How loud is your biological clock ticking? The decision of if or when to have children is one of the defining decisions of a woman's life. International Women's Day is an opportunity to focus the mind on your priorities - and if motherhood is on the list, then do get some good advice.
Mother of all decisions: International Women's Day - time to decide what is important to you
The problem is that the fertility option is a limited offer - go too soon and your career choices and earning power are reduced; leave it too late and you can miss the opportunity altogether.
It must be liberating for women who decide early on to be child-free, as all the time constraints are removed and they are able to concentrate on gaining fulfillment from other aspects of their lives.
Likewise women that take an uncomplicated view of life - ‘what will be, will be’ - seem to take children (or the lack of them) in their stride.
Problem for planners
The issue is greatest for the planners – the ones who say ‘when I have done x or y, then I will have a baby,’ or ‘I will have a baby before I am 26’. For these women it is crucial that they have all the information they need in order to make a decision that is right for them.
There is much said about fertility declining after 35 – you are born with all the eggs you will ever have and gradually lose these until about the age of 35, after which the egg loss speeds up.
Fertile women can continue having children well into their 40s, however there is no way of knowing in advance if you are one of those women. The AMH blood test only gives a ‘snap shot’ of your current fertility; it can’t predict your future ability to have children.
The Rising Festival
If you are in your early 30s and you want children at some stage, but aren't sure if it is the right time, then it is worth getting advice.
Bourn Hall Clinic provides free fertility advice and testing without a doctor’s referral. Some of the fertility nurses will be at The Rising Festival on Saturday 10th March 2018 to talk about ways to improve natural fertility and about the options for women (with or without a partner.)
There are also some basic things that you can do for yourself:
1. Come off the pill and see if your periods are regular – use other forms of contraception if necessary. It takes a while to get the artificial hormones out of your body and see what is really happening. Some women have problems that are masked by the pill.
2. Check you are ovulating – it is possible to use a thermometer to check your ‘basal body temperature’, which increases just before you ovulate (release a mature egg). There is then about a three day window when you can become pregnant. Boots, Tesco etc offer a number of kits for this.
3. Eat better, cut out smoking and alcohol – If both you and your partner do this it can improve your fertility. Experts at Bourn Hall say there is a noticeable difference in the quality of sperm when men make lifestyle changes, and a healthy BMI improves women’s fertility.
4. Get out more – daylight is really important for your biorhythms. Shift workers have lower fertility and it follows that if you are under artificial light all day then this might have an impact.
5. Have good regular sex – if you are both working hard, travelling a lot and feeling stressed then fitting in sex might not be a priority, but is vital if you want to get pregnant! Prioritise some together time.
6. Think about getting good advice and some basic tests – Bourn Hall is providing free mini-consultations with a fertility nurse specialist for those who book before Easter. It is also possible to pay and have one-off tests such as a semen analysis or blood test to check egg store, or a full assessment with a consultation. This is for anyone concerned about their fertility, not just those who may need treatment.
These tests are also available on the NHS but you need to have been trying to conceive for a couple of years before being referred. (If you go this route insist both you and your partner are investigated at the same time - you don't want to be on medication to stimulate ovulation for months before discovering it is a male factor issue.)
Sources of information
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