Did you know that this week (1st-5th November 2021) is National Fertility Awareness Week?
In honour of that, we’d like to talk to you about Fertility Awareness:
What it is
Why it matters, and
Three easy ways you can improve your fertility awareness.
Fertility awareness is a term that is used a lot, but what does it actually mean?
Fertility awareness is a term that is used to describe your understanding of physiology as it relates to fertility, such as when you or your partner is fertile during their menstrual cycle, or how potential fertility changes for at different stages of your life.
Ideally, fertility awareness should cover your fertility, and if you have one, your partner’s as well.
It can also help improve your reproductive health, as it allows you to understand what are normal variations in your physiology, and what might warrant a second opinion.
As the old adage says, knowledge is power!
The more you know the more you can make informed choices on family planning and looking after your reproductive health. The choice of whether or not to have children and an understanding of the probabilities of the chances of getting pregnant at different stages of your life can make a real difference.
This is doubly important if anyone in your family has issues which might have implications for your fertility. If you have a partner, this also applies to them.
Knowing about your own fertility will allow you to set your own expectations which can make conversations with medical professionals much easier because you’ll be able to answer and even pre-empt the questions they will ask you to get to the heart of any issues.
There are a number of ways to help increase your fertility awareness.
Ask your family
Your fertility is influenced by your genetics, so one of the easiest ways to increase your understanding is to ask your family about their experiences.
For example, did your mother have an early menopause? Various studies have shown that there is a strong association between the ages a mother and daughter tend to go through the menopause. Does anyone in your family suffer from conditions that can affect fertility like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), as certain conditions tend to run in families? Did your parents take a long time to conceive? Has anyone in your family (or your partner’s family) had to use IVF and why?
Knowing the answers to these questions can give you a real insight into your own fertility, and areas you might want to look into.
For example, if you’re female, in your 30s and your mother went through the menopause early in her 40s, you might want to get your AHM (anti-Mullerian hormone) level checked at one of our clinics to see if you are likely to go through the menopause at a similar time to allow for informed decision-making on contraception or conception.
Track your body
In recent years, there has been a real growth in the choice of health technologies, from wearable tech to smartphone apps.
Amongst those are fertility apps. These are primarily targeted at women, allowing you to track your periods as well as record the associated variations that come with your cycles, such as pain, energy levels, moods, sex drive and more. This gives you a clear understanding of your own cycles throughout the month. It also helps you quickly pick up on any changes that could be a symptom of something that may affect your fertility or your health in general, such as different pain levels to normal, longer or shorter menstrual cycle lengths or unexpected bleeding.
Additionally, if you are specifically trying to conceive, some apps can estimate when your fertile days are in the month based around calculated ovulation, although this is obviously a calculation based on averages rather than your specific cycle.
If you’re looking for a smartphone tracking app, here at TFP-Fertility we offer a free app called Dia. Our app not only allows you to track your cycle, but also gives a lot of personalised educational content, and links into our clinics for people going through treatment with us. It can be downloaded in the Apple App Store and in the Google Play Store here.
Sometimes, nothing beats a good bit of research. Whilst there are some excellent blogs and online resources out there, sometimes only a published, reviewed and medically-checked book will do.
As a starting point, we would recommend:
“Taking Charge Of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement and Reproductive Health” by Toni Weschler. Weschler is a fertility awareness counsellor, which demystifies the menstrual cycle and explains how to chart it.
“It Starts with the Egg: How the Science of Egg Quality Can Help You Get Pregnant Naturally, Prevent Miscarriage, and Improve Your Odds in IVF” by Rebecca Fett. This is a well-known best-seller that dives deep into the topic of egg quality and how to improve it, providing lots of scientific research as a back-up.
“The Infertility Experience” by Sally Coombes. This is more specific to those experiencing infertility, but if you are having troubles conceiving and would like to gain more of an understanding of your journey, themes, biological explanations and coping strategies, this can be a great book to dip into.
There are also some excellent blogs written by medical professionals. For a start have a look at the rest of our blog; there's a helpful round up post here.
Learning about your fertility is really empowering.
Spending just a little time upping your knowledge can give you a lot more control over your reproductive health, a greater understanding of your body and your fertility, and aid you if you decide to start trying for a baby at any point.
And remember, if anything you come across in your research raises any questions or concerns, we’re here to help, from giving advice via consultations to Fertility Assessments: just click on the link for more information.
 e.g.: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7672145/, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4221513/,