Struggling to conceive? Your most common fertility questions answered

Sometimes it can take longer to get pregnant than you expected, and when that happens it's natural to start feeling disappointed.

For many, starting a family is a fundamental part of life, something they have planned and hoped for for years, and any bumps in the road can come as a big blow.

It's a common issue; around one in six couples will have difficulty conceiving. And there are a number of factors to take into account including age, illness, weight and even stress.

HELLO! Online talks to Dr Venkat, Director of the Harley Street Fertility Clinic who answers the most common questions women ask when trying to conceive.

What can I do to increase my chances of conceiving?
This is an important question and there are lots of pro-active steps you can take to bring your health up to an optimal state. First of all, if you smoke or drink, you should start reducing these activities and eventually stop completely. Smoking particularly affects the quality of sperm and eggs.

If you are on the plump side, starting an exercise and healthy eating regime in order to lose weight will improve sperm function in men and ovulation in women. Going for 30 minute walks in the park every day and also doing active exercise, e.g. swimming or running, improves circulation and makes you produce endorphins, (happy hormones) giving you an overall good feeling. This also helps get rid of the toxins in your body by sweating them out.

Eating a high protein, high fibre and low fat diet will also give you an advantage, so drink plenty of fluid and consume lots of fruits and vegetables. Getting eight hours of sleep a night is likewise a must. If you do all of the above, you are ready!

At what stage should I see the doctor?
The answer will vary from person to person. A woman under 35 can try for 2 years and if she is not successful, it is advisable to see a doctor at that point. Women aged between 35 and 40 years can give themselves between 12 and 18 months of trying before seeking a doctor's help. Anybody over the age of 40 should not delay seeking advice and should consult a doctor after 6 months with no success.

However, if there is a family history of fertility issues, e.g. difficulty in conceiving or premature ovarian failure, it is best to see a doctor, before trying, to arrange the necessary tests.

I would also recommend that all women have a fertility check-up or MOT as a regular assessment, similar to a pap smear, in order to find out about their fertility status. This will help you to plan for the future. Any woman thinking of postponing having children should do this with a possible view to freezing their eggs for later use.

I was told by my friends that we should have intercourse every day while trying for a baby, but others say we should try on alternate days – which is correct?
This is related to the basic physiology of conception. A baby is conceived by fertilisation of the released egg (ovulation) by sperm and attaching to the lining of the womb. Like everything else in life, one has to be in the right place and at the right time to produce a winner! This means that the sperm should be in the fallopian tube (the right place) when the egg is released by the ovary and caught by the fallopian tube (the right time).

You can check when you are ovulating by using prediction kits (LH kits) which you can buy from your local chemist and come with step by step instructions. If the test is positive, it means that the surge of the Luteinising Hormone (LH) has started and this will stimulate ovulation. It usually occurs 30 to 40 hours after the LH surge. Hence you should try every day from the day of the positive test for the next 3 days. This ovulation window is the best time to have intercourse when trying to conceive.

Can my partner and I take any medicines to boost our fertility?
Your partner can take vitamin supplements containing 15 mg of Zinc and 200 μg of selenium which have been shown to improve sperm function empirically.

Women should take 400 mcg of folic acid daily. This is a really important supplement for women trying to conceive and should be taken to prevent neural tube defects in the baby. You should also get checked for low iron (Haemoglobin), low vitamin B12, low folate and low vitamin D. If you are deficient in any of these vitamins, you should take the appropriate medicine to boost the levels in your system.

Apart from these supplements, you should not take any fertility drugs, such as clomiphene citrate (clomid), without consulting a doctor.

Can acupuncture help me to get pregnant?
Acupuncture helps to restore the body's energy balance and improves overall health. If you are finding it difficult to conceive, trying to get pregnant can be very stressful which will hinder your chances of reaching a positive result. Acupuncture helps to reduce the stress associated with trying for a baby. When the stress is reduced, your chances of achieving a pregnancy are higher.

However, please do not expect such changes with one session of acupuncture. A few sessions of the therapy while you are trying may be helpful. If you are afraid of needles, never fear, there is an alternative option. Laser acupuncture which uses a focused beam of light does not involve needles and is also very effective in reducing stress levels.

For more information or to book an appointment with Dr Venkat visit: