Fertility Self- Assesment Test

Listen in to my Webinar on the facts of fertility:  For women who are trying to conceive, a free webinar available on preparing for pregnancy from an integrative perspective. (Available January 29-February 8.)

Often I am asked, “Is there an ideal age to have a baby?” Biologically, the answer is clear. Peak fertility occurs in a woman’s midtwenties. For most of us, however, other factors weigh in. There are social considerations: Do I have the right partner? Is he ready? Financial constraints also influence us; having a baby and raising a child are expensive! And educational and career aspirations can be all consuming early in adult life.

The media has portrayed advances in reproductive technology as a panacea. We are regaled with celebrities who conceive and bear children in midlife, leaving many women to believe they can have a child easily, with a bit of help from modern medicine, at age forty or even fifty. This has obscured the fact that as women age, fertility declines and miscarriage rates increase. And, IVF  is less often successful as we age. So I ask younger women to think carefully about whether it might be best if they were to have a child at a younger, and I help women of all ages to maximize their fertility with the full range of integrative approaches.

In a certain respect, the challenge that we face today is an unintended consequence of the miraculous invention of the birth control pill. Introduced in 1965, it allowed women, for the first time in history, to be sexually active and to control reproduction. This freedom helped women avoid unplanned pregnancy, and drove up the average age of first childbirth from twenty-one in 1968 to twenty-five in 2002. As we swallow these pills from our teenage years on, we can lose touch with our underlying cycles, and with the fact that time is slipping by. I advocate that women become reacquainted with our cycles as this will make it easier to conceive. It also provides warnings of potential fertility problems (polycystic ovarian syndrome, short luteal phase, and more) that are better addressed at earlier stages and younger ages when they will be easier to reverse.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get a better idea of your own body and your fertility. After having answered these questions, a conversation with your doctor about your health will be much easier and more defined.

Menstrual Periods

At what age did you start your period? How regular are they?

How long is your cycle?  What is your flow like?

Do you have pain during your period?

Contraception

What type of birth control have you used?  Have you discontinued it?

What effect, if any, has it had on your fertility?

Have your periods returned to normal?

Nutrition

Do you cook your own food?  How often do you eat freshly cooked whole foods?

How often do you eat out?

Are you on any kind of special diet, such as Atkins, the Zone, Paleo, or Medifast?

How many servings of vegetables and fruit do you eat per day?

How often do you eat fish or sushi? Are you avoiding those with the highest levels of mercury and PCBs: shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel?

Do you have any food intolerances?  Has anyone suggested that you may be sensitive to wheat or dairy?

How many servings of animal protein do you consume daily? How many servings of vegetable protein?

Do you binge, or have a sweet tooth and eat a lot of cake, candy, or pastries?

How many sodas or sweetened beverages do you drink each week?

How many alcoholic beverages do you drink each week?

How much coffee do you drink per day?

Do you use iodized salt? (this is a good idea; many women are borderline iodine deficient which can impair thyroid function and fertility)

Supplements

What vitamins, herbs, and/or supplements do you take?

Are you taking a prenatal multivitamin multi-mineral with folic acid, iron, and iodine?

Where do you get your advice regarding choosing supplements?

Have you been tested for vitamin D deficiency?

Conventional

What prescribed medications do you take?  To find out if a medication is safe during pregnancy talk to your physician or pharmacist or look it up on this NIH website here.

What over-the-counter medications do you take?

Have you discussed the safety of any medications you may be taking to a fetus with your doctor or pharmacist?

Are your immunizations up to date?

Recommended vaccines include: measles, mumps, and rubella; varicella; diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.

Rubella or varicella infections in pregnancy might result in serious congenital malformation. If a woman receives these live-attenuated vaccines, she should be advised to avoid conception for at least 4 weeks after vaccination owing to the theoretical risk of live virus reaching the fetus.

Do you have celiac disease or thyroid disease?

Do you have PCOS symptoms such as excess facial or body hair, acne, and irregular periods?

Have you had surgery for blocked tubes or fibroids?

Have you or your partner been diagnosed with any medical problems that could affect fertility?

Have you had any previous pregnancies, abortions, or miscarriages?

Lifestyle

What is your daily activity level?

How many hours per week do you exercise? (too much vigorous exercise can impair fertility)

What is your height and weight? What is your BMI? You can calculate your BMI here.

Do you currently smoke cigarettes?

How many hours of sleep do you get each night?

Environment

Have you been exposed to lead, X-rays, solvents, or chemotherapeutic agents?

Do you avoid fish that contain mercury and PCBs?

Do you pay attention to the pesticides in your vegetables and fruits and select those with lower levels or purchase organic?

Have you bought new furniture or carpets recently?

Have you painted the house recently? Did you use no- or low-VOC paint?

Do you spray the house for bugs or have your lawn sprayed?

Do you use green cleaning products?

Do you check the ingredients in your cosmetics, lotions, and shampoos? these can be a source of endocrine disruptors (hormone disrupting chemicals)

Do you use perfumes and/or air fresheners? (these are also endocrine disruptors)

Mind-Body

How much stress are you under?  How do you manage the stress in your life?

Do you do yoga, mindful walking, journal, meditate, or other mind-body practices?

Do you believe that you can get pregnant and have a healthy child?

Do you have any concerns or fears about getting pregnant?

Do you have fears about changes in your body, getting “fat,” or a fear that you won’t be able to lose the weight after giving birth?

Spirituality

Do you have a religious practice or faith tradition that is important to you?

Do you pray for yourself?

Where do you get your strength during difficult times?

Have you ever had an experience of awe or mystery or something that you just can’t easily explain?