In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week coming up April 18-24, we are answering all of your questions about infertility, trying to conceive, and yes, even the questions you may feel too embarrassed to ask.
We understand that sometimes it feels uncomfortable to ask questions (for the record, we’ve heard it all so please don’t be bashful) and that searching online might be more appealing. Go ahead and ask Dr. Google, then circle back with an experienced physician. Falling down the internet rabbit hole can be scary at times, and while we encourage you to be informed, don’t diagnose yourself or start to panic based on an article you’ve read.
Here are six questions I often hear from patients:
We're trying to conceive. Is acupuncture helpful?
Acupuncture is a holistic approach that is beneficial to help manage stress. There is evidence that suggests acupuncture may increase the chances of success for an embryo transfer. While other benefits are touted for acupuncture, there is no medical data to support them. I recommend undergoing an evaluation by a physician to uncover and diagnose any fertility issues that may be present. Once you have a better understanding of what’s going on in your body, you can pursue fertility treatment and acupuncture as a combined approach.
Are there foods or a diet that can increase my chances of conceiving?
It has been widely established via medical research that couples following a Mediterranean diet have improved fertility treatment outcomes. This is a whole-foods diet relying mostly on fish and seafood as the main source of animal proteins and on plant-based sources of fats such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil. Opt for lots of fruits and veggies but aim for low-pesticide options. Avoid red meat, trans-fats, and high-glycemic carbohydrates such as white bread and short-grain rice.
Can I drink alcohol during fertility treatment?
For those having more than seven servings of alcohol per week, it is beneficial to cut back when trying to conceive. The evidence for moderate alcohol consumption (less than 7 serving per week) versus no alcohol consumption is a topic of debate. Some studies correlate having one glass of wine per day with better pregnancy outcomes. In my opinion, fertility treatment is a stressful process, and it’s not the time to cut out your daily glass of wine if you really want it. If you consume moderately, you’re okay. Once you complete treatment and/or become pregnant, cease alcohol consumption.
Can I have sex during fertility treatment?
Sex is encouraged for the most part because it increases intimacy and decreases the “medical aspect” of trying to conceive. While it is okay to have protected intercourse or other forms of sex (oral, touch, masturbation) for pleasure and intimacy, in some instances, it’s best to abstain. It is not recommended during an embryo transfer because an orgasm could lead to uterine irritability, which could interfere with embryo implantation. If you are completing fertility treatment, circle back with your provider on this topic.
What should I do if my partner has erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction may be the result of physical and/or psychological causes. Heart disease, obesity, low testosterone, stress, anxiety and depression are known risk factors. Should these factors be at play, I typically refer a patient to a urologist that specializes in male fertility.
Erectile dysfunction during your fertile window may also be performance anxiety, which is usually benign and self-limited. It may be managed by patience and decreasing the frequency of intercourse to every other day (as opposed to daily). If you’re considering testosterone supplementation as a remedy, don’t. Testosterone supplementation will interfere with sperm production and make it impossible for pregnancy to occur as a result.
Can you still get pregnant if your periods are irregular?
Periods that are less than 24 or more than 35 days apart are considered irregular. While pregnancy is possible with irregular periods, it is unlikely. Sperm would need to be present within the short fertile window to conceive, which is hard to pinpoint with irregular periods.
Sometimes there can be dyssynchrony between the timing of ovulation and the state of the uterine lining due to period irregularities, which will interfere with conception. For this reason, it is best to consult with a physician prior to trying to conceive if you have irregular periods. Common causes include polycystic ovary syndrome, obesity, excessive exercise, low body weight, and endocrine diseases such as thyroid disease and high prolactin levels.
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