Congratulations! You have just made one of the most important decisions in your life as a couple – having a child and creating a new life! You want to become a parent and create a little one in your own image. You have reached this decision after considering many things. Here are some additional points to consider.
Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle greatly affects a woman’s fertility and ultimately the success of a pregnancy. Few prospective parents know that even four months before conception, their lifestyle can affect fertility and the health of the baby. The male gametes (sex cells) are starting their genesis three months before their maturation. This advice is valid for both for the man and the woman.
Physical fitness makes pregnancy and childbirth easier. But too much exercise (i.e. running marathons) may affect fertility. In addition, making time for stretching, relaxation, and periods of breathing exercises will prepare you adequately to allow more blood flow to the placenta once you have conceived.
If good food for nine months is essential to the health of mother and baby, a nutritious diet before pregnancy is even more beneficial. The fetus will draw on the mother’s reserves of energy and nutrients needed for its development, from its earliest days of intrauterine life. This is why vitamins, iron, and iodine should supplement the mother’s meals before becoming pregnant.
Pregnancy is a good time to quit smoking. Tobacco is indeed responsible for miscarriages, bleeding, premature birth, and low weight of the newborn as well as addiction for the baby at birth. The same goes for alcohol, which can cause many problems, including growth retardation and birth defects for the fetus. Using cannabis may also decrease the ability to become pregnant:
- In men, using cannabis may decrease the number and the motility of sperm making it harder to achieve a pregnancy.
- In women, cannabis may harm fertility through different mechanisms such as menstrual cycle disruptions and decreased egg implantation.
For the dad, keep your sperm in top shape by exercising regularly, eating healthy, maintaining a good weight, quitting smoking, and reducing alcohol and recreational drug consumption. The specifics: keep your testicles cool, avoid hot baths or spas, don’t use your laptop and cell phone on your lap, wear protective gear when playing sports, and lastly, if you are into bodybuilding, avoid anabolic steroids.
Finally, your environment does have an impact. Any form of pollution is harmful to pregnant women. The mother should avoid handling chemicals, solvents, spot removers, paint, dyes, pesticides, etc. Similarly, she must be careful not to change the kitty litter to avoid getting toxoplasmosis.
Couples are delaying having children more than ever. You need to be aware that advancing age does affect the fertility of both men and women. Your biological clock is indeed ticking! Fertility begins to decline after the age of 30.
Your chances of conceiving in your late thirties are still good, but decrease greatly in your forties.
- 91% of women can get pregnant by age 30
- 77% by age 35
- 53% by age 40
While fertility decreases with age, the man is potentially fertile all his life in contrast to the woman. A woman is born with a supply of eggs for her lifetime and these are fewer and less viable as she ages. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/fertility/fertility.html
High Risk Pregnancies
To have a healthy pregnancy and make childbirth safer, we must respect the right “timing”.
- A woman of 18 years or younger is more likely to have a high risk pregnancy than a woman in her twenties
- Several studies show that a pregnancy too soon after a previous birth, a miscarriage, or an abortion exposes the mother and the fetus to a higher risk of complications, sometimes fatal. The World Health Organization recommends waiting at least 24 months after a live birth to reduce the risk of growth retardation in young children. After a miscarriage or abortion, the interval should be at least 6 months before the next pregnancy to reduce the risks to maternal and perinatal health.
- Similarly, births spaced too far apart (more than five years) may result in premature delivery.
Return of Fertility After Childbirth
Women who decide to bottle feed the baby will see the return to menstrual cycles within two months postpartum.
Exclusive or ecological breastfeeding may delay the return of fertility.
Did you know that ecological breastfeeding is highly effective in preventing pregnancy for a period of six months? This is called the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM).
What is ecological breastfeeding? As per “The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding: The Frequency Factory” by Sheila Kippley it is defined as the following:
- Breastfeed exclusively for six months
- Pacify your baby at your breasts
- Don’t use bottles or pacifiers
- Sleep with your baby for night feedings
- Sleep with your baby for a daily-nap feeding
- Nurse frequently day and night and avoid schedules
- Avoid any practice that restricts nursing or separates you from your baby
Ecological breastfeeding is not to be confused with Exclusive breastfeeding. Exclusive breastfeeding can be using your breastmilk to feed your baby by breast or by bottle, using a soother, and having longer intervals between feedings. This will bring about an earlier return of fertility.
Contact a SERENA Teacher Couple for information on the signs to observe that indicate the return of fertility.
The Fertility Window
You are now ready to take action! Knowing when you are fertile and ovulating during each cycle will greatly enhance your likelihood of conceiving. A woman’s cycle begins on the first day of menstruation and the length of the cycle can vary greatly for different women.
Myth: You can’t get pregnant after the 14th day of your cycle. This myth originated from the calendar method, also known as the rhythm method. It is based only on probability estimations and prediction of the fertility period based on experience from past cycles. Several natural methods exist to determine the fertile window. One of them, the Symptothermal Method (STM), is based on knowledge of the cycle through charting various symptoms. With this knowledge, you can target the best times to have sexual intercourse.
Couples can learn and gain this knowledge by taking a 3 hour class with a SERENA teacher couple to learn and recognize the signs of fertility. SERENA Teachers also offer follow-up and chart interpretation services.
Symptoms in a Nutshell
Three main symptoms are revealed by the woman’s body that will indicate whether she is fertile or not. These symptoms are:
Cervical mucus, changes to the cervix, and basal body temperature.
The appearance of cervical mucus and the position of the cervix are symptoms that change throughout the cycle. Both are symptoms that predict ovulation. Temperature curve: an increase in temperature indicates that ovulation has occurred but to note this rise, you must have charted a baseline temperature. We can show you how to do this!
Once ovulation has happened, it is almost too late to plan a pregnancy during that cycle because the egg only lives an average of 8-24 hours. The sperm, however, has a lifespan ranging from hours to six days! If you want to conceive, sexual intercourse should take place while the signs of fertility are highest. Even if no intercourse has occurred on the day of ovulation but a few days before, the chances of conceiving are still very good.
The Symptothermal Method of natural family planning is just as effective when a woman has irregular cycles. By observing and recording the symptoms on a daily basis, it is easier to predict ovulation and anticipate the ideal time for intercourse to actually conceive.
A SERENA class will teach you how to recognize and note/measure these symptoms using the Symptothermal Method.