"Steps to take when facing fertility concerns" by Mary McAuliffe

Unfortunately, some couples experience unexpected obstacles along their journey when trying for a baby. We chatted to Mary McAuliffe, Head of Clinical Service at Waterstone Clinic,which has just opened a state-of-the-art national fertility centre of excellence at Lotamore House in Cork, and asked for her insights into what you can do when things don’t go quite to plan.

Most couples start out assuming the path to parenthood will be pretty straight forward, and can be thrown off course when pregnancy doesn’t happen as quickly as expected. From excitement and anticipation, to frustration and upset, there is no denying it can be an emotional rollercoaster if waiting for that positive test takes too long.

And while a lot of couples are definitely becoming more proactive regarding their fertility, going for fertility assessments before trying to conceive; others can be uncertain about how long to wait before seeking help and advice.

“The female partner’s age is one of the main factors influencing her chances of conception, McAuliffe explains. “Ideally, if the woman is over 35, investigations should be started after six months of trying. If she’s younger, seek help after trying to conceive for 12 to 18 months.”

It is a fact aht as many as one in five couples will have a delay in becoming pregnant, so getting help early is key.

“In these situations, I would advise taking a two-pronged approach – making contact with a clinic and, at the same time, trying to boost your fertility. There are many things a couple – both the male and female – can do to increase their chances of having a baby, such as quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake to healthy limits or stopping it all together, and eating a well varied and healthy diet.”

McAuliffe also points out that both parts should aim to get plenty of exercise, maintain a healthy BMI and take a good quality vitamin supplement and folic acid.

“Couples should also be aware of their own past medical history, and it is helpful if the female partner is aware of her mother’s history, such as early menopause. Ask yourself, have you experienced changes in cycle pattern, or have a history of endometriosis or PCOS? Does your partner have a history of testicular injury, undescended testis or testicular mumps or any other condition that you may suspect has had a negative effect on fertility?”

In such cases, McAuliffe suggests seeking help early regardless of age. It is helpful too to keep a menstrual cycle calendar, tracking your cycle length.”

“It is helpful too to keep a menstrual cycle calendar, tracking your cycle length.”

Anohter tip she shares is to have the reassurance that the clinic you attend is offering you the best chance of having a baby.

“It is always good to make contact by phone with the clinic beforehand, as you get a good feel for the team by asking some questions or chatting through some of the areas you are concerned about. The patient liaison team will talk you through a series of blood tests and investigations that are helpful when attending an initial consultation. These investigations will help in diagnosis”

At the Waterfod Clinic consultations are available within two weeks, and the more information the couple have at these visits, the more that can be achieved.

“Some couples may feel that if they attend a fertility centre, it will always progress onto treatment. That’s not always the case, McAuliffe explains. “That initial consultation is about offering an assessment, information and honest advice.”

For many, she points out, this visit will provide reassurance that all is well and to continue trying, while also providing the opportunity to build a plan and timeline for them to return if needed.

“If a couple are advised to consider treatment, we encourage them to take an information pack home, take time to talk over it together, and call if they would like to discuss the treatment further. This usually leads to further questions, which can be answered by phone, or some couples will pop back for further information session.”


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