Factors in Conception

For some people, conceiving a child is as simple as going off birth control, and “just seeing what happens.” There are people who get pregnant within one or two cycles. For others, it takes longer and can be stressful and confusing. Once several cycles have come and gone, the couple may be feeling discouraged and frustrated, like something might be wrong with one or both of them.

There are several factors in the process of procreation, and it may be helpful to examine them so that a person can be realistic about his or her timeline for conception. Some factors can be changed or altered; other factors are unalterable.

Age: This is one of the main factors when it comes to a couple’s ability to conceive. Men’s fertility remains fairly stable from puberty until they die, but women have a fertile window over the course of their lives. They are very fertile in their late teens and twenties. A woman’s fertility declines significantly when she hits 30 years old, and declines again at 35. At 40 years old, the odds are against a woman being able to conceive, and it is almost impossible by 45. The general advice is that the best window for a woman to conceive is between 25 and 35 years old—during that time, her life and career are relatively stable and her body is still fertile and strong, and she has the emotional and physical energy for raising small children. If you are outside that window, you may still be able to conceive a child, but it might be helpful for you to accept the reality of where you are in your life.

Weight: If either partner is over- or underweight, the couple’s fertility may be reduced. It is important that both people keep their weight at a healthy level in order to produce healthy sex cells (sperm and egg) and to maintain healthy hormone balance.

Diet: You can change this factor the most easily. Both partners would do best to eat a diet rich in high-quality fats and proteins. Make sure to focus on unprocessed whole foods. If possible, try to find foods that are either flash-frozen, or that are local, as these will have the highest concentration of quality nutrients.

Health: Both partners’ fertility levels benefit from overall good health. Exercise, diet, and mental and emotional well-being are all helpful in order to create the ideal opportunity for procreation. Make sure you exercise every day; even a walk around the block can be immensely helpful to your physical well-being. Your body will likely only be fertile when your body is healthy; we as humans have evolved to only be able to procreate when we are not in danger. If your body is stressed or in poor health, your fertility will suffer.

It is helpful to start trying to conceive knowing your odds of success so you can be realistic with your expectations. That said, the best advice is to keep yourself as healthy as you can in order to have the best success in conceiving.

All About Artificial Insemination

Artificial insemination is something that has been practiced for hundreds of years. Insemination simply refers to sperm entering the vagina, so artificial insemination means that the sperm is introduced into the vagina through artificial means. Believe it or not, artificial insemination is not only practiced in humans: it is a common practice in cattle breeding. Bull semen is collected in an “artificial vagina,”  and is introduced into the cow’s vagina in order to produce calves. This is much easier for cattle breeders to selectively breed for certain traits, as well as to avoid intermixing the bull with the cows (as bulls are known to be incredibly volatile creatures, and can get extremely violent around females).

How is it done? Semen is collected from the male, and then a fertility technician examines the sperm. He chooses the best, most healthy sperm and cleans them, then inserts them into the vagina using a needleless syringe, or potentially a syringe with a tube attached to it, in order to insert the sperm farther into the vagina. The sperm need to be cleaned because without the act of sexual intercourse and the accompanying semen, the woman`s body would likely have an allergic reaction to the sperm and would reject them.

Artificial insemination can be a huge help to couples who are having a hard time conceiving. There are a few causes of infertility for which artificial insemination can be quite helpful. The first cause is if there are issues with the male partner’s sperm count or sperm motility. Obviously, inserting the sperm far into the vagina would help combat that as a cause for infertility. It can also be helpful if the man has issues with ejaculation, such as retrograde ejaculation (where the semen is ejaculated into the man’s urinary bladder rather than through his penis). The next cause is an issue with the woman`s cervix being inhospitable to semen during sex, or preventing the semen from getting through into the uterus. The best option for a couple trying to conceive using artificial insemination is if there is no male partner. The women (or single woman) would choose sperm from a sperm bank or from a sperm donor, and would use that sperm to inseminate her. The last option for success in artificial insemination is if the cause for infertility is unidentified. Artificial insemination is far less invasive and less costly than in-vitro fertilization.

Artificial insemination can be a successful solution for many couples who struggle with infertility—it is said to increase the success for a couple (with one of the above reasons for infertility) in conceiving by double. It can be emotionally challenging for the partners to go through something like this, and those emotional implications needs to be seriously considered before the couple goes through this procedure. The huge advantage is that it does not involve hormone shots for either partner, and the procedures are outpatient procedures. The next option for an infertile couple is in-vitro insemination, which can be extremely difficult and challenging for a couple, so artificial insemination can be a great help!


Fertility Drugs and Childhood Leukemia

It can be immensely stressful and hugely challenging for a couple to go through a period of infertility when they want a child so badly. It can feel like they will never be able to conceive a child and that they will not be able to make their dreams of having a family come true. Fertility drugs like Clomid or other hormone drugs may seem like the perfect solution to the challenge of infertility.

There was a 2012 study that showed that the use of Clomid could be linked to a higher likelihood that the child conceived will get childhood leukemia. Headlines across the internet screamed “Fertility Drugs More than Double Chance of Leukemia.” That is a scary thing for a woman contemplating Clomid therapy to read. So what is the best way to approach this?

This study concluded that kids conceived to parents using certain hormone drugs for infertility were 2.6 times more likely than kids conceived without such drugs, to develop acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL); the most common type of childhood leukemia. The bad news keeps coming; there is an increase by 2.3 times in the development of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). This is rough stuff. Leukemia is one of the scariest diagnoses a parent can hear for his or her child, and the thought that a parent could be doing something that would increase that chance is almost unbearable.

So where does that leave you, a couple trying to conceive a child and worried about using Clomid? As with everything else, it is up to you. As a parent (or a parent-to-be), you will likely encounter all sorts of things that will be linked with different cancers and diseases in retrospect.

There is a 2010 study that looked at a potential connection between fertility treatments and infant leukemia, which included the ALL diagnoses in infants. This study found no correlation or causation between the drugs and leukemia.

Between these two studies, it seems clear that more study is definitely needed in order to confidently state whether there is or is not a connection between Clomid and childhood leukemia. News websites love stories about childhood cancers, since they know these stories will be hugely popular, and will be clicked on by thousands of concerned parents.

In addition, to put these numbers into perspective, the chance of a child being diagnosed with childhood or infant leukemia is so small that for a child to have a risk of 2.6 times the normal risk is still extremely small. If you have a child who was conceived using Clomid, your best bet is to talk to your doctor about your concerns and about the potential risk your child faces.

If you have been infertile and are not sure about whether or not this should change your mind about using Clomid or hormone therapy, keep in mind that these drugs are still widely prescribed. Therefore, it seems clear that the medical community has not adopted the results of the 2012 study as a reason to stop prescribing these drugs. Each mother-to-be should make the decision for herself whether she will take on this potential risk for her child. There are risks inherent in every decision, and parenthood is a constant challenge to make the best decisions possible.