First of all let me start by saying that I am absolutely not an expert on fertility – at all. I also want to make it clear that as far as we are aware we don’t have any fertility problems and I know there are lots of families out there who do have fertility issues. By no means do I mean to offend anyone with this post by making it seem overly simplistic, I simply wish to share what small changes we are making to our lives that we hope will improve our health and subsequently boost our fertility. I think it’s valuable to share this because I know we’re not the only people out there trying to expand our family.
Before we lost Beatrice I didn’t even give the topic of fertility a second thought, I just presumed I was a fabulously fertile female. I swatted away thoughts of biological clocks because time was on my side, I paid absolutely no attention to the regularity of my period and I took the light and breezy attitude of “it will happen when it happens”. To be honest my main concern after we both knew we wanted to try for a baby was that it didn’t happen before our annual ski trip so that I could drink mulled wine on the slopes (praying no holiday insurance companies are reading this). I don’t think that any of what I used to think was the wrong or bad way to approach things, after all we got pregnant straight away, but fast forward 12 months and my mind is in a very different place.
For Jamie and I, losing Beatrice completely highlighted how much we really wanted a family of our own. One of the first questions we asked our midwife was how long will the post-mortem results take to come back and do we have to wait a set time before trying again. We didn’t and don’t want to replace Beatrice, we just really want a family. Only this time round we are so much more aware of how delicate pregnancy is and the fact that “the miracle of birth” is not just a mere expression anymore.
I’ve, unintentionally, come across all kinds of information that talks about fertility rates and complications over the age of 30 and it doesn’t make me feel good. I know I’m only just 30 and I shouldn’t be worried, but I am now all too aware of worst case scenarios. And after losing Beatrice we both feel we now want a large family, so we better get to work because that clock is ticking!
So what are we doing differently this time?
- Well to start with one of the first things I did once my periods restarted was to record them. This is one of those things that I used to think – do not let me ever be one of those women obsessed with their menstrual cycle, whereas now I realise why people do obsess. And I actually wouldn’t really call knowing your cycle obsessive, if anything it was short-sighted of me not to pay more attention before. Why wouldn’t I want to know something so basic about myself? I’ve also read up a bit more on how the menstrual cycle works. Because hands up, who really remembers GCSE/A-level biology? So yes, I am now much more aware of my monthly cycle.
- We’ve recently bought ovulation sticks which you pee on daily to determine which days you’re most fertile. Much like recording my menstrual cycle this is something I didn’t want to do as I didn’t want to obsess about getting pregnant. But after a talk at the weekend we decided it was too upsetting each month to not be pregnant and so maybe a bit of careful planning will help. We haven’t actually tried them yet, but we’re hoping that they help us get pregnant quicker, without taking the fun out of it!
- One of the most obvious things which I’ve done is to pretty much cut out alcohol. To be honest, after Beatrice died I haven’t really had a taste for it (I used to love a good gin or a glass of red) and I also haven’t wanted to drink a lot as alcohol acts as a depressant and I don’t want to make myself feel worse. I had a few glasses of champagne at Christmas and some wine with dinner on Jamie’s birthday but that’s been it.
- Caffeine, oh my good friend caffeine. Actually not even caffeine just PG tips. I would give up alcohol forever, but I couldn’t give up my PG. I don’t like water, so I drink tea as if it were water. Eight cups a day is the aim right? Nope, not anymore, I’ve reduced my PG intake down to two cups a day, three at the very maximum. Sigh. Some people might be reading this and thinking so what it’s only a cup of tea, but it really is my go to for fluid intake. I usually like two cups in the morning to wake me up, various cups throughout the day, always one with my lunch and one before bed to relax me! So reducing my caffeine intake has been a big change. Once pregnant high levels of caffeine continue to affect the baby, putting baby at risk of low birth weight and foetal growth restriction. Jamie has also drastically reduced his caffeine intake (he was keeping Nescafe in business) because there is research to show that it’s not just the mother’s caffeine intake which can increase the risk of miscarriage while trying to conceive, but the father’s sperm can be affected too. If you’re curious as to how much caffeine you’re consuming whilst trying to get pregnant or maybe you are pregnant, go on the Tommy’s website and they have a caffeine calculator which you can use to both depress and educate yourself with. So yes, tea is being swapped for sugar-free cordials, hot lemon and honey or hot chocolate, but definitely not caffeine-free tea bags. I tried those when I was pregnant with Beatrice and they were awful. Thankfully I went off tea completely in the end, so this saved me from the dreaded decaff.
- Diet is obviously another big factor. I don’t mean going on a diet to lose weight, what I mean by this is improving my every day food choices to give my body extra nutrition. I don’t think I had any particularly bad eating habits before if I’m honest, with the exception of leftover Christmas chocolate overload, but instead I’m now just more aware of what is going into my body. We’re eating a lot more fruit (I love veg but not so keen on fruit) in smoothies, on porridge and as snacks – instead of biscuits. We’re also eating a lot more vegetarian meals, more to reduce our consumption of animals not necessarily for fertility reasons, but a reduction in red and processed meat is good for health in general. Without sounding really boring what you put in really does make a difference to the health of not only your physical health, but also your mental health. After losing Beatrice we’ve both recognised the link between eating well and feeling better. Don’t get me wrong food doesn’t fix grief, but eating a balanced diet has definitely helped to reduce low moods, mood swings and exhaustion. Plus the added bonus is my skin has been staying lovely and clear.
- I’ve been taking folic acid tablets daily since we received the all clear from the post-mortem results. This isn’t something I did last time (only taking them after a positive test) as I was unaware that it was recommended that you let it build up in your system first before conception. But this time round I will be ready!
- And finally we come to exercise. Like it or loathe it, its benefits for both the body and mind cannot be disputed. I’m not really a huge fan to be honest, but what it comes down to is picking your poison. Jamie has started doing a bit of jogging and cycling, whereas I’m more of a 1.5 – 2 hour brisk walk with the dogs kind of person. What we’ve both found though is that the mix of open space, fresh air and endorphins from exercising outside has been paramount for our mental health and helping us to relax and de-stress.
Will any of this really help our fertility? I don’t know, only time will tell. What I do know is that when we do get that positive test result it’ll be both exciting and terrifying, with one thing being certain that we’ll want to know we are doing everything within our power to give that little one the best chance at life.