Fertilizing the Egg
A woman’s egg is only viable for 24 hours, whereas sperm can live up to three days. To maximize your chances of fertilization, engage in intercourse every day, starting three days before ovulation. A woman’s orgasm causes the uterus to contract and draw the sperm upward, so guys: get to work!
Extend Your Fertility Two factors contribute greatly to fertility: stress and health. Stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine will counter sex hormones, so it’s important to take care of yourself and minimize your daily stress as much as possible. This advice is not just for women! The same stressors, poor habits, and lifestyle choices contribute to the health and motility of sperm as well. OB/GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson discusses a test to determine ovarian health and offers ways to ensure fertility for as long as possible.
After age 35, a woman’s eggs change and the risk of genetic problems and miscarriage increases. Dr. John Jain from Santa Monica Fertility Specialists performs cryopreservation, or egg freezing, using a technique that preserves a woman’s eggs for future pregnancies.
Dr. William Schoolcraft, founder and medical director of the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine, details five essential tests to determine the specific cause(s) of infertility and offers appropriate treatment options for each diagnosis.
Fertility, IVF and ZIFT specialist Dr. John Jain performs common fertility tests on a couple who are trying to conceive. OB/GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson reveals their results, why they may be having trouble and how to increase their odds of getting pregnant.
Learn about more infertility options.
Simple Ways to Track Ovulation
Dr. Lisa says that if a woman under the age of 35, who does not have underlying medical conditions, struggles to get pregnant, she should keep track of her ovulation.
"Ovulation is one of the keys to getting pregnant," Dr. Lisa says. "Really, you only have 12 chances a year to get pregnant, and that's when you ovulate."
• Use a calendar to plot out your periods. • Use ovulation beads. • Use an ovulation kit. • Use a basal thermometer to monitor your temperature during ovulation.
"It's really important to talk to your doctor ahead of time about your periods, about your medical conditions," Dr. Lisa says. "Planning is really the key."
Preventing Slow Swimmers
If you take antidepressants and are having difficulty with conception, there may be a reason. A study of 35 men by researchers at Weill Medical College of Cornell University found that the antidepressant paroxetine may reduce male fertility. The number of sperm with fragmented DNA rose from 14 percent to 30 percent in the men taking paroxetine. “We know that antidepressants affect serotonin, and that decreases your sex drive,” Dr. Ordon says. “This study showed that it actually affected the movement, the motility, the strength of sperm.”
The Doctors note that the study was small and stress not to stop taking antidepressants if a doctor has prescribed them for you. Dr. Lisa says not all antidepressants effect on male fertility, but if you are having trouble conceiving while on antidepressants, talk to your doctor. “The doctors who prescribe these know how to deal with the secondary problems,” Dr. Ordon says.
To keep your sperm healthy, avoid laying warm objects, such as laptop computers, on your lap because sperm need a cool environment to thrive. Smoking, prolonged heat to the testicles and wearing tight underwear can cause fertility problems, as well.
Only one sperm is needed to fertilize an egg. But while it only takes one to conceive, doctors do look for 20 million sperm per millimeter of semen as a normal count. Doctors also examine the structure and motility of the sperm to determine overall strength or weakness.
OB/GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson recommends routine semen analyses to detect other factors, such as testicular cancer.
Sperm count can be weakened by such lifestyle choices as using marijuana and other drugs, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and even taking certain prescription medications. To boost and maintain a healthy sperm count, exercise regularly and incorporate certain foods into your diet.
Foods that Increase Sperm Count
• Selenium: An antioxidant found in Brazil nuts, fish, meat and eggs. It improves sperm's speed and concentration.
• L-arginine: Found in nuts, sesame seeds, eggs and meat. It helps increase sperm count and quality.
• L-carnatine: Found in red meat and milk, and increases production and speed.
• Folic acid: Found in avocado, asparagus and spinach.
Male InfertilityWomen are not the only ones who struggle with infertility. For men dealing with fertility issues, there may not be sperm in the ejaculate, but there may be sperm in the testicles. Two procedures can determine if sperm exists in the testicles: sperm mapping and microdissection.
Urologist Dr. Paul Turek developed sperm mapping, a procedure that can predict where sperm might exist in the testicle. Watch as he demonstrates the procedure with a prop. Sperm mapping is best for patients who have had cancer or a severe childhood injury.
Microdissection is a more invasive procedure in which an incision is made in the testicle, opening it like a clam shell and searching the tubules for sperm.