Couples Who Have Trouble Conceiving Should Review Ovulation Basics Before
Worrying About an Underlying Problem
When a couple hoping for a baby is having trouble conceiving, a quick review
of fertility facts might be in order.
“Half of the patients who come to me hoping to get pregnant don’t
understand a woman’s ovulation cycle,” says
Billie Park, DO, a board-certified family medicine physician at
St. Jude Heritage Medical Group, who works out of Yorba Linda and sees many couples with fertility problems.
To understand her cycle, a woman should begin by taking her temperature
every morning at the same time for a few months, marking it each day on
a calendar. She will soon recognize her baseline temperature, and notice
when it rises—usually at about day 14—indicating that she
Paying attention to exactly when this temperature rise occurs over several
months can help a woman identify the days when she is fertile—this
is during the two to three days before her temperature rises.
A side benefit of this tracking is that by becoming attuned to their bodies,
some women might see abnormalities in temperature fluctuations, “which
could indicate other underlying diseases such as thyroid disorders, certain
cancers, gynecologic disorders and infections,” says Dr. Park.
Although the National Institutes of Health defines infertility as the inability
to conceive after one year, Park says he sometimes refers couples to a
specialist if conception does not occur after six months.
There are many causes of infertility, from lifestyle habits to medical
problems. Women with fibroids or blocked fallopian tubes might have trouble
getting pregnant. Abnormal sperm production or blockages in men can also
For men, smoking can decrease sperm count and quality, according to the
American Society for Reproductive Medicine. In women, smoking can decrease
the number of eggs. High alcohol consumption also can negatively affect
For information about causes of infertility and how to find a doctor with
expertise in this field, the nonprofit group Resolve (resolve.org)—founded
in 1974 by a nurse who was trying to cope with her own infertility—is
a comprehensive resource.
The experience of not being able to achieve pregnancy can be extremely
emotional and stressful for couples. To stay healthy and as relaxed as
possible, the Resolve.org website suggests eating a balanced diet, maintaining
a healthy weight and taking steps to reduce stress, such as keeping up
with regular exercise. Receiving help from a counselor also can relieve stress.
Dr. Park recommends that a woman who is trying to conceive take a daily
prenatal vitamin, so that when she does become pregnant her developing
fetus will get a healthy start.
Learn more about
Dr. Park. Learn more about
St. Jude Heritage Medical Group.
(This article originally appeared in OC Catholic in September, 2015)