This week is Canadian Infertility Awareness Week. One in six couples know the pain of infertility all too well; inability to conceive is more common than diabetes. The stats mean that almost all of us know someone who has or is struggling to grow their family. That fact might sound surprising, in large part because many people keep their fertility struggles private.
Infertility affects men and women equally: one third of cases can be attributed to the male, one third of cases can be attributed to the female and one third of cases can be attributed to both. The number of couples impacted by infertility has doubled since the 1980s.
Fertility specialist Dr. Marjorie Dixon wants those planning to have children to remember that family planning is about more than birth control. She recommends more women and couples should do a fertility check-up. “Couples have ‘work-back’ plans for engagements, weddings, buying a puppy, and having kids,” Dixon says. “But they often don’t realize that they can check in on their fertility now, even if they aren’t ready for kids yet.”
Understanding your fertility now empowers you to plan with confidence for the future. It can also help offset frustration and anxiety when a couple decides to have kids, but isn’t getting pregnant right way. For example, research shows that a 30-year-old woman only has a 20 per cent chance of getting pregnant during her natural monthly cycle. The good news? She doesn’t have to cross her fingers and hope for the best: she can get information about her body and different factors that affect her fertility.
During a fertility assessment you meet with a fertility specialist, who will ask questions and order tests to explore factors that could impact your overall fertility. Those factors are:
- Your menstrual history, which can give insights into how regularly you ovulate
- Your hormone profile, looking at the different circulation levels of hormones that are responsible for ovarian function (such as FSH and AMH)
- Your ovarian reserve, or how many healthy eggs are currently in your ovaries
Another important consideration is what you think your ideal family size might eventually be: one child, two dogs? Three kids? Four? Knowing how many children you think you might want, and when you might want to start trying, can help to create your fertility plan.
How Covid-19 is affecting pregnancy
Dixon also spoke with Cityline about how the current Covid-19 pandemic is affecting pregnancies. Her first word of advice: now is not a good time to try to get pregnant.
“Despite all of the coronavirus baby boom jokes – which I ask you to please be conscious about, since they are quite insensitive to those struggling with infertility –getting pregnant isn’t a great idea right now,” Dixon says.
There are two main reasons for this:
- We don’t know what we don’t know. The scientific community hasn’t been able to study long enough the effects of Covid-19 on fetal development, birth, or transmission from mom to baby. We have some initial findings: for example, researches believe that Covid-19 may cause pre-term labour – but we don’t have the full picture.
- We are focused on flattening the curve, because we want to decrease the pressure on our healthcare system. There is a lot of interactions that a newly pregnant patient will have with the healthcare system, from initial appointments, to lab work, and follow up visits.
“If you are pregnant right now, I’m sure you are already being really diligent about following all of the social isolation and hygiene advice that Public Health has put out,” Dixon says. “Keep doing that.”
Because Covid-19 guidelines recommend not creating any pregnancies right now, fertility clinics aren’t doing artificial insemination, egg retrievals, embryo creation, or embryo transfer. They are, however, still providing care through virtual consults and limited in-person visits.
Below are some helpful resources to check out:
- Canadian Infertility Awareness Week – Know your Fertility Facts Infographic: https://anovalife.com/canadian-infertility-awareness-week-infographic/
- Fertility check-ups: https://anovalife.com/i-want-kids-later-should-i-do-anything-now/
- Fertility care during Covid-19: https://anovalife.com/infographic-fertility-care-during-covid-19/, and https://anovalife.com/are-all-your-ducks-in-a-row/
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