Written by : Nikki Featherstone
In this issue’s Mummy Column, Nikki wrote a larger piece on our letter F : fertility. Every 4th column, we dedicate space to discuss some of the more tricky topics like breastfeeding, hormones and jealousy. Check them out! Read on if you’re after some fertility insight...
What does fertility mean?
Fertility is our ability to conceive, carry babies in our bodies and bring them into the world. We can get pregnant when our hormones kick in during puberty and after we get our first period. Women are born with a fixed number of immature eggs in their ovaries, which decrease in number as they get older. At birth, most girls have around two million eggs. During teenage years, this decreases to about 400,000, and by the age of 37, there are about 25,000 remaining.
How quickly will I fall pregnant?
For those of us who are trying to conceive, this question can plague our minds daily - I know it did for me! When trying for my son, I convinced myself that I would fall pregnant straight away, but it didn’t happen like that and I felt devastated. My husband and I had been trying and then boom, my period would arrive! This desire to get pregnant began to consume me. It was as if I needed to be pregnant. Five months may not seem like a long time (and in hindsight it really wasn’t) but it felt like a long time, and I thought something was wrong. Then I realised how obsessed I was with getting pregnant: I cried each month if I wasn’t pregnant; sex became less intimate because I was solely focused on getting pregnant; and if we were not able to have sex on certain days, I became upset, almost angry. I knew I had to hand over this desire to God and trust Him, something I hadn’t been doing.
I remember praying over the Christmas period and felt the worry being lifted from me and experiencing a sense of freedom. Then I deleted all the apps on my phone which were tracking my ovulation and refocused on God, my marriage and other aspects of my life that I had been neglecting. Eventually, I accepted that God had his hand over whether I was to fall pregnant or not.
Six months after trying, we did fall pregnant. But this was in God’s perfect timing. Some of my friends fell pregnant straight away, while it has taken longer for others, and for some it hasn’t happened. The British Fertility Society have estimated that if a couple are fertile, 93% of these couples will get pregnant within a year of trying to conceive. If the couple has a mild fertility problem, 46% of these couples will fall pregnant. If a couple has serious fertility problems, then 11% of these couples will fall pregnant within a year. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says that if you’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than 1 year without success, you should talk to your doctor.
Is there anything I can do to boost my chances of becoming pregnant?
There are several factors which can decrease or increase a woman’s fertility, such as weight: being underweight or overweight can affect your hormonal levels. Even if your weight is healthy, some substances can reduce your fertility. The NHS recommends avoiding alcohol, caffeine and smoking when trying to conceive. A month before I fell pregnant, I gave up alcohol completely. I felt God saying to me that I should stop drinking alcohol for a while. This ended up being 14 months! However, cutting out alcohol and/or other substances does not guarantee you will conceive – I felt challenged to cut it out and I was blessed to fall pregnant soon after. The NHS and several health professionals also recommend that women should take folic acid six months before trying to conceive. I did not realise this was recommended, but I began taking folic acid when I found out I was pregnant and for the first three months of my pregnancy, and then I started taking prenatal vitamins.
Another recommendation is to track your menstrual cycle. There are lots of apps out there which you can use. They help you understand and see when you might be ovulating, but the key word here is might. Your cycle may differ depending on what is ‘regular’ for you, and so it is not guaranteed that you are actually ovulating on a specific day. Although these apps are useful to know when your period is due, I became obsessed. I downloaded five different ones to make sure they all said the same thing. I would check them several times a day, every day, and would track every symptom and change in my body, however small. In the end, those apps did not help me. It’s up to you at the end of the day, but whatever you decide, keep praying, reading God’s word and worshipping Him.
Hey number 2!
Nine months after giving birth to Joseph, we fell pregnant again and we were a little bit surprised. Joyful (!), but definitely surprised. I was still breastfeeding, my periods had only just returned and one night we slept together without using protection - I honestly thought ‘what are the odds?’. We fell pregnant straight away. Then 11 weeks later, our world flipped upside down as one evening I began to bleed, and it did not stop. We both knew I had miscarried and the next day the sonograph confirmed the devastating news. Words could not begin to describe how I felt, and it took me a while to come to terms with it. We were told to wait six weeks before trying to conceive again, but at this point I was desperate to get back what I had lost. I could feel the desire to get pregnant consuming me again, and I knew I needed support.
Months were passing and I was entering a place that wasn’t healthy for me mentally. One morning I came out of the bathroom crying and knew I had to talk to my husband Dan about how I was feeling. I thought I had to be ‘okay’ because it had been six months since our loss but I wasn’t coping and was feeling a lot of hurt and anger. Talking through my emotions felt as though a weight was being lifted and I was no longer doing this alone. Dan wanted to be by my side to help me cope with our loss, the guilt which I felt and the pain of not still being pregnant. My husband and I had to pray daily, ‘not my will but yours’, as we didn’t know what the future held. It wasn’t easy or quick, but one day at a time (and with support) I discovered how to take my emotions to God and manage them in a way which saw me grow and rest in all God has for me. I am very blessed to be able to say that we are now awaiting the arrival of another little miracle and eagerly awaiting life as a family of four.
Should we seek medical advice?
If a doctor determines that you or your husband have a fertility issue, they can advise you on the best course of treatment. This may mean looking at assisted fertility treatments, such as IVF. This is worth discussing with another couple or person within your church to help you consider this process. We'll be exploring the facts and experiences of our team concerning IVF in 2020 (so watch this space)… God commands humans to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ at the start of the Bible. Genesis 1:28 says: ‘God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”’ Yet despite this blessing, there are numerous instances within the Bible of women who are unable to conceive, such as Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel. Parenthood is not God's plan for everyone, but if we trust God and His plan for our lives then we can have hope and grow in godly character.
In Mark 11:24, Jesus says:”"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." This verse does not promise us that we get what we ask God for when we want it and how we want it. But God has already answered our prayers, even though we often cannot see how He has answered them yet. Let’s continue to pray with faith that He does listen to our prayers and answer them.
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