About days after fertilisation, the embryo begins to implant itself into the endometrium. This may show as a period that is slightly late, or heavier than usual. As soon as the embryo begins to attach itself to the endometrium, it releases a hormone called human chorionic gonadatrophin HGC , the so called pregnancy hormone.
This signals the empty follicle to continue producing progesterone; oestrogen levels also continue to rise. By 14 days after fertilisation, the embryo is secure in the endometrium. Miscarriage becomes less and less likely as the pregnancy progresses. One in five women suffer from multiple cysts on their ovaries, but this should not be confused with PCOS, where the cysts are caused by a hormone imbalance, and are accompanied by other symptoms. Obesity is a significant factor in this disease, and consequently PCOS is often treated with hormone treatment and weight reduction.
This accounts for a fifth of female infertility, and is prevalent in women aged between 30 and 40 who have not had children. In can be asymptomatic, with the woman unaware that she has the condition until, for example, it is revealed by a laparoscopy investigating other problems. In other woman, the symptoms can be severe, giving, amongst other things, extremely painful periods, pain during penetrative sex, and painful bowel movements. It will obviously interfere with fertility if it results in scarring and adhesions to the ovaries or fallopian tubes.
However, little appears to be understood about how mild endometriosis can adversely affect conception. One argument is that the condition is related to a hormone imbalance, which somehow affects the chemical balance in the vagina, making it increasingly hostile to sperm. It is currently treated by surgery, where the affected areas are burned off by laser, depending on the severity of the condition, or hormone treatment preventing ovulation, or a combination of both. No one really knows why miscarriage of a pregnancy happens, but doctors suspect:. This can happen at any age, and may be caused by serious damage to the ovaries from infection, radiation or drugs used in the treatment of cancer.
It may also be caused by the sufferer being born with fewer eggs than normal, or a tendency to release a greater number of eggs than normal at ovulation. Doctors suspect that autoimmunity may be a significant factor in as many as half the cases, but this is not as yet properly understood.
Unlike women, who are born replete with all their ova in situ, men do not begin to produce sperm until puberty. Instead, the male produces all sex hormones simultaneously, and continually. The hypothalamus sends LH-RH to the pituitary, signalling it to send out FSH and LH to the testicles, which in turn stimulate the testicles to make the male hormone testosterone.
Although testosterone controls the sex drive and is often associated with virility, if it is produced in too great a quantity it can inhibit the production of FSH, which in turn will reduce sperm production. It is therefore a great misconception to associate high virility with high fertility. However, it is a long and difficult journey, and only around a few hundred remaining sperm will make it into the uterus.
To begin, the vagina and the mucus which covers the cervix the entrance to the uterus can be extremely hostile to sperm, and many will die trying to get through the cervix. Once inside the uterus, sperm will continue to die or make the wrong decision, for example, turning up the wrong fallopian tube, when the egg is actually waiting in the other tube. Only a few dozen sperm will actually reach the waiting egg.
If there is no egg yet, the sperm can survive inside the tube for up to three days until a ripe egg appears. Due to various factors, average sperm counts have dropped dramatically since the s, and now normal male fertility is assessed at 20 million sperm per millilitre of semen. In addition, it appears that quality and quantity are linked, and men with a low sperm count frequently produce poor quality sperm.
Quality is assessed in terms of motility the ability to swim and morphology the shape of the sperm cell. A sperm must be able to swim quickly through the hostile vagina, and be able to penetrate the cervical mucus, so ability to move is obviously important.
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Morphology is important because abnormally shaped sperm may not be capable of fertilisation, or if they are, the pregnancy may miscarry, or result in birth defects. This can mean one of three things:.
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Although for mainstream medicine this problem remains much of a mystery, alternative practitioners tend to treat it as a product of imbalances of energy or malnutrition, a severe vitamin and mineral deficiency, allergy or the presence of harmful toxins. Most couples experiencing problems with conceiving approach their family doctor as their first port of call.
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The GP should be able to establish whether there is a problem, by carrying out a number of fairly routine tests. However, in the absence of any obvious problem, it may be the case that the GP will be reluctant to begin any investigation at this stage.
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As it can take the average couple anything up to a year to conceive, and longer if the woman is over thirty when fertility levels begin to decline the GP may well advise the couple to go away and try naturally for at least another year. Whilst this may be sound advice for many couples, it can be incredibly frustrating for those still experiencing problems, especially given that serious investigations might be delayed for anything up to 18 months. However, couples should insist on immediate investigation where there are past problems with:.
As a woman trying to conceive one of the most obvious methods is to chart your Basal Body Temperature. The basal body temperature is one of the indicators of ovulation.
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This is often the first to be suggested by doctors and even women who have been unable to conceive for years could be asked to chart their BBT when they approach a medical practitioner for help. Fertility Awareness means understanding your reproductive system by observing and writing down fertility signs. These signs determine whether or not you can become pregnant on a given day. You are actually fertile during only about one-fourth of your menstrual cycle.
Worldwide, the basal body temperature method is the oldest and most widely practiced Fertility Awareness Method. Every woman is different and your temperature may vary from the norm, but most women ovulate release an egg from the ovary at about day 14 of their menstrual cycle, plus or minus 2 days.
The egg is viable for about 1 day, and sperm can live for days.
The female cycle
Make a chart and keep a daily calendar record of your temperature. Specifically, you should use a basal body temperature thermometer which reads your temperature in easily readable tenths of a degree. Take your temp by mouth, and make sure you do this for the same amount of time, around 5 minutes, each morning, immediately after waking and before getting out of your bed.
Also at the same time write down your results. On the same record, chart your menstrual cycle, beginning with day 1 as the first day of your period. If possible, chart your temperature pattern for a few months before relying on it. Your most fertile days are those just before your temperature begins to rise during ovulation. A monthly change in your basal body temperature is one of the signals that all may be well with your ovulatory functions, as progesterone increases a slight increase in temp should occur.
This change could be as slight as 0. Once that temp rise has occurred, a woman may have missed the opportunity to conceive This leads to the importance of charting for several cycles in a row, to suggest a pattern. Most doctors would suggest a woman keep track of her BBT for a minimum of three months.
The end chart will give you an idea of whether or not you are ovulating on a typically regular basis. It may also give you some idea of when your most fertile days are during the average month. It is not uncommon for your BBT to be influenced by a number of factors: physical activity, alcohol intake, amount of rest, medicines, etc. So make a note of any and all of these factors when you are charting. Understanding this very basic fertility-prediction method is a simple, yet crucial step in empowering yourself on your journey.
Most doctors and family planning clinics can help you learn more about basal body temperature charting and other Fertility Awareness Methods and offer advice on charts and thermometers. Acupuncture works towards optimum health for both partners to improve the chances of a natural conception. This includes hormonal balancing and the freeing of blocked energy that may be preventing conception or weakening the organs that support conception. Period problems and general health issues such as stress insomnia and digestive disorders are also addressed. And acupuncture can also be used to support other methods of fertility and to help reduce any side effects of IVF.
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