Vaccine: Expert addresses 'worries' on fertility impact
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About 84 percent of couples will conceive naturally within a year if they have regular unprotected sex (every two or three days), but it’s not that easy for everyone. Fertility is sometimes a complicated issue because there are many possible causes and risk factors, and it can be difficult to diagnose and treat. Express.co.uk chatted to Dr Emma Dickinson-Craig from Grip to find out everything you need to know about checking your fertility.
Issues with fertility are really common, with one in seven couples struggling to conceive.
Both men and women can have fertility issues and not only does it have huge implications on family planning, but it can also affect overall wellbeing, including stress, self-esteem, relationships, and mental health.
The majority of people don’t realise they have fertility issues until they try to have a baby and are unable to conceive.
Is there any easy way to check your fertility or egg count? Express.co.uk chatted to Dr Emma Dickinson-Craig to find out.
The most common causes of female infertility are:
- Ovulation disorders (often caused by hormonal imbalances caused by for instance PCOS ([polycystic ovarian syndrome], thyroid issues or medication)
- Ovarian reserve (egg count, mainly affected by age or genetics)
- Blocked tubes (mainly caused by untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs), abdominal/pelvic surgery)
However, possibly the most common ‘risk’ these days is starting to try for a baby at a later age.
Dr Dickinson-Craig said: “Women study, have careers, meet their partners later, but we don’t fully understand what that means for our chances of having a baby.
“At Grip, we often say that the biggest risk of infertility is a lack of information.”
How to find out your egg count
In absolute terms, there is no way to check how fertile you are.
Dr Dickinson-Craig said: “The only way to know for sure that you can have a baby is by actually having a baby.
“That doesn’t mean we can’t give you a risk profile: you can assess whether you have risk factors that could affect your fertility and pregnancy chances.
“Depending on how much or when you want a baby, these risks might mean very different things for each person.”
However, you should see your GP or gynaecologist to check for things that may be causing your fertility problems and run some tests.
For women, this will normally involve blood tests, chlamydia tests and ultrasound scans.
It could also include an X-ray or laparoscopy, depending on the suspected problems.
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According to Professor Michael Thomas at ClearBlue, there are a number of tests that can be carried out to predict ovarian reserve (how many eggs you have left).
He said: “Blood tests include an AMH or Anti-Mullerian Hormone test, which can be taken at any time in the menstrual cycle and even if you are on birth control pills.
“Anti-Mullerian hormone is made by the cells in the follicles of the ovaries and may be an early way of determining how much reserve is remaining in your ovaries.
“Interpretation of the results of this test may vary between health care providers.”
Another two tests you can take are taken on day three of the menstrual cycle – two days after you start your period.
Professor Thomas said: “You can obtain a blood test for Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and estradiol.
“These two tests may be a way of determining declining ovarian function at the beginning of the menstrual cycle when a dominant follicle is being prepared for ovulation.
“Another test for poor ovarian reserve is an ‘antral follicle count’. During this test, a transvaginal ultrasound is used to determine the number of follicles that are ready on day three of the cycle.”
How can taking the Grip test help?
The Grip test is a test to check for fertility risks, like the tests done by NHS doctors.
Dr Dickinson-Craig said: “Those who are trying to conceive or just curious about their reproductive health should be able to get basic tests done without the need to wait or justify their curiosity.
“The Grip test enables women to find out if they have risk factors that could affect their fertility, which in turn can enable them to act faster when necessary.
“The Grip test assesses the most common risk factors, including the risk of PCOS, thyroid issues and ovarian reserve.
“These are the exact same tests that the doctor or fertility specialist would do.
“By identifying the presence or absence of these risk factors early, women can make timely, informed decisions about their own health, such as family planning, lifestyle changes and egg freezing.
“Identifying risk factors early can avoid/reduce such disappointment and can help address the issue as soon as possible.”
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