Baby, Lifestyle, Pre-Conception

TTC: Cycle three update

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 😉

Baby, Lifestyle, Pre-Conception

Having Twins – What Are The Secrets?

A Heart Warming Story: http://www.nigerianmonitor.com/nigerian-couple-welcome-sextupletssextuplets-born-after-17-years/

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.

Your Lifestyle

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.

Your Height

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.

Fertility Treatment

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.

Your Age

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.

Since 1980, the rate of twin deliveries has climbed by over 52%, with over 100,000 twin births annually.

Race

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.

When looking at a global level, it is central Africa that has the highest twinning rate. Benin has a huge 27.9 twins per 1,000 births. In developing nations, the average twin rate is 13.6 per 1,000 births.

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.

Conceiving While Breastfeeding

There seems to be a real connection between the chance of conceiving twins and breastfeeding. One source suggested that the rate of twins rose from 1.1% to 12.4% when conceiving while breastfeeding. There is an interesting discussion on MadeforMums about the link between breastfeeding and twins.

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.

Eating Dairy

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.

 

Lifestyle, Pre-Conception

Fertility Boosting Recipes

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;

Japanese inspired rice bowl

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:

Method: 

  1. Cook wholegrain rice according to the packet instructions, you know the drill; one cup rice, two cups water
  2. Chop up some radishes and throw into a large bowl
  3. Take a peeler and turn three carrots into ribbons
  4. Follow suit with half a cucumber
  5. Throw some soy sauce or ketjap manis over your veggies
  6. 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
  7. Stir all of this together and combine with your rice when cooked
  8. 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.

Method: 

  1. Chop up an onion, and simmer in some coconut oil
  2. 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
  3. Grate a courgette and throw into your pan
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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.

Method: 

  1. Chop up your onion and place into a deep saucepan along with some coconut oil
  2. 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)
  3. Fry gently until the onions start to soften and of course, add some garlic
  4. Tip in a tin of lentils followed by a tin of chopped tomatoes and simmer for 20 mins
  5. 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.

Method:

  1. 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.

  1. Next chop up some onions or spring onions, depending on what is in the cupboard or fridge and gently shallow fry
  2. Add some diced yellow or red peppers
  3. 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)
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Lifestyle, Pre-Conception

Improving Fertility With Your Diet (Over 50 Everyday Foods To Help)

fertility roadblock

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.

For Women

Menstruation Phase

Follicular Phase

Ovulation Phase

Luteal Phase

Other Diet Considerations

For Men

Sperm Abnormalities

Low or No Sperm Count

Summary

Dietary Secrets For Women

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.

Studies have also shown that combining your increased iron intake with a bit of extra vitamin C will help aid absorption. Conversely, alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods can make the bleeding even heavier.

The heavier the bleeding, the more iron you’re losing.

What Is The Follicular Phase & Why Should You Care?

This is the first phase of your period. It starts at the end of your previous period and ends when you ovulate.

The key part during this phase is the build-up of your follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH stimulates the ovaries to provide 5-20 follicles which each house an immature egg.

Due to the build up of this hormone, gradually the follicles mature and ultimately one egg is released from the most mature follicle.

follicle

Sadly, often the other follicles die!

Although in some cases more than one mature follicle can be released. This can lead to fraternal twins.

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:

vitamin e rich foods
DrAxe Infographic

You can see their full article on vitamin E foods here: https://draxe.com/top-10-vitamin-e-rich-foods/

The Ovulation Phase – The Main Event

I have to admit before doing the research for this article, I hadn’t realised just how many vitamins and minerals there are that play a role in conceiving.

How people were able to get pregnant before all of the science became available on the Internet?

By making these changes and improving by a percentage point at a time then we’re improving our chances.

Even though we can’t ever reach 100% 🙁 Or even 50%!

I used to view the ovulation phase as the most important.

I naively thought, “this is the main event”. This is the time when the sperm aren’t just going for a swim, they’re going for a swim with a goal in mind.

Sperm with a purpose.

Foods To Nail Your Ovulation Phase

At this time of the month, the focus is on ensuring your egg has all it needs to have a healthy release of the egg and to encourage implantation.

Essential fatty acids play a vital role. Essential fatty acids play a vital role in stimulating blood flow in your ‘special place’ and allow the follicle to open, to release the egg.

You will need to get used to having more essential fatty acids in your diet because they’ve been proven to help with your baby’s heart, eye and brain development.

omega-3-health-benefits
Source: https://www.top10homeremedies.com/

While omega 3 is the fatty acid that is best known, you shouldn’t be forgetting about omega 6 and omega 9. Each of the three fatty acids have a role to play.

Chia seeds and flaxseeds are great source of omega 3. Nuts and seeds like walnut and sesame seeds are a great source of omega 6.

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:

9-Ways-To-Boost-Progesterone-Infographic-1
Resource from: https://www.hormonesbalance.com/articles/10-natural-ways-to-boost-progesterone-balance-hormones/

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:

glycemic-index-table
Source: https://healthiack.com/health/glycemic-index-chart

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:

  • Cakes
  • Biscuits
  • Breakfast sandwiches
  • Popcorn
  • Frozen pizza
  • Fried fast food
  • Doughnuts

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’:

  • Coconut
  • Avocado
  • Dark chocolate
  • Some nuts
  • Salmon
  • Olive oil
  • Flaxseed

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’.

Caffeine

Caffeine-in-Beverages

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:

  • Sperm abnormalities
  • Low sperm count
  • Lack of sperm
  • Premature ejaculation
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Retrograde ejaculation

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

Sperm abnormalities can be anything to do with your sperm morphology, referring to the size and shape of your sperm.

You want to have a minimum of 4% healthy ‘normal’ 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:

poor-sperm-morphology-1024x723
Source: https://www.conceptfertility.co.uk/causes-of-infertility/causes-of-male-infertility/poor-sperm-morphology/

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
  • Recreational drugs
  • Caffeine
  • Tobacco
  • Genetics
  • Weight

All of the above factors will increase the chance of your sperm having abnormal qualities.

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.

alcohol impacts

Recreational Drugs

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.

A study by European Urology suggested that the impact on sperm morphology is worst for moderate to heavy smokers.

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!

Genetics

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.

Low Sperm Count

A low sperm count (oligozoospermia) is when a man has fewer than 15 million sperm per millilitre of semen.

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:

  1. Smoking
  2. Heat
  3. Intercourse
  4. Weight
  5. Alcohol
  6. Genetic problem
  7. Genital infections
  8. Surgery
  9. Some medications

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.

Smoking 

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.

Alcohol

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.

Heat

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:

  1. Hot tubs
  2. Laptops on your lap
  3. Cycling
  4. Cooking
  5. Tight fitting clothes
  6. Obesity
  7. Fever
  8. Undescended testicles

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.

Intercourse

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.

Genetic Conditions

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.

Final Note

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.

In contrast, a large study referenced on the BabyCentre suggested that for amateur cyclists, there was no link between cycling and infertility. LiveStrong goes further by suggesting that it is only prolonged cycling or cycling on rough terrain that’ll impact on your fertility.

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?

All the best,

Chris

 

 

Baby, Lifestyle, Pre-Conception

And so it begins…

maternal instinct

The maternal instinct

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?

my turn

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)

Childbirth

water breaking

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!

 

intimacy

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.

Baby, Lifestyle, Pre-Conception

Am I Ready To Have A Baby?

family

To be honest, as a youthful 27 year old, this wasn’t a question that I was expecting to have to ask myself. Up until the past year or so, I don’t think it crossed my mind once and why would it? As recently as two years ago, the main question on my mind was how I could better optimise my Tinder profile!

Thinking about it more broadly, I’ve only just been getting a good handle on looking after myself, so the prospect of looking after someone else is slightly intimidating. Plus, if I walk into a lamppost (it happens) then I might have a bit of a headache but I’ll get over it. If my future baby bashes its head into something then I might be condemning it to a life working in McDonald’s. I wasn’t in a place to be protecting myself and a baby against the hazards of the world, lampposts included.

Yep, after a brief 5 minute day dream, weighing up the pros and cons, I’d decided. I’m not ready at all and that thought needs to go back to the depths of my sub conscious, along with GCSE French.

Fast forward around 12 months and this somewhat worrying question had sprung out of my subconscious and Jo and I were deciding if now was the right time to start trying.

Now I’m a very logical person, most of the time, so it seemed like there should be a few criteria that we should tick off before deciding. I must add that these criteria are personal to me and you guys can have whatever criteria you want:

#1 Your Relationship – Do I See Myself With Jo Forever?

relationship

While a marriage is very much not forever, a child definitely is. A marriage can be annulled or you can get a divorce. In fact, with over 50% of marriages ending in divorce, is seems like it has become the social norm. I bet at the singles events for the over 40s, not having been married and divorced is probably a big red flag! Why haven’t you been divorced? What’s wrong with you?

Anyway, I digress. A child isn’t something to be annulled or divorced and I think that having a couple of stable happy parents is vital to any child’s development. Jo and I were both lucky to be raised in happy environments but you do see how it could have been different. Documentaries like Eastenders and Coronation Street really do open your eyes.

After a split second of deliberation, yes, I did see myself with Jo forever, onto the next criteria.

#2 – Do I Want To Have A Baby?

do i want to have a baby?

I guess for me, one of the most important clues as to whether I was ready for a baby was whether I actually wanted one. Until a couple of months ago I could have probably given you a long list of reasons to not want a baby but would struggle to cobble together a few reasons why I’d want a baby.

Now, the scales have very much tipped the other way. I’m at a different stage in my life. While I was never a party animal, I do now find myself longing for home comforts even more than I did in the past. Spending a night in watching some sort of David Attenborough nature programme while snuggled up on the sofa is my idea of a good night.

Rather than just being scary and intimidating, the idea of having a baby is now also exciting. It is still incredibly scary and intimidating, and that’s just Jo’s potential mood swings! But, it comes with so many more possibilities and the opportunity to share that experience with Jo. So, to answer the question, yes I do want to have a baby.

#3 – Are We Financially Secure?

Financial security

This is one of the criteria that is more important to some people than it is to others. From my perspective, I lived a relatively spoilt childhood and I loved my childhood. I wouldn’t want my child to every have to worry about money and whether they could or couldn’t go on the school trip. I wouldn’t want them to be the kid to have the gadgets from 5 years ago or the coat with holes in. Or the holidays to Bognor!

I know this makes me sound like a terrible snob and perhaps I am but I just wouldn’t want my child to have to experience that. Kids can be brutal and if they have inherited Jo’s toes then they have enough on their plate!

While you can always be better off, we’re financially secure and would be able to cope with an extra one

#4 – Do We Have The Support Network?

support network

What do I mean by this? I mean do we have the friends and family around us to help us through the inevitable ups and downs. Again, this is something that some people wouldn’t consider to be important and it isn’t really something that you are able to fix and work on. If your parents are naff then your parents are naff, you’re not going be able to turn them around.

Still, it is at least reassuring to know that both Jo and I have a great set of friends and family that will be able to help us through it all. I must admit, I am slightly concerned by how stressed and worried Jo’s mum will become but we’ll have to deal with that problem when we come to it. I also think there will have to be some kind of aptitude test for potential baby sitters. While some friends may be willing, they’re probably not as capable as you’d want them to be!

That’s it, those were my four criteria and we’d passed all of them. Even by working through the criteria, I’d been able to calm myself immeasurably. I always have to work through an idea and a change to then become comfortable with it. The idea of having a baby is still incredibly scary, the idea of trying and failing is somewhat nerve-racking and pregnant Jo is terrifying but at least I know we have a solid basis for wha