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Matters of Fertility & Infertility

I knew a woman some years ago who swore she got pregnant every time she had intercourse. Her husband was in the military and deployed. He came home on a 48-hour leave for the wedding and she got pregnant. A year later, another weekend visit resulted in her second child, and the third was born nine months to the day he came back home.

Her story made for some fun chit chat at a baby shower, but another woman attending wasn’t joining in. She and her husband had been trying to get pregnant and at that point hadn’t been successful.

WebMD’s website has an ovulation calculator. You plug in the date of your last period and it gives you the dates of your “fertile window” as well as the approximate date of ovulation.

Healthline.com gives you 17 ways to boost your fertility with the claim that “diet and lifestyle changes can help boost fertility by up to 69 percent.” They recommend a diet rich in antioxidants for both the male and female; eating a larger breakfast to boost hormones; reducing trans fats, carbs and high fat dairy while eating more fiber and getting more exercise. Not a bad diet for any of us, right?

“A large observational study suggests that in the U.S., 12 percent of ovulatory infertility is due to being underweight, while 25 percent is due to being overweight. This is because the amount of fat stored in your body influences menstrual function,” Healthline says.

So if you tip the scales on the heavy side, you should lose those pounds and gain them if the opposite is true. That makes sense.

They also recommend increasing iron intake, which you can do with supplements or better yet by eating iron-rich foods (don’t forget the spinach), and taking a multi-vitamin.

“One study found that women who took multivitamins had up to a 41 percent lower risk of infertility. For women trying to get pregnant a multivitamin containing folate may be especially beneficial,” Healthline says.

My recommendation is to talk to your healthcare provider for the best advice about how to get pregnant, or how to avoid it if you so wish. And, this week’s unabashed plug: Sandpoint Women’s Health (208-263-2173) is accepting new patients.

One can assume that one is fertile unless proven otherwise. So, how do you determine whether or not you can conceive?

“In general, infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant after one year (or longer) of unprotected sex,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. “Because fertility in women is known to decline steadily with age, some providers evaluate and treat women aged 35 years or older after six months of unproductive sex.”

You do know how simple conception is, don’t you? The woman’s body releases an egg, the man’s sperm joins with the egg which then goes through the fallopian tube to the uterus where it attaches to the inside of the uterus and grows into a baby. Infertility occurs when there’s a problem with any of these steps.

“About six percent of married women aged 25 to 44 years in the U.S. are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying. Also, about twelve percent of women aged 15 to 44 years in the U.S. have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term, regardless of marital status,” the CDC says.

And, you know, this isn’t just a woman’s problem. Both men and women can contribute to infertility. Men’s age can be a factor as can their weight (typically more over than under), smoking, alcohol and drug use as well as other physiological issues.

“Infertility can be treated with medicine, surgery, intrauterine insemination, or assisted reproductive technology,” CDC says. “Often, medication and intrauterine insemination are used at the same time. Doctors recommend specific treatments for infertility on the basis of the factors contributing to the infertility, the duration of the infertility, the age of the female and the couple’s treatment preference after counseling about success rates, risks, and benefits of each treatment option.”

The moral of the story is whether you want to conceive or prefer not to, having a discussion with your primary care provider is the first step.


Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation’s Advisory Council. She can be reached at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.

By Kathy Hubbard

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