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What you need to know about fertility and conception

Although Mother Nature has a hand in the timing, there are some things you can do—or not do— to help increase your chances of getting pregnant.
December 1, 2021 10:32 a.m. EST

Thanks to contraception and the widespread availability of reproductive technologies, couples today have more control over when they want to begin their family than ever before. Waiting to start a family is possible, although it can make it a little harder to get pregnant.

It's never too soon to start thinking about your fertility according to Dr. Yolanda Kirkham, who shared everything we need to know about fertility and conception, from what supplements women should be taking to what to avoid when pregnant. 

Do a fertility check 

Many young women assume that they won’t have to think about fertility until they’re older (as in the mid-thirties and beyond). Instead, they may spend their twenties more focused on contraception and not getting pregnant, rather than thinking about having children. However, those who hope to have children one day should start talking to their doctors about fertility a lot earlier than they think—around their twenties and early thirties. Women are waiting longer than ever to have children, and sometimes they come to find out that they can’t have them.

Here's how to do a fertility self-check:

Track your periods

Are they regular (every 25-35 days) without the help of birth control pills? This indicates ovulation and helps with the timing of sex if you are trying for a baby.

Protect yourself from STIs

If you’re dating or seeing multiple people, make sure you’re using condoms to prevent STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea, which can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and fertility problems.

Keep up with routine tests

Make sure your routine tests like pap smears and vaccinations are up to date.

Get the HPV vaccine

If you have sex, you’re going to be exposed to the HPV virus. This vaccine prevents cervical cancer, so even if you’re 40, dating, and never got it, Dr. Kirkham suggests getting it.

Pay attention to your periods

If your flow is heavy or abnormal all the time, you need to see your doctor. This could be a sign of endometriosis, a painful disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus, which can cause very painful periods, which can lead to scarring and fertility issues as well.

Evaluate your partner

This may not be the most comfortable conversation, but it needs to be had. Has your partner had kids before? If it’s a male, does he have scrotal pain? Any chronic conditions such as erectile disfunction? If it’s a same-sex relationship between two females, it’s important to ask questions like who would carry the child, what fertility centers you want to attend, and more.

Check-in with your doctor and dentist

Your hormones change during pregnancy, but did you know this can affect your oral health? Pregnant women are prone to getting gingivitis (gum disease) and periodontitis, which happens when the bone holding the teeth in place gets infected.

Keep nutrition in mind

Food is always important, but especially when it comes to fertility. Women who have eating disorders for example, often lose their periods. Eat a variety of nutritious and colourful foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Not only do they have plant nutrients, but they are packed with fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids that our bodies can’t make. And don't forget about protein! Whether it’s through meat, fish, eggs, or legumes, these amino acids are essential for overall health. Check out Canada’s new food guide to help get you started on the right track!

Take a prenatal vitamin

When it comes to supplements, it’s always best to keep it easy. Even if you’re not trying to have a baby, taking a prenatal vitamin is a great step in the right direction. If you’re feeling nauseous, try going for the gummy version.

Watch the video clip above for more of Dr. Yolanda's tips. 

The information provided on the show is for general information purposes only. If you have a health problem, medical emergency, or a general health question, you should contact a physician or other qualified health care provider for consultation, diagnosis and/or treatment. Under no circumstances should you attempt self-diagnosis or treatment based on anything you have seen on the show.