three cycles of trying. Which means by the weekend we’ll know if we fall into that 60% or not.
I think we have both found our patience running out at various points in our journey. Sometimes this can lead to frustration at our own bodies not doing exactly what we want. Tears when Aunt Flo arrives and all sorts of other feelings in between.
TTC: To share or not to share, that is the question
We started out keeping things relatively quiet from others, sharing only with two of our closest friends. However, along the way, we’ve shared a bit more, which kind of has its pros and cons. Last month, while waiting for my period to arrive I had the longest cycle ever in over a year. During this time, it’s hard to think about anything else. Everything else in your life is kind of on hold a bit, just waiting for the second pink line to appear on the pee stick.
Last month, the night before my period finally arrived I was (somewhat reluctantly) going out with friends. It’s pretty hard keeping the news from them when they’re pouring you prosecco with dinner and finding it weird you’re getting tap water at the bar. After tipping my prosecco into my friend’s toilet I decided to share the news with her.
However on the flipside, once people know they almost expect an update on the situation. This then kind of makes it feel worse when there isn’t good news to share. I am pretty much sick of hearing the words ‘oh I’m sure it’ll happen soon’ uttered from well-meaning friends and family. And at worst, your friends who don’t know just think you’ve become really boring since you got your new boyfriend two years ago.
Try not to worry what others think; everyone has their own struggles
I think because our relationship hasn’t followed the traditional path (to say the least) people aren’t sitting there waiting to hear the news. We don’t have the house (just yet- we will 😉 or the shiny wedding photo on the shelf in the living room. Which also brings its own issues. At lunch last week, two friends were sharing that they always think a baby is an accident if the couple isn’t married. And openly admitted that they probably shouldn’t think that.
It’s hard sometimes to just let people’s opinions wash over you; but you have to remember, that’s all they are. Everyone’s opinions are formed based on their own experiences. One friend shared that everyone in her (fairly religious) family got married before they had kids. And her two closest home friends have also followed suit. Another’s parents almost divorced, but worked things out she believes because they were married.
People will always judge you, but it’s down to you to work out what is negotiable and what isn’t. While big, famcy weddings are higher on their priority list right now, to me they really aren’t, and you know what that’s fine too.
The bitter brigade
Another thing approaching 32 entails in the bitter brigade constantly criticising and commenting on those settling down. Yes people are getting engaged, they are ‘settling’, and yes they may have put on some weight when they are nine months pregnant! People have other priorities than getting drunk at the weekend and your bitterness isn’t helping you to achieve the same. They aren’t boring, they’re just not acting like reckless teenagers anymore- rant over.
The grandparents to-be
And mums are a whole other dimension as they eagerly await becoming grandparents. My mum’s friend shared the news her newly married daughter was trying (queue speculation at a pretty bumpy looking photo which appeared on Facebook). Six months later and no news and strange excuses about having to wait due to visiting Mexico on their honeymoon. I think she is just trying to save face a bit, but again, it wouldn’t have happened if she had kept it under her hat.
Jobs, careers and maternity leave
It’s easy for this journey to become all consuming, but I think it’s important to try not to let it. My work had started to get me down at the end of last year, I found it boring, uninspiring and unfulfilling with the threat of redundancy potentially not too far off. What’s a girl to do? Wait it out if only for the easy commute (ten min walk) and good maternity leave? Or jump ship and get the hell out of there, but potentially sacrifice some of the mat leave? Well it seems life sometimes just throws something your way right when you need it.
After accepting a random LinkedIn request I quickly had a telephone interview followed by a face to face and a new job offer. Bit more money, better prospects (hopefully) and the commute is outweighed by the potential to work from home 1-2 days per week. Yep, it worries me a bit I may join and quickly fall preg.
But it was also a great way of distracting me from menstrual cycles, fertility apps and waiting for my period. I’m hoping with a new challenge ahead, my mind will be much more occupied with the new role than if I had carried on plodding along in my current job.
The dreaded two week wait
While all of this is going on, you become pretty conscious of your health so generally your downtime starts to change. It’s no longer all about prosecco brunches and dinners with cocktails. Rather than sitting around I’d definitely recommend taking up a new hobby. I signed up to one of those posh gyms with all the nice classes and pool and spa area. I try to go around four times per week, and particularly find the holistic classes helpful for calming my mind and just giving me something else to focus on.
On that note, I am also trying to enjoy all the food and drink you can’t eat when there is a little one on board. Think cheese, bubbles, sushi and seafood. Having something to look forward to (that isn’t baby related) is also important. So this month we’ll be planning a weekend away somewhere, and who knows maybe we can give the baby some kind of exotic name like Paris, Brooklyn or Madrid 😉
I read an incredibly heartwarming story the other day that was first reported in the summer of 2017. A Nigerian couple were trying to conceive for 20 years with no success.
They would’ve been happy to have just a single precious child. They weren’t even considering how to conceive twins. Many in their position would’ve given up and simply accepted that it was never going to happen.
However, the couple still believed and were finally rewarded. Not with 1 child, not with twins but with six babies! I had to even check the name for six, sextuplets!
That got me to thinking, is there reason they had more than just one baby? Did their years of trying make twins more likely?
The Town of Twins
When I researched a bit more, I found that there are even towns that are famed for their high twin rate. Mohammadpur Umri, a small village in India, has a total of 33 pairs of twins, which doesn’t seem particularly high, until you learn that there are just 600 people living in this village!
While scientists have managed to do various tests, they’ve not yet pinpointed why there is such a high twin rate in the village, it can’t simply be chance?
Has anyone been able to discover the secrets to having twins? Why did the Nigerian couple have 6 children when they finally managed to conceive? Why is there such a high twin rate in some areas?
Based on our curiosity, we’ve found that there are range of reasons, some based on science, other not… We’re now going to detail some of things that actually influence how many babies you have and if there are things you can do to impact your chances.
However, to start with we are going to look at the actual causes for identical and non-identical twins.
What Causes Identical (Monozygotic) Twins?
This blog isn’t a science journal so I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of the theories surrounding identical twins. However, to add context to the rest of the article, I’m going to detail some of the most popular theories. You guys can choose your favourite and make your own decision.
Unbeknown to me, there are actually different types of identical twins. The zygote can split into two at any time during the first 10 days of the pregnancy. The timing of the split will determine the type of identical twins:
1 day – Dichorionic/Diamniotic – These twins have the time to develop their own amniotic sac and placenta.
4-5 days – Monochorionic-Diamniotic – These twins will have a separate amniotic sac but the late development will mean that have have to share a placenta.
10 days – Monochorionic-Monoamniotic (Mirror Twins) – This type of twins form too late to develop their own amniotic sac or placenta, so they share.
13-15 days – Conjoined twins – These are very rare, occurring once in every 200,000 births. Unfortunately, only 5 to 25 percent of conjoined twins survive birth.
In terms of what actually causes the zygote split, there is still some debate. A study in Lyon has suggested that it is the collapse of the embryo that causes the creation of twins.
During this collapse, the cells containing the genetic material are split in half, meaning that the genetic material is divided into small halves of the embryo, which eventually leads to the development of two fetuses.
However, from what I’ve read, while scientists have a good handle on the actual process that occurs, that are still pretty clueless when it comes to determining what actually triggers the process. Perhaps in the next couple of years, scientists will pinpoint the reason for this seemingly random event.
What Causes Non-Identical (Dizygotic) Twins?
Unlike monozygotic twins, fraternal twins are formed by the fertilisation of two different eggs by two different sperm. These zygotes will then share the womb during their gestation period. While these zygotes are sharing the same womb, they’re no more genetically similar than siblings born years apart.
The number of eggs fertilised and the number of babies created is dependent on the number of eggs that are released during ovulation. If 5 eggs are released and fertilised then 5 zygotes will be created.
Therefore, the underlying cause of twins and other multiple births is hyper-ovulation. Unlike the random split to create identical twins, there has been plenty of research and studies which have proven the causes of hyper ovulation:
Family twins: My mum had twins, does that mean I will?
There is really nothing that you can do about this one. According to the NHS, while identical twins don’t run in the family, non-identical twins certainly do.
Non-identical twins are a product of two separate eggs being fertilised. There is a specific genetic combination that makes it more likely for a woman to release two eggs during ovulation and that gene can be passed down.
That gene can also skip a generation if it is inherited by the man and then passed onto his daughters. If you have a fraternal twin yourself then you’re 2.5 times more likely to have a twin. This genetic propensity for twins is only important for the woman, the man’s family don’t impact on the chance of twins.
While there does appear to be a clear link between twins in the family and your chances of having them, scientists haven’t yet been able to pinpoint the specific gene that is responsible. It is likely that a combination of genetic and environmental factors lead to hyper-ovulation.
By contrast, for identical twins, the splitting of an embryo into two embryos is a random occurrence and hasn’t yet been proven to have any basis in your genetics. It does appear that this is pure chance.
It seems that there is a direct link between your BMI and your chance of conceiving twins. For women with a BMI of over 30, there is a significantly higher chance of conceiving twins.
According to the oft used scale, having a BMI of over 30 will mean that you’re obese with 25-29.9 being classified as overweight. However, this is often a crude scale that doesn’t take into account muscle mass and a range of other factors. Just because you have a BMI of 30 doesn’t mean you are obese!
It interesting to note that the rise in women’s average BMI in the past 20-30 years has led to an increase in the number of fraternal twins being born.
If you have a BMI of over 30 you’re not guaranteed twins but the evidence suggests you definitely have a higher chance.
The No. Children You Have
It seems that this one is more due to a combination of other factors rather than a direct cause. Although, if you want to see more opinions from mums then there is a great MumsNet thread on the subject. If you’ve already given birth to 4+ children then you’re likely to be significantly older, which means you are more likely to have twins.
If you have a large family then it is more likely that some of the children are twins, meaning you’re more likely. The average woman will have gained more weight from having such a large family, meaning she is more likely to have twins.
You can see that there are a combination of other factors that mean that having a large family correlates with a great likelihood of having twins, despite not actually causing it.
While this is a popular wives tale, there doesn’t seem to be a scientific reason for it.
After a height of 5 foot 4, the chance of conceiving twins grows exponentially with the increase in height. I used to think that this was a bit of a myth but there is conclusive evidence to support this theory. Women giving birth to twins are on average, an inch taller than those who aren’t.
It has been found that taller women have a higher amount of insulin-like growth factor. This insulin-like growth factor can increase a woman’s sensitivity to follicle stimulating hormones. This in turn will lead to the release of more than one egg during ovulation, increasing the chance of twins.
There is no doubt that the use of IVF increases the likelihood of having twins. By natural conception, the rate of twins is around 3 per 1,000. When using IVF, that rate climbs by some 7 times, up to 21 per 1,000. According to some figures, a whopping 40% of IVF pregnancies related in a multiple birth.
This is due to the number of embryos that are placed in during an IVF cycle. This is due to the poor quality of some embryos. This process means that there is significantly higher chance of a single embryo implanting.
However, it also means there is a greater chance of more than one implanting too.
With modern science, fertility doctors are now able to identify the embryos with the greatest chance of success. By choosing the high quality embryos, some are now opting for elective single egg transfer.
In this way, a single embryo is selected from your batch of embryos. Consequently, we may see the number of twins conceived via IVF drop in the coming years. The UK regulator has lowered the target for multiple births from 15% down to 10%, due to the potential complication.
According to the US Department of Health & Human Services, the twin birth rate has increased by over 75% since 1980. While there are a number of other factors, like the increased used of IVF, the average age of conception is a big part.
In the UK, the average age of first time mothers has climbed from 26.4 in 1974 to 30.3 in 2015 according to the office for National Statistics.
This trend is being mirrored in the United States:
There are a number of reasons for the increase in the average age of first-time mothers in the world’s most developed countries.
Women are choosing to have children later, more women have been able to build careers, there is less of a focus on having a large family and having children is more expensive than ever.
There is heated debate about the actual reasons but the evidence is undeniable. Women are choosing to have children later and later in their lives.
The impact of age on twin rate boils down to the number of eggs that are being released during each ovulation. As women get older, a higher level of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is required to trigger the release of the eggs. This increased level of FSH means that it is more likely that more than one egg is released.
In the US, an increased average age of first time mothers directly correlates with the increasing number of multiple births.
There have been a number of studies that have shown there are variations in twin rate among different races. In the US, while the overall twin rate between 1989-91 was 2.26%, it climbed to 2.69% for non-Hispanic blacks and fell to 1.67% in the non-Hispanic other group.
While it is clear from the research and the article so far, that there are dozens of factors at play, scientists haven’t yet pinpointed why there are such large variations in twin rates.
An Enzyme In The Sperm
While there hasn’t yet been proof of a gene that causes identical twins, there are some that have suggested that an enzyme in the sperm is responsible for the production of identical twins. Yes identical twins do seem to run in some families and some dads like to think they have super sperm but there isn’t yet the scientific proof for this theory.
This increased chance of conceiving twins is due to higher IGF (insulin-like growth factor) levels when breastfeeding. The higher IGF levels significantly increase the chance of more than one egg being released.
Again, this is another factor that I thought wasn’t true but it turns out there is a real link between dairy consumption and twinning rates. Those consuming dairy regularly are 5 times more likely to have twins. This is due to the link between dairy and insulin-like growth factor.
Consuming more milk leads to higher level of insulin-like growth factor, leading to increase sensitivity to follicle stimulating hormones. Increased sensitivity means more eggs are released during ovulation and there is a substantially greater chance of twins being conceived.
There are a couple of caveats to the main study that most of the articles link to. Firstly, those women with a lower dairy consumption could be deficient in other nutrients, particularly when following a vegan diet. Secondly, those women consuming more dairy, on average had a higher BMI. Finally, there has been contradictory research showing that the IGF levels in cows have virtually no impact on those in the milk drinkers.
Ultimately, it seems like there is some connection between the eating dairy and a higher twinning rate. Nonetheless, there are a number of mitigating factors.
Twins – Frequently Asked Questions
In researching this article, there were a few popular questions that kept cropping up and I though they should be included. I found them interesting, so hopefully you will too.
Just How Common Are Twins?
In 2015, of the 4 million live births in the US, just 24 involved 5 or more babies. To be honest, this is still a few more than I was expecting. While I think twins would actually be kind of ideal, there is no way I’m equipped to cope with 5 little ones running around. It would be an endless supply in crying, pooping and mess!
How To Tell If You’re Carrying Twins?
Twin pregnancy symptoms are not all that different to ordinary pregnancy symptoms but do often occur a lot earlier than would normally be expected. While there are a number of signs for a twin pregnancy, these read like a list of ordinary pregnancy signs. Plus, there is always the caveat that every woman is different and will have their own symptoms.
Weight gain, extreme tiredness, nausea and varicose veins are just some of the signs.
The only time you will truly know is when you are seeing two embryos on the ultrasound or hearing two separate heart beats.
Is Having Twins Dangerous?
It is true that there is an increased risk of complications with a multi birth pregnancy, when compared to the conventional single birth pregnancy. There are a number of issues that can be worsened by a multi birth. These include gestational diabetes, premature birth, low birth weight and preeclampsia.
The good news is that the health service are aware of the increased complications and so long as you’re regularly checked, a number of issues can be averted. There is no need to worry about having twins.
While a love of diets and healthy eating have always been a big part of our lives, this year we’ve adapted it a bit with the hope of it boosting our chances. We’ve shifted from a high-protein, low carb diet with healthy fats (think Joe Wicks- The Body Coach) to a more plant based diet, with wholegrain carbs, healthy fats and lots of nutritious veggies. Not only are there supposed to be multiple health benefits of reducing our meat intake, but it has also reduced our shopping bill too.
Chris being Chris decided one day to launch himself into a full blown vegan diet. But after one day of munching on hummus and pitta and very little else and checking his macros app (turns out hummus and pitta bread supplies only fat and carbs- who knew?!) Thankfully that evening he decided this route was just too restrictive, and as the one who does most of the cooking at home I was extremely relieved.
I did buy him a vegan cookbook for Christmas for a bit of inspiration. And without knowing, he also bought me a Nigella Lawson cookbook too. I dug out my old Madeline Shaw ‘Get the glow’ cookbook which is full of healthy recipes and we started to compile some which seemed the most exciting, easy to cook and nutritious.
Some of our favourite meat-free go-to recipes can be found below;
This one is just so easy, tastes zingy and refreshing and is great for making extra to take to work the next day too. The avocado is a great source of vitamin E as well as folate, vitamin K and ‘healthy fats’. Vitamin E is crucial to the fluid protecting your egg inside the follicle. A deficiency in vitamin E can lead to negative changes in your ovaries and uterus. You can read more on the role food plays on your fertility here:
Cook wholegrain rice according to the packet instructions, you know the drill; one cup rice, two cups water
Chop up some radishes and throw into a large bowl
Take a peeler and turn three carrots into ribbons
Follow suit with half a cucumber
Throw some soy sauce or ketjap manis over your veggies
Do the same with some ginger (I love the jarred Lazy Ginger) if you aren’t feeling lazy, you can use a spoon to peel your fresh ginger and grate into your salad
Stir all of this together and combine with your rice when cooked
Top with sliced avocado and fresh coriander
Warm chickpea, kale and orange salad
Now I’m definitely not a salad fan, and run a mile from eating lettuce (or kale for that matter until I tried this dish) but this warm salad tastes great. What’s more it packs a nutritious punch with the oranges being rich in vitamin C, potassium, calcium and folate, kale providing calcium, iron and folate and the chickpeas being a great source of fibre, iron, B vitamin and folate too.
Chop up an onion, and simmer in some coconut oil
Sprinkle 2 tsps. of cumin and some garlic (again, I use the jars of Lazy Garlic- there’s a theme here) fry gently for 5 minutes
Grate a courgette and throw into your pan
Next, drain a can of chickpeas and pour in to the mixture. Stir to coat the chickpeas in flavour and add some ground pepper to taste
Cook these together for around 5 minutes and add in your kale, cook until it has softened a little and no longer pokes out all over the place
To finish, grate some orange zest and squeeze of fresh orange juice
Tomato and lentil soup
This one is great for whipping up a few lunches using just store cupboard staples. It’s cheap, easy and nutritious to make, can be either stored in the fridge or the freezer ready to just grab and go in the morning. The lentils are also filling and rich in fibre, iron, B vitamin and folate too.
Chop up your onion and place into a deep saucepan along with some coconut oil
Add a tsp of cumin and a tsp of ground coriander (not to be mistaken for coriander leaf- it shouldn’t be green! Chris actually bought this pot while trying to purchase normal coriander- I never even knew this existed)
Fry gently until the onions start to soften and of course, add some garlic
Tip in a tin of lentils followed by a tin of chopped tomatoes and simmer for 20 mins
Blend for a smooth texture (I use my Nutribullet, and keep it in the cups in the fridge
Veggie Thai curry
This is a good one for using up all those odds and ends lurking in the fridge, is extremely hearty and filling and great on winters evening. Both sweet potatoes and butternut squash give you a good dose of beta carotene, which is very important during the luteal phase which is the period between ovulation and when you actually have your period.
I start by popping a butternut squash into the slow cooker and leave it on to cook all day. When I get home, it is the most amazingly soft and almost fluffy texture and saves me trying to hack it into pieces.
Squash can also take a while to soften in the pan so this way it cuts down on cooking time. Sometimes I also put in a few sweet potatoes too, to really pack in the beta carotene.
Beta carotene is rich in vitamin A, which helps your body to produce nourishing cervical fluid which helps the sperm to survive for longer. This means it gives those precious salmons a longer time to fertilise the egg. Furthermore, it also assists with the maturation of your follicles. Lastly, it also helps to assist a fertilised egg move into the uterus by supporting the production of the hormones which are needed to do so.
Next chop up some onions or spring onions, depending on what is in the cupboard or fridge and gently shallow fry
Add some diced yellow or red peppers
Throw some fresh chilli into the pan to season, some garlic and ginger, then add a few dollops of Thai curry paste (so scientific I know)
Cook that down for a few minutes, then add in a tin or two of black eyed beans, followed by a tin of coconut milk; sometimes we opt for reduced fat, sometimes full fat depending on how well Aldi has been stocked
The coconut milk will need to simmer down and reduce and while that’s happening you can gently pierce your cooked squash and scoop out the flesh. This will really bulk out your curry. Give it all a stir, a taste and amend the seasoning as you want.
Serve with wholegrain rice and broccoli
Along with a smaller shopping bill, Chris has also noticed his cat allergy symptoms have significantly reduced since reducing his meat intake. He used to have awful sneezing fits, suffer with itchy eyes and ears, none of which he has experienced in January since cutting back. He is also less achy and tired to boot, so all round I feel like January’s food has been quite a success. For me, it makes meal times so much easier and the food goes a lot further allowing me to prep almost all of our lunches.
Is your diet the reason that you are struggling to conceive?
We’re going to show you some of the best ways to improve your fertility through your diet.
We are going to cut through the noise. There is so much conflicting information about the perfect diet to conceive and it is really difficult to know what to believe.
I’m an avid gym goer and have wasted many hours reading bogus ‘six pack diets’. However, the level of misinformation about summer bodies and six packs doesn’t compare to that on pregnancy.
I’m not a doctor! However, just from the sheer volume of contradictory content, it is clear that there are a number of falsehoods floating around.
The Fertility Secrets For Men & Women
There are some books out there that even claim to maximise your fertility in just 3 months!
In this article, we’re going to have a look at the best ways to improve fertility for both men and women.
You are going to get the honest truth.
I’m not going to advocate one diet or another but by the end, you should have a clear idea of the basic principles, some of the foods everyone agrees you should be avoiding and a few tricks that have worked for some.
At the end of this article, you will have a clear idea of how to improve your chance of conceiving and some of the dietary roadblocks that could be holding you back.
It seems that many of the articles, which are supported by studies, focus on the different stages of the cycle for women.
We are going to focus on the 4 distinct phases of a woman’s monthly cycle and some of the foods that can help at the different stages.
What Is The Menstruation Phase?
During the menstruation phase, women lose an average of 30-40 ml of blood. This number climbs to over 60ml during a particularly heavy period. During this bleeding phase, the iron that is attached to the blood is lost from the body.
If the iron that is lost from the body isn’t replaced through your diet then that can have a negative impact on your health and your fertility.
The answer to this problem isn’t particularly complicated!
You need to eat foods that rich in iron, they include beans, pulses, nuts, wholegrains and leafy vegetables.
It was only when I was doing research that I realised just how many foods are a good source of iron.
As an added bonus, some sources of iron, including leafy vegetables, also have anti-inflammatory properties that can help ease period cramping.
During this phase, there will also be an increase in the levels of estrogen which increases the volume of cervical fluids, reducing the acidity and giving the sperm a fighting chance of reaching the egg.
What Are The Perfect Foods For The Follicular Phase?
Considering the activity that is going on inside, the focus is on providing the right food to stimulate the maturation of the follicles and helping your body deal with the additional estrogen (there is a lot).
There are a range of ways that you can help your body metabolise the increased level of estrogen.
These include getting enough Vitamin D, magnesium and ensuring you’re having enough beauty sleep.
Possibly the most important nutrient during this phase is vitamin E. Vitamin E is vital to the fluid protecting your egg housed in the follicle. A deficiency in vitamin E can lead to negative changes in your ovaries and uterus.
Dr Axe have created this great infographic that really breaks down the foods with the best vitamin E content:
The great news is that your body is able to make omega 9 on its own, meaning it is a non-essential fatty acid. Omega 9 is also found in olive oil, sunflower oil and other oils.
Hands Up If You’ve Even Heard Of The Luteal Phase?
For those of you that don’t know (like me), the Luteal phase is the period between ovulation and when you actually have your period.
During this phase, your body will still be preparing for a baby, even if you’re not actually pregnant. It seems like the body likes have a practice run each month!
The phase typically last for 10-16 days, although this can vary.
While there is often quite significant variation in the length of the menstruation phase, the luteal phase is much more consistent and will seldom vary by more than a day or two.
Higher Progesterone Levels
During the luteal phase, progesterone levels are high and that can have an impact on your body. The progesterone levels are high because once the egg has been released from the follicle (the supporting cells turn into corpus luteum and start producing progesterone).
The progesterone is responsible for maintaining the endometrial lining which will support the growth of the egg. If no egg has implanted then the corpus luteum will stop producing progesterone and you will shed your uterine lining.
Simple as that.
Most noticeably, the progesterone levels can raise internal body temperature by around 0.4 degrees. While this seems like an insignificant change, it is a big change for your body.
If you’re physically active or a gym goer then you may see your performance drop during this period.
Don’t overdo it, it is important you’re able to understand that the drop in performance is due to what’s happening inside your body.
Cognitive Function Improves
Conversely, while your gym performance might suffer, your motivation probably won’t.
During the luteal phase, your cognitive function improves and your ability to control your actions is enhanced and this means you have a much greater chance of either breaking a bad habit or sticking to a good habit.
This is a great time to try and phase out a bad habit.
Short Luteal Phase & Low Progesterone
While the luteal phase often doesn’t get much of the attention, having a short luteal phase can have a major impact on your ability to conceive. A luteal phase of under 10 days is a sign that your body is not producing a sufficient amount of progesterone.
While this means that it can be difficult for you to conceive, it can also point to a number of health issues.
Progesterone is absolutely vital to your health and if you’re not getting enough of it then you can have trouble sleeping, slow your metabolism and impact on your bone health.
If you want to find out more about the influence of progesterone then this article by AvaWomen is a really good resource. Progesterone is kind of a big deal.
Foods To Boost Progesterone Levels
If you are struggling with low progesterone then HormonesBalance.com have put together this really great infographic resource. It outlines the top 9 ways to boost your progesterone levels:
Other Nutrients During Luteal Phase
In addition, during the luteal phase beta-carotene is a really important nutrient.
Beta-carotene can be found in carrots, oranges, sweet potatoes and a range of other foods.
Bromelain is another important nutrient during the luteal phase and a good source of this is pineapple.
While the science around the impact of pineapple on conception is still limited, the anti-inflammatory properties of pineapple can only be a good thing.
Other Dietary Roadblocks
While we have covered the different stages of the cycle in detail, there are other dietary considerations when you’re trying to conceive. Many of the changes you can make and the foods we are going to talk about are known healthy foods.
If you’re to take nothing else away from this article, takeaway that taking care of your own health is more important than any of the specifics that have been listed above.
It is a fact that if you’re not healthy then having a bit of pineapple or some almonds in your follicular phase, isn’t going to have the impact that you’re hoping for.
For many of the foods and much of the advice listed, you will already be aware of the health benefits and know that you should be adding these things to your diet.
Keep Your Insulin Levels To A Minimum
There have been some studies that have suggested that having high insulin levels can inhibit ovulation. This is because eating foods that are high on the glycemic index can lead to insulin resistance.
You don’t have to completely cut out all of the foods that are high on the glycemic index, be sure to at least be having more on the lower end of the scale. You’ll boost your insulin sensitivity, boost your health, potentially lose weight and improve your chance of conceiving.
Below is a great chart to get an idea of where different foods fall on the scale:
Another contributor to high insulin levels and potential insulin resistance could be the number of trans fats that you are eating. Trans fat are found in many of your people’s favourite treats.
Foods High In Trans Fats:
Fried fast food
If you want a great list of foods to avoid and the reasoning behind it, then check out the article on ClevelandClinic.org.
These foods could all be holding back your chance of conceiving.
Eating these trans fats won’t just lead to insulin resistance but it is also linked with strokes and heart disease. Trans fats will increase the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower your levels of good cholesterol (HDL).
While you don’t need to cut them out completely, it is definitely a good idea to keep an eye on your intake, even if you’re not currently trying.
While you’re chopping out the trans fats, it is the perfect time to get some ‘good’ fats into your diet. These ‘healthy fats’ are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Consuming these fats will actually decrease the levels of bad cholesterol.
If you don’t want to become an insufferable avocado Instagrammer (those people that seem to post pictures of avocados every day!), you don’t have to.
It turns out, there are a heap of different foods you can have that’ll lower your bad cholesterol and make giving up some of the trans fats a little easier.
Foods High In ‘Healthy Fats’:
These are just some of the dozens of foods that you enjoy. Eatthis have put together a more comprehensive list if you want to find more ‘healthy fat’ options.
The Low Fat Myth
On this same theme, while you may be heading for the low fat options, they might not be the right choice for your fertility or your health in general.
While the science and studies have been very limited, Walter Willett, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard has suggested that those consuming low-fat dairy, appeared to have more difficulty conceiving.
While the jury is definitely still out on this one, consuming more whole milk and full fat yoghurt is another good way of getting your quota of ‘healthy fats’.
All of you that depend on your daily fix of coffee can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
While excessive caffeine consumption (over 250mg a day) isn’t going to be good for you, that morning coffee isn’t going to be impacting on your fertility. There is still more research on-going but researchers haven’t found a link between moderate caffeine consumption and fertility problems.
To put the 250mg limit into context, it is estimated that the average cup of coffee has 95mg of caffeine. Admittedly, there are a wide range of factors that can increase this number.
Get Those Greens
You will have seen throughout the different phases, there were a couple of common themes. The first was eating plenty of green vegetables and the second was pumping up your iron intake, particularly during the menstruation phase.
While some of the things listed above are advisory, getting enough fruit and veg in your diet isn’t really optionable.
Yes, there are people that manage to get pregnant with horrible diets.
There are also smokers that live to 100 years old! It has been conclusively proven that eating more fruit and vegetables is going to improve your chances of conceiving.
The reason that they are so important is because they’re the best way of ensuring you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet. While there are a wide range of vitamin supplements, and indeed some of them will help you supplement, they should only ever be used as supplementation.
Important Note: Having a couple of multivitamins is no substitute for getting enough vegetables.
Vitamin Packed Fruit & Vegetables
For some of you, you’ll already have a vegetable-packed diet so the list below will serve as a tick sheet for you. For others, below is a comprehensive lists of the vegetables that you could and should be adding to your diet:
Orange (vitamin C, potassium, calcium and folate)
Grapefruit (vitamin C, potassium, calcium and folate)
Clementines (vitamin C, potassium, calcium and folate)
Kiwi (vitamin C, potassium, calcium and folate)
Spinach (calcium, iron and folate)
Kale (calcium, iron and folate)
Swiss Chard (calcium, iron and folate)
Blueberries (antioxidants, folate and vitamin C)
Raspberries (antioxidants, folate and vitamin C)
Avocados (folate, vitamin K and ‘healthy fats’)
Quinoa (fibre, protein, folate and zinc) – I know this is a grain!
Walnuts (magnesium, fibre and omega 3)
Lentils (fibre, iron, B vitamin and folate)
Beans (fibre, iron, B vitamin and folate)
You will see that folate is a nutrient that is found in virtually all of the foods in this list. It is vitally important not just when trying to conceive but when you’re pregnant too. There are folic acids supplements. These are a great way to make sure you’re getting enough of this awesome B vitamin.
For Men – Strong, Mobile & Functioning Sperm
While it is often female fertility that draws the spotlight and gets the media attention, male fertility is just as important. Some of the issues can include:
Low sperm count
Lack of sperm
In this article, we are going to go through what each issue is, what causes it and the changes to your diet that could make a difference.
Sperm abnormalities can be anything to do with your sperm morphology, referring to the size and shape of your sperm.
I don’t know about you but that seems like an incredibly low number. When I read further, the healthy range is between 4-14%.
I expected that at least half of my troops would be up to the task at hand. When you factor in how many head in the wrong direction, get killed in transit and everything else, 4-14% doesn’t seem like enough!
There is quite the list of things that go wrong with them:
To me, rather than sperm, these looked like various children attempting to blow up their first balloon. Although, kudos to the kid that has blown the balloon with 2 heads or 2 tails!
However, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Your brain seems to know just how naff your sperm are, so it creates millions and millions of them. The average man can release between 40 million and 1.2 billion sperm cells in a single ejaculation.
When you apply that 4% figure then that means you have between 1.6 million and 48 million that are able to get the job done.
Although, I would think that having two tails when be a positive rather than a negative. It’d be a bit like a swimmer having an extra pair of legs. In fact, abnormal sperm are still able to fertilise the egg, they’re just not as well equipped for the journey.
What Causes Sperm Abnormalities?
While men can continue to father children into their later years, sperm do to tend have a higher chance of being abnormal as you age. Although, one of my classmate’s dad’s was able to father his sixth child at the age of 64. Age isn’t a barrier, even if there are a few more abnormalities to contend with.
Outside of age and genetics, there are a range of environmental factors that can either increase or decrease the percentage of your sperm that have abnormal qualities. The majority of these factors are not surprisingly:
Alcohol – Might Encourage Love Making – Isn’t Good For Sperm
In the testes, there are Sertoli cells that produce a protein that nurtures the sperm and allows them to develop properly. However, the consumption of alcohol will stunt the release of LH and FSH hormones. This leads to deterioration of these important Sertoli cells and leads to a higher percentage of abnormal sperm.
In some cases, excessive alcohol abuse can mean that no sperm are produced.
It seems like your vision isn’t the only thing that an extra drink can make squiffy!
The good news is that stopping drinking will reverse the impact in as little as 3 months.
In the case of those whose sperm production has stopped due to altogether, abstaining from alcohol brought the swimmers back in just 6 months.
As I started to do some research into the impact of recreational drugs, it quickly became clear that the impact very much depends on the drug. I would just like to make it clear that I’m not an advocate of recreational drugs. I’ve never tried them and never intend to.
That being said, everyone’s choices are there own so I’ve taken an objective look at the evidence available.
As you would expect, there are studies for virtually all recreational drugs suggesting that prolonged usage will have an impact on fertility and sperm morphology. There are clear links between consistent cannabis use and a decline in male fertility.
Cocaine is a big no no for pregnant women but might not be so damaging for men in small doses.
However, one of the biggest no goes is something that would often not be considered to be a recreational drug, steroids. While taking steroids will increase the level of testosterone in your blood stream, this testosterone can’t reach your testicles.
In order to try and combat the excessive levels, your brain will compensate by ceasing production in your testicles. This causes your testicles to shrink and your sperm production to halt.
I’m a gym goer and the allure of big gains is there but I don’t think it is worth the price your balls have to pay.
The good news is that after ceasing usage, you should return to normal in as little as 6 months. Still, I don’t think they’re a good choice, even if you’re not trying right now.
Caffeine – They’ve Supercharge The Sperm, Right?
There are a number of studies to suggest that having a higher volume of caffeine consumption will have an adverse impact on fertility. However, the challenge with caffeine related studies is that many of the high caffeine consumers have a range of other bad habits.
When I read through a more detailed caffeine study (full study here), they struggled to establish a clear link between caffeine consumption and sperm quality. Interestingly, it was only with cola based drinks that a drop was observed.
For me, I do enjoy using pre-workout supplements which are high on caffeine.
While there isn’t conclusive supporting research, I do think I will be steering clear of them for a little while. This is more due to my own fear, than hard scientific proof.
Smoking – Unsurprisingly Not Helpful
Again, like caffeine, it is often difficult to isolate smoking as the direct cause of changes in sperm morphology. Smoking can’t be seen as the only reason that an individual falls below that 4% threshold. However, smoking definitely doesn’t help your chance, according to the studies that have been conducted.
Plus, in the case of smoking, although the links to sperm morphology aren’t 100% clear, there are so many other health reasons to give up smoking.
In a separate study, it was shown that smokers cells carried too little protamine which significantly increase the chance of DNA damage. DNA damage significantly increases the chance of miscarriage and makes it more difficult more to conceive.
No-one really wants DNA damage in there life, it just sounds bad!
Unfortunately, if you have a perfect diet and tick all of the other boxes but still have poor sperm morphology then it is going to be due to your genetics.
For those with poor sperm morphology due to genetics, there isn’t much you can do to correct the problem. However, if you are like me, then I’m sure you have a few vices to cut out before you can attribute the poor shape to your genetics.
To be honest, I find this the most scary problem. The others are something I could address. Genetics are something I’m stuck with.
Changes To Your Diet To Help Sperm Abnormalities
There are some that suggest that there isn’t really too much you can do to improve your sperm morphology. The Malpani infertility clinic suggests that the pressure on doctors means they are prescribing pills that won’t have an impact. Patients simply refuse to believe their isn’t a pill that’ll cure their problem.
The more information I read, then the more it seems that the Malpani infertility clinic has it right. The main steps you can take from a dietary perspective are to remove the negative factors listed above.
Some of the steps to improve morphology:
If you drink then don’t drink to excess (a glass of wine or a few pints won’t hurt)
Limit your use of recreational drugs
Don’t consume caffeine in excess amount (over 300mg)
Try to give up or limit your smoking
While many of the doctor statements I’ve been through suggest that multivitamins can’t hurt and might help, there isn’t clear evidence to prove that they are nothing more than an expensive gimmick.
To me that seems like a lot of sperm per millilitre but that is the benchmark according to the NHS. The NHS suggest that you should only visit the doctor for a count check if you’ve not managed to conceive after a year of trying.
They also suggest that although you can buy over the count tests, their accuracy hasn’t been proven by a solid body of evidence. Most notably, these tests often set the benchmark at 20 million, rather than the 15 million international benchmark. I’ve not tried any of the home tests yet because we are just 2 months in but I will update the article if I give them a go.
I think I’m a little scared to give even the home test a try.
What Causes Low Sperm Count?
For many of the causes of sperm count, there is an overlap with the causes of poor shape and size. However, the main causes are considered to be:
Below, I’ve briefly explained why each of the factors listed above can impact on your sperm count. Again, as mentioned earlier, people that tick one or all of these boxes could still have reasonable enough sperm count to make their partner pregnant. Nonetheless, if you do tick one of these boxes, you’re not improving your chances.
It is suggested that you need to having 20+ cigarettes a day for it to start to have a real impact on your sperm count. Heavy to moderate smoking has been proven to reduce the levels of antioxidants in the semen, these antioxidants are vital in protecting the sperm against free radicals. This along with the previous reasons listed making giving up smoking a fertility no-brainer.
Again, it’ll only be high levels of consumption that have the worst impact. High levels of alcohol consumption will lower testosterone and sperm production. Excessive alcohol consumption will also lower your libido and can cause impotence. Essentially, it’ll mean you have less sex, find it harder to have sex and when you have sex, less sperm will be there to fertilise the egg.
I knew that there was an on-going joke about cyclists cooking their balls. Having a laptop parked on your guys isn’t a great idea. There is overwhelming supporting science proving the impact the additional heat can have. There is even a website called DontCookYourBalls.com that talks at length about the issue.
I will now do my best to summarise the basics but feel free to click on any of the links to find about the studies and more of the science.
Sperm are produced at a temperature 3-4 degrees lower than your core body temperature. As the temperature rises, there is a drop in sperm production. This means that there is even evidence to suggest that men are more fertile in the winter months when the balls aren’t overheated as much!
Luckily the body has the cremaster muscle to either bring your balls closer to your body, during times of cold and further away during times of heat.
There are literally dozens of different ways that you can be overcooking your sperm, these include:
Laptops on your lap
Tight fitting clothes
Reading this list, I was quite concerned because I did/do a number of these things. However, it appears that brief exposure to any of the above is OK. So long as you give your testicles a chance to return to a normal temperature. There are even some people that have taken to icing their balls during warm temperatures in the summer.
We have covered this in other articles about how often you should be having sex. So I won’t have go into too much detail. Basically, there is such a thing as having too much sex when you’re trying to conceive. It’ll take 2-3 days for your sperm to replenish fully after having sex. Having sex more often than this can lower their quality.
There are some genetic conditions that could be responsible for drop in sperm count. I’m not going to go into detail about each of the conditions. There is still a lot of research to do in this area. Some men do still suffer with unexplained infertility.
If you think you’re doing all the right things but still have a low sperm count then it is best to speak to your doctor. They’ll be able to arrange the necessary tests and potentially find the solution.
Changes To Your Diet To Help Boost Your Sperm Count
It is estimated that 1 in 6 couples fail to conceive in the first year and 30% of these cases are due to male fertility problems. If you’re struggling to conceive then you need to think about your diet and the things you might be doing that’ll impact on your ability to conceive.
Despite how far science has come in recent years, doctors will still often not be able to pinpoint the exact cause for male infertility. We’ve summarised some of the things that the doctors will suggest can improve your fertility.
While it is really strictly a change to your diet, giving up smoking can do nothing but improve your chances of conceiving. Sperm take 3 months to develop so giving smoking the elbow 3 months before trying is a great idea.
While there aren’t direct changes to your diet that will lower the temperature of your testicles, losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight is a good way to prevent one of the leading causes of overheating. In cases of obesity, the additional layers of fat can lay over the testicles and cause them to overheat. Overheated testicles won’t produce the right number or quality of sperm.
If there is an underlying infection that is causing a blockage or inflammation then the doctor should be able to diagnose it and provide the appropriate medication. This will often be in the form of antibiotics. If you’re already taking recreational drugs or steroids then you need to avoid these because they will also impact on the number and quality of sperm.
The more I trawled through the web, the more I discovered that there are hundreds of things that will ‘potentially’ improve your chances. Dozens of different theories have been proven to work in small samples. There are a few big red flags but really a lot more research needs to be done.
For example, as a cyclist, I was keen to learn if cycling was causing a low sperm count. I found some articles that suggested cycling was cooking my testicles and putting pressure that would restrict the blood flow to my testicles.
Ultimately, what I’m taking from the research is that I should do the things that I know to be healthy. I should avoid cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, obesity and other things that I know are bad for my health. However, I won’t be making major changes to how I live or how I commute, until there is some conclusive proof.
Thank you for reading and please feel free to comment with your own experiences?
In the first month of the blog, we talked about some of the ways that you could use to calculate when you’re ovulating, some of the most obvious signs and other things to consider. Well, we’re on to month two and I’m still not pregnant! So we have conducted yet more research and put together another post that will hopefully hope those at the same stage as us.
As mentioned, this month marks number two in our journey of trying to conceive. As part of that we have both done lots of reading up and research on how to improve our chances, and it seems that pinpointing that magic ovulation day is the key.
The 24 Hour Window
From the research, and a sketchy memory of GCSE Biology, ovulation tends to occur mid-cycle and is the day when your egg is released from the ovary and into the fallopian tube. It’s prime time for doing the baby dance so that sperm has the best chance of meeting the egg. Considering the egg only lives for a short window of around 24 hours, having sex a few days prior and on the day is vital for conception. The fertile window totals 6 days. 5 days for the lifetime of the sperm and 24 hours for the lifetime of the egg.
Personally I had no idea that the egg is only available for fertilisation within such a short period. Therefore, this month we have refined our strategy somewhat. Rather than focusing on a shorter period of a week in the run-up to what the fertility apps predict ovulation to occur, and having sex every day, we’re extending the period of time and have had sex every 2-3 days instead, to try and give the sperms enough time to re-generate. It turns out that having sex as often as possible isn’t the best for your sperm quantity and quality.
Get That Crystal Ball Out (Or Thermometer)
So how can you predict when ovulation occurs? Well, there’s a multitude of ways.
The simplest way is to start keeping a note of your period cycles; I started logging these last November when I stopped taking the pill. Looking back over my data, my cycle has ranged from 26 days, up to 32 days. Ovulation usually happens 12-16 days before your next period, which means each month the date of ovulation can differ slightly. This gives a good indication of the week you’re generally most fertile, but there are two days per month you reach peak fertility. Identifying these gives you the best chances of conceiving.
So in addition to tracking your cycle you will also need to start paying close attention to your body. Remember ever having extremely sticky, stretchy almost egg white discharge? I know I’ve had it in the past and definitely wondered what the cause was. Well wonder no more! It’s due to your body producing lots more oestrogen, triggering this mucus which helps and protects the sperm on its long journey to meet the egg. If you have the stomach for it then you can see what that mucus can look like on the BabyCentre.
Furthermore, ovulation can often cause slight cramping often on one side (the side you are ovulating from). This is called Mittelschmerz, which is German for middle pain and is caused by the maturation or release of an egg on from the ovary. Last month I think I had this pain which came slightly later than my apps predicted, and trusting the apps and not knowing all the signs we didn’t do any baby dancing during this time.
Next, you will need to buy a basal body thermometer which displays the temperature to two point decimals. This will be used to chart your temperature, which you will need to take first thing after waking up in the morning. Your temperature changes throughout your monthly cycle ever so slightly, as natural hormone fluctuations take place. During the first two weeks of your cycle, oestrogen is the more dominant hormone. And during the second half, once ovulation has taken place a rise is progesterone causes a rise in your body temperature as the uterus prepares to receive a fertilised, implantable egg. You can expect your basal body temperature to be lowest at ovulation, and then increase straight away around half a degree once you have ovulated.
After reading this, I was left wondering exactly what the point of using the thermometer was, as it kind of only seemed like a good way of knowing the horse had already bolted. After doing some more reading, it’s advisable that you chart your temperature for a few months so you can then more accurately predict your ovulation day. So I guess it is not completely pointless. Next month will be our first month using the thermometer, so it might do the trick!
What Is Your Cervix Up To?
Now this one probably isn’t for the squeamish out there, but is worth a go, especially if you are trying to speed up the TTC process or have been trying for a long time. When your body receives the heads up that your ovary is about to release an egg, it starts to prepare for the flood of sperm it expects to try to give your egg the best chance of being fertilised. The cervix, which is the passage between the vagina and the uterus starts to become softer and opens up a little to allow the sperm through.
It’s said that when you are not fertile the cervix feels like the tip of a nose, as opposed to when you are fertile and ovulating it feels like a soft pair of lips. Again, it will probably take a while for you to become familiar with your body, and what is normal for you. There is a WikiHow that explains how to feel your cervix in 9 simple steps, if you are interested in doing it, or getting your partner to try! See the steps here.
Get the Gear
Lastly, if you prefer a slightly less messy way of telling when is optimum time to have sex there are numerous ovulation predictor kits on the market. They work by detecting the surge of LH hormone in your urine, usually 12-24 hours before ovulation takes place. This is the final hormone which increases before ovulation occurs. The bump has taken a look at some of the best ovulation kits on the market if you want to give one of these a go.
I have peed on a number of these tests around the time the apps tell me I’m due to ovulate and have not once had the little smiley face in the window, which has become increasingly frustrating. So from this point onwards, I have officially given up pee sticks. They just leave me feeling a bit confused and sad, like a child that has learnt Santa isn’t real. From doing a little more research, I’m not the only person that is getting negative readings all the time.
Instead, I have invested in a basal body thermometer. The one I ordered is supposed to be all singing and dancing, complete with a daily alarm to remind you to take your temperature, and logs the data for 60 days to save messing around with paper charts and pencils first thing in the morning when you have just opened your eyes.
Also, the reviews were much better than the cheaper alternatives, and when it comes to such slight temperature shifts I think it’s best to buy the more accurate thermometer. It’s due to arrive in just a few days, so I’ll let you know how I get on over the course of the next month, if of course this month hasn’t been a success.
Hopefully there won’t be a third edition to this series of posts!
There are certain positions that will be harming your chance of conceiving.
You could be trying and trying but not getting anywhere.
Find out which are the best positions, some of the secrets and improve your chances of conception from reading a single article (about 5 minutes of your time).
So, now that we have decided to take the plunge into parenting. Chris and I needed to address one important question, what is the best sex position to get pregnant in?
If we are going to make a baby then we may as well do it right!
There are a few clues from popular culture, namely Phoebe tilting herself upside down on a sofa to “let gravity do its thing” (Friends reference). But is there really a best way? Humans have been having sex and making babies for thousands of years and while we have the tantric sex manual, there isn’t really the equivalent for getting pregnant.
In fact, many of the tantric positions are more likely to cause an injury than create a baby!
We’ve tested many of the positions for the benefit of you, our faithful readers.
Plus, before testing, I feel like we have trawled the web for every article, forum posts, YouTube, etc… for the conception secrets.
In our search, we have read dozens of articles on the subject and feel pretty well informed and able to share the summation of our research.
The Logic Behind – Pregnancy Inducing Sex Positions
I thought that before I was able to discover the best sex position for conception, I would have to first understand the logic behind my choices.
Were we looking for the position with maximum penetration that would give the sperm the shortest distance to travel?
Are we looking for a position that means the sperm stay heading in the right direction after they’ve embarked on their mission?
Is there a magic button inside me that I need to press that will give the sperm the shortcut to success?
Much to my amazement, there haven’t actually been many scientific studies into these sorts of things. I guess it is difficult to get mice to have sex in different positions!
In place of the scientific studies and research, there is mountains and mountains of anecdotal evidence.
Some of which I’m very suspicious of. In some cases, it looks like guys are posting in forums as women to then show their partner the post.
However, cutting through all the noise, it does seem that positions with deeper penetration that also allow for the sperm to stay in were more successful, at least anecdotally. Plus, if nothing else, you will get to have a bit of fun trying all the different positions!
Below are a selection of sexual positions that could help improve your chances (each position has a crude conception score):
Top 29 Sex Positions For Conception
#1 Doggy Style
Conception Score: 8/10
While this probably isn’t the most romantic and intimate way to conceive your baby, it could be one of the most effective. Doggy style opens up the cervix much more than some of the other positions, giving the sperm the best chance of reaching their destination.
It also allows for deeper penetration, meaning they have less distance to travel. Despite all of this supporting information, you may find, that like me, you might not want to conceive your first born by doggy style.
#2 The Missionary Position
Conception Score: 7/10
This is perhaps the most popular position in the world. I think in modern times, the missionary position gets a bad rap and is often considered to be the ‘vanilla’ position. A position for those that get their ideas for sex from the ‘love-making’ scenes in romantic movies rather than ‘other sources’.
However, that really couldn’t be further from the truth. While it is probably one of the easiest of the positions listed, it allows you to maintain eye contact with your partner and allows for enough penetration to boost your chances.
Laying on your back means the sperm will have a good chance of navigating their way through the cervix and your legs can be easily hoisted post-climax, to ensure none of the sperm leak out.
Really, if we are to be believe that this is the most popular position over the years then it stands to reason that it must be a good choice for conception because there are over 6 billion of us roaming the planet now.
Conception Score: 3/10
This is probably one of my least favourite sex positions anyway, so I was happy to learn that it isn’t exactly the best choice for conception. Spooning means that there is only minimal penetration and there isn’t the same opportunity for a deep thrust to finish. While some might find it to be a romantic choice, it isn’t going to get the job done, like some of the other positions on the list.
Conception Score: 8/10
As you might have thought from the image, this position isn’t one for the sexual novice and does require a degree of physical fitness from both the man and the woman. However, if you are able to try it then you are improving your chances of conception.
The plough allows for deep penetration, meaning the sperm don’t have as far to travel and if you remain in the position for a little while after, the sperm will have gravity to help them on their way. I would recommend that you make sure you’re both in a stable position before going for it (we learnt the hard way!).
#5 Woman On Top
Conception Score: 5/10
After you having been trying a while then this might be a popular choice for the man. There is some anecdotal evidence that suggests that this might not be the best position for conception. With the woman on top, gravity means that some of the millions of sperm can escape back out.
It is important to remember that millions of sperm are released in one ejaculation so even if thousands leak out, there are plenty more still heading in the right direction. I think the jury is still out on this position but it doesn’t have the same rave reviews as others.
In terms of getting pregnant though, this position allows for maximum penetration, lets gravity do its thing and will add a bit of spice to your sex life.
#7 The Anvil
Conception Score: 10/10
If you’ve mastered missionary and enjoyed happy baby, then the anvil might be the next one to try. In this position, your legs are drawn slightly further up and your hands are on the man’s arms or back. Again, this position allows for maximum penetration, prevents loss of sperm and with a pillow under your bum, will tilt your cervix the perfect amount.
#8 The Butterfly
Conception Score: 8/10
While missionary may be considered to be the ‘vanilla’ position, you’re quickly discovering that there are literally hundreds of ways to add a little spice to an old favourite. The butterfly probably can’t be considered as the most romantic way to conceive.
This position does require a surface that is about the same height as your partner’s waist, a table will normally do the job. Like the other effective positions, the butterfly allows for maximum penetration and allows gravity to do its job.
#9 The Cat
Conception Score: 7/10
This position isn’t just good for conceiving but is also shown to improve the chance of the woman orgasm. This variation of the missionary position has the man moving closer towards the woman’s shoulders and allow for permanent connection. Like the missionary position, the penetration is good for conceiving and you can quickly swing your legs into the air.
#10 The Cowgirl
Conception Score: 5/10
This position and its cousin mentioned below have become real fan favourites in recent years. While this position allows the woman to control the speed and depth, it is more difficult to achieve maximum penetration. While the clitorial simulation will be enjoyable, it isn’t improving the chance of your conceiving.
#11 The Reverse Cowgirl
Conception Score: 5/10
If the cowgirl is popular then the reverse cowgirl is really popular although, while I enjoy the position, I have to say that it is signficantly less personal. While the guy gets to admire his partner’s bottom, there isn’t the usual eye contact and the intimacy that comes with it.
#12 The Pretzel
Conception Score: 9/10
This option isn’t anywhere near as painful as it sounds. If you have the flexibility then this is a great position. You can enjoy the penetration of doggy style without the lack of eye contact. Plus, with the extra depth, you’re improving your chances of conception no end. This has quickly become one of our favourites.
#13 The Squat Thruster
Conception Score: 9/10
I think this is potentially the most intense position that I have ever tried. This requires a degree of fitness from the guy to keep squatting up and down and requires a degree of flexibility on the woman’s part. In this position, the guy really needs to be extra careful not to force himself down, all of that extra pressure will go on the woman’s neck and that is sure to be a real buzzkill.
In terms of conceiving, this position ticks all the boxes. Deeper penetration and the woman is already in a position to help the sperm head in the right direction. However, I don’t think it can be a regular choice. Maybe only special occasions.
#14 Downward Dog
Conception Score: 6/10
Yes, this is a very popular yoga position but it is also a sex position. This pose allows for the man to keep his weight off the woman with his arms while also controlling the speed and depth to help the fun last for a little bit longer. Like doggy, there is a good level of penetration in this position but you will have to be quick to ensure gravity doesn’t do its worst.
#15 Pole Position
Conception Score: 4/10
This is often considered to be a real fan favourite for women. By pressing up against your thigh will moving up and down, the woman gets twice the stimulation. From a conception point of view, this position isn’t the best, the penetration will often be a little limited and it is difficult to quickly move into a horizontal position afterwards. Still, it is good fun 🙂
#16 The Bicycle
Conception Score: 10/10
This another very intense position and another for which I would recommend treading a little carefully at first. You don’t want to go too hard too soon. In terms of trying to conceive, this position is perfect, it allows for really deep penetration. So deep that it might be a little bit too much to handle at first.
Ease into it and you’ll both enjoy it. Make sure you are always chatting with your partner, is the pressure, speed, etc… right for them. Yes you want to be in the moment but you always want to make it an awesome experience for both of you. Especially when trying to conceive.
#17 Iron Chef
Conception Score: 4/10
If you have ever dreamed about using your kitchen work surface for more than just chopping vegetables then the iron chef position could be a good place to start. From experience, your work surface does need to be at the right sort of height for this choice to work. While it is good fun, this one isn’t going to improve your chances of conceiving.
#18 The Wheelbarrow
Conception Score: 5/10
I have to say that we found this one virtually impossible. You’re too busy trying to stay aligned and upright that you can’t really do that much ‘thrusting’. We did have a laugh trying it out but I think you’d have to be very athletic to pull it off. To me, the calories burned during sex are a little bonus, not the reason I do it!
Due to how difficult it is to penetrate deeply, I don’t think this is the best choice when trying to conceive.
#19 The Waterfall
Conception Score: 4/10
This position really isn’t for the faint-hearted, you should be able to tell that just from the imagine above. To be honest, even if this was the best position for conceiving I wouldn’t be recommending it. However, if you’ve got bored while trying to conceive then it might be worth trying, just try not to land on the guy’s head.
The penetration is ok but with the blood rush to the head, the man will orgasm with less depth and vigour than normal.
#20 The Love Seat
Conception Score: 5/10
While I love the name of this position, I wouldn’t put it top of the list of positions that’ll help you make a baby. It is a really enjoyable position that allows you to both reach climax but there will be a lot of leakage after the event and there isn’t the same depth of penetration, as found in other positions.
#21 The Spin Cycle
Conception Score: 2/10
If I didn’t think the love seat was the right choice then the spin cycle definitely isn’t. I just couldn’t help but include it in the collection because just the idea of it brought a smile to my face. You basically do the love seat but on a washing machine, which is spinning. Choose the setting that you think you can handle!
#22 Stairway to Heaven
Conception Score: 3/10
There is just one more variation of the love seat is this collection. Again, I just absolutely loved the name and thought I had to pop it into the list. It is both a bit dangerous and not particularly fun, from personal experience.
However, if you want to try something a bit different that very few people will have probably tried then Stairway to Heaven could be the position for your next love making session.
#23 The Seated Wheelbarrow
Conception Score: 5/10
Like its cousin, featured as #18 in this list, I found the seated wheelbarrow to be a difficult pose to get right. It is definitely easier than the other version. It still puts a lot of pressure on the woman’s arms and it difficult to really move too much.
There is a good level of penetration but for the sheer difficulty and awkwardness. I don’t think this is the right choice when trying to conceive. For those who can master these more exotic positions, then it might be a different story.
#24 The Standing Dragon
Conception Score: 7/10
Again, I absolutely love the name of this position, it sounds so much more flamboyant than it actually is. The standing dragon is essentially doggy style with the woman on all fours on the bed. Like doggy style, this is a pose that you’ll both enjoy, is easy and has a good level of penetration when you’re trying to conceive. This one should definitely be added to your repertoire.
#25 The Restroom Attendant
Conception Score: 6/10
This position doesn’t have the same catchy name as the ‘Standing Dragon’. It is another variation of the ever popular doggy style. If you’re looking to test your sinks stability then this one is absolutely ideal. However, in terms of making a baby, this won’t be the best option for you. Nonetheless, it is fun and is great for a spontaneous moment of passion.
#26 The Couch Surfer
Conception Score: 8/10
This is yet another variation of the doggy style position. You can see that there isn’t a surface or object around the home that can’t be turned into a sex object. In this variation, the woman is bent over the edge of the sofa and penetrated deeply from behind.
I would suggest that you place something soft on the chair’s arm to prevent any friction burns (learnt this the hard way!!). It can be a quick and easy option with good penetration.
#27 The Mountain Climber (we call this the press-up)
Conception Score: 9/10
Surprisignly, this is the first position that we ever tried. It does seem a little exotic for a first time option but it is essentially missionary without the weight of the man on top of you. It does mean that the man needs some upper body strength but the reward for this extra effort is deeper penetration.
We still absolutely love this one and it is an added bonus that it improves your chance of conceiving.
#28 Face Off
Conception Score: 4/10
This is one of the most intimate positions in the whole list and really helps bring you closer to your partner. It would be one of the more passionate ways to conceive. However, the position doesn’t lend itself to penetration and there is a chance of the sperm escaping after the event. Nonetheless, for the luteal phase, this could be the perfect position to have some fun.
#29 The Lazy Man
Conception Score: 3/10
If your partner is tried from work and doesn’t feel like putting in the effort then this can be a great way to make it easy for him. The name really does say it all. Like the other positions with the woman on top, the chances of conceiving aren’t as high as with the male dominated position. Gravity and penetration depth don’t help this position’s chances of leading to conception.
While this is the conclusion of our list, there are literally hundreds of different ways to add a little spice to your baby making routine. There is no excuse for your sex life to become stale, even if there are set times and days! While getting the position right is important, there a number of other factors that will influence your chance of falling pregnant and some of them are detailed here.
Don’t Forget The Foreplay
It can be all too easy for baby making to take the fun out of your sex life. There are a few reasons that you need to be really careful that this doesn’t happen to you.
Firstly, you don’t want one of the most fun things you can do as a couple to become a chore. If you aren’t lucky enough to conceive in the first months then you could be having sex quite a lot, over a period of months.
If you don’t want this to be gruelling experience then get into the right habits at the start. Trying a range of these positions rather than doing the same thing is a good place to start.
Secondly, and potentially most importantly, heightened male arousal has been proven to increase sperm count in some cases. Rather than getting straight to it, it is worth taking the time to engage in a bit of light foreplay to get his juices flowing.
Thirdly, this is a time to enjoy and not a time to rush. Enjoy the time that you’re spending being intimate with your partner. Once you have achieved your goal, it won’t be as easy to maintain your sex life. Libido variations kick in and physical barriers are introduced, namely incredibly sore boobs.
Ultimately, you’re better to have sex 2-3 times a week. Making those times extra special rather than having half-hearted sex as much as you can. It will be better for your relationship, better for your mental state and you will have more chance of conceiving.
Are There Positions That Will Make It More Likely To Conceive A Boy or Girl?
As you might have expected, there is virtually no evidence to support the idea that a certain position will lead to a boy or girl. Firstly, I don’t see how you would actually be able to accurately test this and secondly, I don’t understand how the position could really make any difference? However, if you do want to test the theories out, then there are few a suggestions floating around:
If the woman orgasms first then there is a theory that an alkaline fluid is released that gives the male sperm a better chance of reaching their goal before their female counterparts.
Conceiving closer to the time of ovulation is more likely to produce a boy. This was a popular theory when conducting my research but I couldn’t find any scientific studies or evidence to actually support it, with the exception of Shettles Theory, which claims to be 75% accurate for boys and 80% accurate for girls. The logic behind this theory is that in a straight race, the male sperm will beat the female sperm.
There is then the Whelan method that completely contradicts Shettles theory and suggests biochemical changes early in the cycle make it more likely for a boy to be conceived. Really, there is no definitive answer.
Apparently, the higher the sperm count then the more likely you are to have a boy. So if you want a boy then do everything you can to raise that count.
There are even some people that suggest conceiving at night or on odd days of the month, is the way to guarantee having a baby boy!
These are just a selection of the anecdotal suggestions, I will leave it up to you to believe them or not. If you pick a particular theory then it does have a 50/50 chance of being right.
Does The Woman Need To Orgasm Too?
Considering that it is estimated that 75% of women don’t reach climax from penetrative sex alone, I think we would have a major fertility problem if this was the case. While it may make the whole experience a lot more fun and enjoyable, the female orgasm does nothing to help the sperm on their journey.
While gentle contractions in the womb will help the sperm along, these will take place with or without an orgasm.
Should I Stick My Legs In The Air After?
Logic would suggest yes, but there is a lot of conflicting evidence. By tilting your legs in the air and resting your bottom on a pillow, you’re achieving two things. Firstly, you’re preventing any sperm escaping out of the entrance they just came in! Secondly, you’re allowing gravity to potentially help the sperm move through your cervix.
Again, it is pretty hard to find any definitive scientific evidence to suggest this approach will help. Then again, it can’t hurt. If you’ve got a bit of spare time after sex then you may as well try it, particularly if you have been struggling to conceive.
How Much Sex Should We Be Having?
Popular opinion is that the more sex the better when it comes to making a baby. You have a small window each month, during which you should be making sure that every single sperm is going towards achieving your goal.
However, recent scientific studies have suggested that there is such a thing as having too much sex. If you’re suffering from fertility problems, like a low sperm count. Too much sex can impact on the sperm quality and quantity.
Conversely, a prolonged break from sex can also impact on the quality. The notion of storing the sperm for the month isn’t the right idea! If the sperm spend too long in the testies then their DNA can become damaged and they become less effective. The recommended approach is to have sex once every 2-3 days throughout the month when trying.
Limit Your Alcohol Intake
There are numerous studies linking alcohol with infertility problems. While you can still conceive while having a drink, and many people have, it does still impact on your chances. Drinking just 1 to 5 drinks a week can impact on fertility, while having more than 5 will have an even more adverse effect.
If you know you’re coming up to ovulation then it is a good idea to give yourself a break from the booze.
Avoid The Cigarettes
This is another vice that is said to have an impact on your ability to conceive. Again, this isn’t a barrier but does reduce your chances. Essentially, much of what is healthy for you in every day life is likely to improve your chance of conceiving. Smoking will reduce your chances and could damage the DNA of the sperm and/or egg.
The Final Word
There are hundreds of conflicting stories and articles about how best to improve your chances. You have to find what works for you. If you enjoy the missionary position then do missionary. If you’re feeling really adventurous then give the anvil or butterly a try.
While the position you choose might not have a huge impact, choosing to make healthy choices will. Exercising, eating right, avoiding the booze and not smoking will all give you that little bit extra chance of conceiving.
So this is our first month trying to conceive (TTC), and I feel like we have definitely given it our best shot! I used my normal period diary app which I have been using for the past year since I first came off the pill.
Update: We are into month two and haven’t been able to conceive yet so we have also put together another post detailing month 2’s ovulation research.
When did I ovulate?
According to this app I ovulated on Sunday. At the end of last week (on Friday) I scurried into Boots to purchase a pack of ClearBlue ovulation tests. I decided to start testing on the Friday as it is supposed to pick up the surge in LH hormone you produce as you approach ovulation, and suggests getting busy between the sheets within the next 48 hours to maximise your chances.
After taking the test I waited a while downstairs in the loo at work, but there was no smiley face. We decided to get busy in the evening anyway, cos you know, just in case. On Saturday morning, not to be too graphic but it seemed like I may have ovulated overnight. For the curious minds in the room here are the signs:
What are the signs of ovulation?
Usually 10-16 days before the start of your next period (mid-cycle, depending on length)
Cervical mucus changes.
Heightened sense of smell.
Breast soreness or tenderness.
Mild pelvic or lower abdominal pain.
Light spotting or discharge.
Changes in the cervix
I tested again, waiting for my smiley to appear. Nope, no smiley. Just an empty sad looking egg like shape.
Googling away, it seemed a lot of people had experienced this with these tests. Am I doing it right? I’m sure I read the instructions! Are you supposed to use the first wee of the day? It didn’t say in the leaflet, as apparently you produce more of the LH throughout the day and the best time to test is around midday.
Sunday, once again I tried the test, only to get the o symbol again. Ergh! So annoying, and it’s only the first month. How do people do this month in and month out? Patience has never been a strong point of mine, but I guess it’s all good practice right?
The ovulation calculator
I decided to download another app, called the Ovulation Calculator https://www.ovulationcalculator.com/ Unlike the period diary it allows you to enter your personal details; age, weight, height, whether you smoke or not and so on. It also gives you loads of information. I mean, it even had photos of a cervix on there and how it changes through the month. I did not know it resembled a very gross looking donut! Nor did I know it literally opens for like two days per month to let the salmons through. To contradict this, the period app said I was in my fertile stage as soon as my period was over.
The human body all seems a bit flawed right now- though I’m sure this perception will change over time.
Ovulation and gender selection
I even learnt about the Shettle theory that girls are generally conceived prior to ovulation, while boys are conceived on the day of ovulation- hence the covering all bases in the run up to ovulation, whatever bloody day it is!
Our sex life has turned into a bit of a science experiment, albeit an extremely fun one. And not to mention the over-analysis of any kind of twinge or symptom. Queue more Googling.
What are the early signs of pregnancy?
Tender, swollen breast. Your breasts may provide one of the first symptoms of pregnancy. …
Slight bleeding or cramping.
Nausea with or without vomiting.
Food aversions or cravings.
They really do seem like the most fun!
Am I feeling queasy? Am I going off certain foods (I couldn’t face my beloved peanut butter on toast on Friday morning) feeling dizzy-ish at the gym doing a dance based exercise class (was it just the lack of air con?) or like today, I’ve generally just felt fairly warm while everyone else at work was cold, and a bit spacey (but could it be I’m wearing glasses rather than contact lenses and I’m just not used to it?) The worst bit to come is the two week wait, or TTW as the people in the forums like to call it.
I wish I was one of those people that could just be like oh you know, we’ll just see what happens. But as Chris said, if we’re doing it, we’re doing it properly! No point dilly-dallying around, doing it at all the wrong times- so this week we’ll be powering through.
Though at the moment, the app says I’m very fertile, but the chances of putting a bun in the preverbal lady oven are at like 35%. I just don’t feel like they’re the strongest odds. Let alone if you were to leave it until you are over the fertility cliff face at the ripe old age of 35.
I’m working on the basis that it won’t happen the first month of trying; the ladies in the forums say if this happens to you you’re very lucky indeed. And in that case, we’ll just have a very fun Christmas and New Year, bubbles and all. And if we are very lucky, it will be the very best Christmas present of all.
I was never one of those girls who grew up dreaming of being a mummy. Ergh! Kids I always thought. We never had any babies in my family, or small kids, unlike my younger cousins who had loads on their Dad’s side. Consequently, both of them have or are currently in the process of having kids. Me and my sister? Clueless what to do with them.
Looking back, it’s not really surprising my mum lives in fear of never becoming a nanny. However, like mother like daughter. It was somewhat reassuring as I approached my late twenties that my mum was never very maternal either (she actually wanted a monkey before deciding to have me) and that my nan also panicked she would never have any grandchildren.
However, a few years ago something inside me changed, probably helped along by spending time with my little (then) niece. I’d babysit and we’d snuggle up on the sofa and watch Disney films together, or when I’d pick her up from school, she’d automatically reach up to hold my hand and start to tell me all about her day- more than she would tell her mum too.
It totally makes you appreciate the world from a child’s point of view, which is very refreshing, and actually quite a lot of fun. I mean, it’s also totally exhausting; and that’s just the endless questions, and not to mention when they won’t stop jumping on the sofa!
But I was definitely not ready for my own; despite looking at my cat and thinking, God if I love her this much it almost scares me how much I’ll love my kids. Lolz.
At 29 I was loving going out a lot, having fun with friends, doing my own thing and being totally selfish. There was also a lot of stuff I wanted to do before having kids; travel (tick!) go out to nice places (tick) have my own photography business (errr, nope but that’s totally fine!).
Fast forward a few years and things could not be more different. Mostly due to a new relationship. I didn’t go looking for someone to be a dad for my kids, but feel very lucky that it happened, well fingers crossed- and that he’s my bestie to boot! He’s kind, thoughtful, extremely supportive, responsible, bright, keeps me calm and even has a sick pack and GSOH too.
Is this what it means to be broody?
As the last year or so has ticked by, the thought of having my own family has almost constantly been on my mind, though always just out of reach. And just walking through the baby clothes section of any department store or supermarket literally makes my ovaries hurt (a fact which I kept very much between just me and a few girlfriends! It was the tiny frilly ankle socks that did it)
Yep, and while just the thought of giving birth makes me freak out a bit (a bit? well actually quite a lot, but I’ll be having ALL the drugs) but you know what’s scarier than that? Regret, and choosing to not let it happen at all.
I’ve become one of those people that tells themselves ‘every baby is different’, ‘everyone deals with it differently’ or “it’ll all be worth it” to “it’s just one day, then you have a child for the rest of your life” when your ever so supportive friends respond to your news with ‘God, are you not freaked out at the thought of pushing it out?’
So recently, we kind of made the leap of faith into the unknown and officially started trying-I think? And it is a very weird feeling, unlike anything else I’ve ever felt before. Knowing that someone you love, loves you that much that they’re willing to do all of that to make you happy- to give you what you’ve always wanted is pretty amazing.
And you know what it’s also kind of a turn on too! (yea, no one’s ever told me about that part either! But according to Netmums it’s normal!- they say to just enjoy this time together which I’m happy to do).
And I feel like it’s bought us really close, despite being utterly nerve wracking- queue pregnancy test stick dropping down the loo all fingers and thumbs, shaking while waiting for the little line/s to develop (it didn’t, queue relief as I wasn’t ready for it to happen that quickly!)
It’s a very exciting, scary, yet very happy time (bar salmon angst- as Chris has dubbed it- the fear his salmons (sperm) doesn’t work).
Conception aka sexytimes!
I wonder will we be one of the lucky 30% who conceive in the first cycle? Or will we fall into the vast majority that are pregnant within the three months? I’m ok with either, it’s almost as if I just want someone to make the decision for me. At my age, from my research it says that we have a 40% chance of convieving in the days leading up to or on ovulation (down 10% pre-30 years old, wah!).
I’ve heard everything from “it happened the first time we tried, I just peed on one of those ovulation sticks” to “it happened much sooner than we expected, we thought it would take a year” and “it took us nine months, we were doing it at all the wrong times” to often the stories which aren’t as openly discussed.
The friend of a friend that kept putting it off, choosing a big holiday, brand new car or new sofa instead, who then ended up trying and failing their one attempt at IVF. Or the colleague you can’t help yourself but speculate over “I’m sure she said she was trying” that was the plan two years ago and she’s still sans-child, despite achieving all the grown up things you’re supposed to have achieved before having kids.
Consequently, I never thought I would share my plans; for fear of speculation, judgement, jealousy. But it was too much to keep to myself, classic Jo, choosing just a few to share my big news. But I will definitely be keeping my sex schedule from my mum, that’s for sure.