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Fertility trap
Conception Jun 10, 2020
10 Minutes

Ten ‘fertility traps’ to watch out for…

If you’re trying to conceive, chances are your mind has been going a thousand miles an hour. It can be both exciting and really stressful. The trouble is, there is a lot of confusing and conflicting messages out there. Sometimes from people with clever marketing departments who want to sell us stuff. Which is why we are all about the science and research only. Check out ten common fertility traps to avoid to make your journey a bit smoother!

Fertility Trap One: Ovulation timing: important to know but often apps/pee on sticks can mislead…. 

Ovulation and issues around it, are the number one reason for infertility in the female side. With 75% of women struggling to conceive having some form of ovulatory disturbance. So, it’s really important to understand what’s going on with your own unique situation.

There has been massive growth in apps and tech that help us ‘track ovulation’. However, did you know that a good chunk of them are inaccurate?! New research from The British Medical Journal suggests that many of these are misleading us. Click here for their published research. 

Ovulation is a very specific and very individual biological process that lasts around 12-24 hours. There is no ‘normal’ in terms of timing and it can vary between cycles. It can also get later as we get older. It is really crucial to understand your own picture. It can give us clues about our fertility. 

So, some of these apps which at their most basic involve us putting in the first day of our period can be giving us the wrong information. Particularly if you are not super regular/have PCOS or other underlying conditions which are not detected. Many are based on a computer algorithm and averages rather than your own body.

Particularly watch out for this fertility trap if you have PCOS or other hormonal imbalances: 

Pee-on-a-stick is probably the first thing most of us reach for when we want to detect ovulation. It’s in all the movies right?! The trouble is that these can also be misleading particularly if you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (which you may not know you have). Click here for more. 

PCOS is a hormonal imbalance and these tests look for a spike in LH pre ovulation which can be out of balance if you have PCOS and give you incorrect readings. This is usually on the packaging of most of these tests. In very, very small print….

Other devices like the Ava Bracelet which use skin temperature and heart rate are not completely accurate. Particularly if you have PCOS.

The good guys: 

The good news is that there are some that are ways to more accurately know if and when you are ovulating. Avoiding this common fertility trap! Basal Body Temperature is a good way of checking as your body will increase core temperature by 0.3-0.4 degrees post ovulation. So, this way you should know if you have indeed ovulated.

It used to be a bit fiddly and time consuming to measure this but there are now apps you can use that make it easier. Just make sure you get the specialist thermometer and do it first thing. Even easier is the technology from OvuSense. This measures the core body temperature and is very easy and user friendly. It is suitable for PCOS and is a great insight into what is going on with your ovulation.

Am I definitely ovulating? 

The sure fire way of understanding this (particularly if you’re having issues ttc) is to ask your doctor for a progesterone test. Progesterone is released by the Corpus Luteum which is formed post ovulation. If in doubt have a conversation.

Here are ten things you really need to know about Ovulation. Can make your ttc journey a lot easier…

Fertility Trap Two: Timing

Understanding when/if and how you’re ovulating is key, but, not perhaps for the reason you may think….

Many of us busy people look to optimally time sex for conception. The trouble is many of us inadvertently miss the window.

Did you know that when it comes to ttc it is much better to be early than late. Most people don’t realise that you are actually at your most fertile five to six days before ovulation and the day of ovulation itself. So, if you’re only having sex when you’re ovulating you actually risk missing the boat. Here are a few stats to bear in mind:

Chances of conception:

Days 1-3 pre ovulation = 20-30% chance of conception

Day 4 pre ovulation = 10-12% chance of conception

Day of ovulation = 10-12% chance of conception

How does this work? Sperm can live for up to five days in the female body. So, if you have sex before ovulation the sperm can ‘wait it out’ until a follicle bursts and releases an egg (ovulation).

Linked to this…

Fertility Trap Three: it’s not just a girl thing: 

If you think the onus is on you alone. You’re wrong. Despite most of us fully understanding that it takes ‘two to tango’ subconsciously the fertility burden can tend to fall on the female. That is just inaccurate. The stats tell us that 1/3 of infertility issues fall on the female side, 1/3 on male and 1/3 now a combo of both. Timing sex only for ovulation can further hurt the male side of the equation.

How can timing sex hurt male fertility?  

Sperm cells are very vulnerable to something called Oxidative Stress. Click here for much more. Essentially however, this damages the DNA within sperm. The simple fact is that the longer it has been ‘sitting out’ waiting to be released the more vulnerable it is to damage.

Traditional semen analysis won’t pick up high levels of this damage. This is also why it is worth asking for DNA fragmentation test. Fragmentation occurs naturally in all cases, however anything above 30% can cause infertility and miscarriage. Click here for much more. 

This is why the best advice is to have regular sex throughout your cycle: 

Most doctors will tell you NOT to just focus on sex around your fertile window. Not only does that pile on the pressure, raise chances that you miss that window but it increases chance of sperm being damaged. Also known as DNA fragmentation. Click here for much more. In a nut shell: every other day or so really is your best bet. Every day is too frequent (and frankly who has time?!).

Fertility Trap Four: not enough shut eye….  

Our modern culture simply does not promote sleep and rest. Which is not good for male or female fertility. On the male side we now have considerable research that shows lack of quality sleep hurts sperm quality. It can even cause the production of what is known as Anti-Sperm Antibodies. Yep, clearly we don’t want those. Click here for more. 

Sleep is also key for our all important hormone balance. Especially important for egg quality in women too. Research has shown that the sleep hormone: Melatonin is a key protecting factor for our eggs.

What does Melatonin not like? Lots of bright, artificial, blue light. So: another reason to switch off screens well before bed and focus on getting your body proper rest and relaxation. For more on egg quality: click here. 

Fertility Trap Five: Folic Acid, wrong type and wrong amount…

One of the greatest discoveries has been how Folate (synthetic version = Folic Acid) can help prevent neural tube disorders in babies. Many of us however only start to take it when we are pregnant and not before. If you are ttc you should start taking it now! Ideally at least three months before conception if you can.

The other curve ball is that some of us have a genetic ‘quirk’ known as MTHFR which means our bodies can not properly process and absorb the synthetic version of Folate (Folic Acid). So, the best bet is to take Folate or Methylfolate just to be on the safe side. It is better absorbed by the body in its natural form. Click here for the full low down. 

Finally, the recommendations for pregnancy and breastfeeding are 400micrograms. Did you know however that Folate can contribute to the all important egg quality? Research has shown that at 800mideograms can help protect our eggs from damage? Click here for more.

As always with any supplement it is important to discuss with your doctor. Everyone is unique. A reminder here for the six things to bear in mind before taking supplements: a fertility trap of their own! 

Fertility Trap Six: Lubrication… 

Let’s face it. The pressure of ttc can be a buzz kill. Unfortunately lubrication which can be required can in itself be a fertility trap. Recent research – click here for much more – has shown that many products are hurting sperm.

It turns out education (even amongst doctors) and labelling is pretty poor on this subject. In fact, companies who labelled their product as ‘sperm friendly’ just mean there is not antisperm components in there. In fact, the most recommended brand Aquagel was shown to reduce all important sperm motility by 50%!!

The good news it is improving with the US leading the way. The FDA have released a specialised code (PEB) on packaging for those that actually are ‘friendly’. If in doubt however, look for brands with simple components. Mainly purified water and a compound called Hydroxyethlcellulose.

Click here for more. 

Fertility Trap Seven: Great expectations: 

We put so much pressure on ourselves. Pressure in this sense just creates stress which we know is not good for conception. Obviously telling someone who wants to have a baby ‘not to stress’ is like telling them not to breathe.

Instead think of these stats:

Every month even under perfect conditions we have roughly a 25% chance of conception. This can seem depressing, but, the key to realise is that if it doesn’t happen quickly that is not abnormal. In fact, only 20% of couples will conceive in the first month. That being said 70% manage by six months and 85% will manage within a year!

So keep the faith. Your baseline expectation is that it can be perfectly normal to take up to a year.

Of course, if you feel that there is something not right or if you are older. First port of call is to speak to your doctor.

Fertility Trap Eight: Modern ‘Fads’… 

We are all conditioned to want ‘quick fixes’. It’s part of our nature. Modern culture however has become excellent at exploiting this desire. Whether it is fad diets, exercise regimes or ‘free from food’.

The reality is for our bodies: keep it simple, keep it moderate. Research has shown conclusively that a healthy, well balanced Mediterranean Diet is the best way to go for conception and fertility. It’s not rocket science. Click here for more. 

Similarly, all this new weird and wonderful (essentially processed food) which is free from ‘x, y and z’ often does nothing more than throw us off balance. Real, whole foods are the way to go. Regardless of your dietary preferences.

If you’re vegan or vegetarian that is great if it’s your choice. Here are a few great ways to support your body getting what it needs for healthy conception and pregnancy. 

Basic things like keeping hydrated are also crucial to fertility. Often we rush around not drinking enough. Research (click here) has shown links to dehydration and cervical mucus allowing/not the path of sperm. Once again. It’s all pretty easy, sensible stuff that sometimes we forget.

Finally, when it comes to exercise: HITT/extremes are also the ‘thing’. Exercise is great, in moderation and when suitable to you. In fact a health BMI and regular exercise is positive for conception. Extremes have been shown to hurt fertility in both men and women. Mix it up, listen to your body. Click here for more from our resident expert pre and post natal trainer. 

Fertility Trap Nine: low AMH does not spell infertility, instead it is a signal to dig deeper.

AMH is a hormonal indication of the amount of eggs you have left (ovarian reserve) and the quality of eggs remaining. A number in the normal range for your age is ideal. Perversely a very high number can mean PCOS so not what you want either. Often women who have low AMH worry that this means infertility. The cause should be ascertained (it can mean some damage or premature menopause) but if you have eggs and are ovulating you can still get pregnant. It may just take longer/you may need a bit of help so don’t fear. Click here for much more of the need to know on AMH.  

Fertility Trap Ten: doing a pregnancy test too early:

The two week wait can feel like forever. However, even tests which claim early detection acknowledge that there is a decent margin of error if you test before three days prior to your period due date. The reason for this is that these tests look for the hormone hCG. This should roughly double every day. It also means that although your first morning urine is more concentrated, it is a myth that you have to test only using this. If the hormone is high enough to be detected the tests are usually sensitive enough to pick it up. The hormone should also continue to rise every day. So for accuracy, its not the time of day you test, its much more important which day you test. Try to hold off until at least three days before. Ideally wait for the day of your missed period to avoid an incorrect result.

For the low down on surviving the two week wait – click here! 

Good luck!


This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.

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