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Your Healthy Family: Fertility Facts

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When a couple is trying to get pregnant, usually the waiting is the hardest part.  or many couples, countless months of trying and no success can leave them feeling dismayed and looking for reasons to explain why it just doesn’t seem to be working for them.

According to fertility specialist Cynthia Austin, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic, there are several reasons why couples can have difficulty getting pregnant when they want to, but one reason usually takes precedence.

“Age is really the most important factor,” said Dr. Austin. “When I meet with a couple, the single piece of information that is most predictive of whether or not they’re going to be successful is the age of the mom.”

While many are aware that a woman’s age can impact her ability to become pregnant, Dr. Austin said there are other factors that may seem a little less obvious.

Fertility can be impacted by:

Either partner being overweight or underweight

Excessive exercising

Smoking and excess alcohol consumption (by either partner) 

Dr. Austin said that many men are surprised to learn that their own health contributes to their partner’s ability to become pregnant.  She also cautions men from using any testosterone or steroid-type products in an attempt to boost fertility, as they can actually have the opposite effect.  “The sperm count will drop to absolute zero and the longer a man is on those sorts of steroids, the less likely it is that the sperm count will come back,” said Dr. Austin.

Dr. Austin said the most difficult thing for couples to cope with when it comes to fertility is that there is often much that is out of their control.  "The best thing a woman can do is find a doctor she feels comfortable with, follow their advice and follow the treatment,” said Dr. Austin. “I think the biggest difference between a couple that’s successful and couple that’s not is perseverance and patience.”

Dr. Austin reminds couples that it’s normal for it to take six months to a year to get pregnant.  However, if it’s been more than a year, or more than six months if a woman is into her late 30s or early 40s, she recommends seeking the help of a fertility doctor.

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