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The Right Time to Start a Family

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The miracle of conception involves a complicated alignment of perfectly timed events in the female and male

The miracle of conception involves a complicated alignment of perfectly timed events in the female and male. In a healthy couple of reproductive age, the probability of achieving conception is approximately one in four each menstrual cycle.

In a woman's cycle, despite the number of days between periods, the most fertile time is during ovulation. This occurs between 13 and 15 days before the menstrual period begins. During this time, the follicles in her ovaries release a mature egg to be available for fertilization. Intercourse does not have to occur precisely at the moment of ovulation, because healthy sperm can survive for 48 to 72 hours.

A woman is born with all the eggs she will ever produce in a lifetime. A man produces 50,000 new sperm every minute of every day beginning at puberty until he is 70 years or older. Following ejaculation, the sperm reserves are quickly replenished to stabilize levels. A normal ejaculation contains between 20 million and 300 million sperm.

The best way for a woman to achieve or avoid a pregnancy is to become expert at predicting her own ovulation. Ovulation is a six-to-eight-day process culminating in the event of an egg being released from the ovary. There are many well-documented physiological changes that occur in a woman's body during this process.

The major fertility indicators include slippery cervical mucus that ranges from watery to the consistency of egg white; measurable changes in basal body temperature; and an increase in the luteinizing hormone, detected through a urine test. Salivary ferning or crystallization is a relatively new method. The increased level of salt or saline in saliva can be viewed through a special hand-held microscope as the estrogen level increases during ovulation.

Other fertility indicators include ovulation pain, known as mittelschmerz, breast tenderness, spotting, gastrointestinal discomfort or bloating, increased feeling of sexual desire, increased energy level, heightened sense of smell, vision or taste. Women may perceive some or all of these indicators; the ability to do so will increase as their skill of fertility awareness increases.

Where to Start

In any couple's infertility evaluation, the first step is to establish if the woman is ovulating regularly. If the woman is not familiar with her cycle this can be a three-to-six-month process. When a woman has determined that she is not ovulating, there are a number of tests she can undergo. These include serum follicle stimulating hormonal, estra-diol, ultrasound, serum progesterone, prolactin, thyroid and androgen tests.

One of the leading causes of infertility in women is endometriosis. This can occur in any female between the onset of menstruation and menopause. It is estimated to be the cause in 30 per cent of all infertile women. Endometiomas are ovarian cysts that block the pathway that egg and sperm must travel. Most women experience no symptoms until they seek medical advice for infertility. Some symptoms include painful menstrual periods, pain during intercourse, pain during ovulation, excessive or irregular bleeding or urinary and bowel tract problems. Natural remedies offer some relief for this condition.

The second step in a couple's infertility evaluation is to determine if the male is producing healthy viable sperm. It takes about 12 weeks for a sperm to fully mature. A fertility specialist would, therefore, consider any significant events in the man's history for three months prior to the semen analysis. This analysis includes the sperm's appearance, count (normal is 40 to 300 million), volume (normal is two to six mL), mobility (more than 50 percent moving), shape and hormone level.

One of the most common causes of male infertility is a varicocele, or a varicose vein in the scrotum, which can cause progressive damage to the sperm. Varicoceles affect about 15 per cent of all men past puberty.

Couples having difficulty in conceiving can benefit from exploring the literature around nutrition and infertility. Proper nutrition, regular exercise and regular supplementation with quality vitamins, minerals and herbs are essential parts of every-day living.

There is much research still to be done in the area of ovulation. Only as more women choose to develop the skill of monitoring their ovulation, will we increase our knowledge of how ovulation health contributes to holistic health. In the meantime, the ways and means to do this are now readily available to all women interested in acquiring the skill of ovulation awareness.

Improve Your Diet And Your Chances

A balanced diet is essential for the body to remain fertile. Eat pumpkin seeds for zink, which is important for the health of reproductive organs and the prostate gland. Bee pollen and royal jelly are extremely nutrient-rich bee product food which help stinulate fertility.

Lack of protein and calories from malnourishment is a cause of infertility.

Vitamin B6 given for six months or more can improve chances of conceiving, as it helps balance progesterone levels. (The other B vitamins are best taken together to prevent disbalances.)

The suppelements most important in enhancing fertility in men are vitamin C, zinc and L-arginine. Vitamin C helps prevent sperm from clumbing or sticking together, thus improving the chances for fertility. Zinc increases both sperm count and sperm motility. Found in high amounts in the head of sperm, L-arginine also improves sperm count and motility.

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