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Dealing with infertility: Some common symptoms that might suggest fertility problems, and what you can do

The cruel thing about fertility problems is that often, they’re symptomless. We breeze through life expecting a bundle of joy the moment we want one, unaware there may be problems bubbling underneath. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of being in tune with our bodies.

Do you know when you ovulate?

I didn’t have a clue – mainly because I wasn’t ovulating. But once I was, and knew what to look out for, knowing when to get down and dirty became a little easier.

Dr. Tom Hannam, of Hannam Fertility Centre, says most women don’t know when they ovulate: “The trouble that most women have most of the time is just a question of timing,” he says. “They don’t know when they ovulate.

“You can know quite a bit from your own cycle. You hope for a cycle that is more or less 28 days; if it’s longer than that, then that’s okay. If it’s shorter, that might mean you don’t have as many eggs as you thought you did.”

There’s a whole load of stuff to help you get to grips with your cycle, from apps to sticks that you pee on.

It’s not always a matter of timing though –  sometimes, there can be real problems. Some may suffer in silence when actually, they’re in real pain.

“When you have a cycle that hurts a lot, it can be a truly horrible experience,” adds Dr. Hannam. “That’s just not normal. If it’s hurting way more than your friends’ periods, it could mean something might be up.”

“Also if your periods are too heavy; some people say it’s soaking through pads at night and they really can’t keep up. That could be associated with fibroids.”

“So if your cycles are irregular, hurt or you’ve got really heavy periods, those three things might let you know you’re going to have problems.”

Another one is age, adds Dr. Hannam. You can’t get away from it, but it does affect egg quality. For most women, age won’t be an issue until 38. But after that, everyone is different.

If you have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), physical symptoms can be quite distressing. You can have acne, facial and body hair growth, mood swings, weight gain around your abdomen, thinning hair, and cysts on your ovaries.

Endometriosis sufferers could feel a lot of pain and have internal scarring.

So if you suspect a problem, what are your options? The best thing to do is try to get pregnant at home for six months, says Dr. Hannam. After that, visit your family doctor.

“If you’re really sure there’s something up, the good news about fertility clinics in Canada is you can get a referral from your doctor and almost all investigations are covered by the provincial health plan,” says Dr. Hannam. “You can find out what’s going on and it’s very, very straightforward to do some initial screening tests.”

~ Charlotte Percival-Gonzalez is writing a four-part series on infertility for She Does The City. Read her first piece here.

Picture of Dr. Hannam care of Hannam Fertility Centre

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