With spring comes National Fertility Week. It is held from the 1 – 7 September 2016.

This year’s theme is ‘7 ways in 7 days’. Each day will focus on a range of factors that can affect a person’s ability to conceive and have a healthy baby.

Sept 1: The ‘fertile’ window

Did you know that the only time you can conceive is during the ‘fertile window’ of the menstrual cycle?

Couples trying for a baby are encouraged to have intercourse in the three days leading up to, and including ovulation.

Infertility could be reduced by 50%, not only through timing intercourse during the fertile window, but also through healthy lifestyle choices.

Sept 2: STIs

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), particularly gonorrhoea and chlamydia, can affect the fertility of both women and men.

To avoid sexually transmitted infection, practicing safe sex with the consistent use of a condom or dental dam will provide some protection from transmitting an infection.

When you are ready to have a family, both parties involved should be tested for STIs, to minimise the risk of passing an infection on to your partner or child.

Sept 3: Age

If your relationship is ready, start the conversation sooner rather than later.

Age is the single most important factor affecting your fertility and your chances of having a healthy child.

As a woman ages, it takes longer to conceive and the risk of not being able to get pregnant increases.

The risk of miscarriage, and complications in pregnancy and childbirth also increase.

Sept 4: Parenting begins before conception (epigenetics)

Fertility can be impacted by a range of genetic abnormalities.

If you would like further information about this, the Murdoch Children Research Institute provides comprehensive information.

Sept 5: Smoking, alcohol and caffeine

Did you know that smokers take longer to conceive than non-smokers, and more likely to have fertility issues?

Women who smoke are at least 1.5 times more likely than non-smokers, to take more than a year to fall pregnant.

If a male partner is a heavy smoker, this will significantly contribute to delayed conception.

Smoking during pregnancy also puts your baby at risk of health problems.

Did you know that heavy drinking affects fertility?

Heavy drinking increases the length of time it takes to fall pregnant. It also reduces your chances of having a healthy baby.

If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, not drinking alcohol is the safest option.

Although the evidence is not conclusive, research studies have found that high levels of caffeine consumption might prolong the time it takes to get pregnant.

One study showed that women who consumed more than 500mg of caffeine per day had an 11% increase in the time they took to conceive their first baby compared with women who consumed less.

Sept 6: Weight and exercise

Did you know that being overweight or obese affects your chances of conceiving and having a healthy baby?

If a mother is obese, it increases the risk of pregnancy complications and health problems for the baby. Losing even a few kilos can make a difference…

Being underweight can also reduce a woman’s fertility. It can cause hormone imbalances that affect ovulation and therefore a woman’s chance of getting pregnant.

Moderate regular exercise can also improve fertility, and the chance of having a baby with assisted reproductive technology (ART).

Studies of the effects of exercise on fertility have found that vigorous exercise reduces the risk of ovulation problems and that moderate exercise decreases the risk of miscarriage, and increases the chance of having a baby among women who undergo ART.

Being in the healthy weight range not only reduces your risk of infertility, but it also improves your chances of conceiving spontaneously, and with ART.

Sept 7: Vitamins and minerals

Vitamins and minerals are essential for the body to function. Research has found that a healthy diet in the year prior to getting pregnant is associated with a lower rate of birth defects.

The risk of these defects can be reduced if women supplement their diet with the recommended doses of folic acid and iodine.

Zinc and selenium supplementation up to the recommended levels can also improve sperm quality.

Want further information?

Visit www.yourfertility.org.au which has evidence-based information, videos, fun animations and an interactive ovulation calculator to help increase your chances.

Your Fertility gives Australians the facts they need to make informed and timely decisions about their reproductive health, so that every Australian who wants children has the best chance to have a healthy baby.

We hope this information helps and until next time, wishing you all great health and wellbeing!

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Source: Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (Your Fertility Campaign)