Fertility Week 2016 is with us here again and this year it is focusing on the top seven factors that can affect a person’s chance of conceiving and having a healthy baby. Each day, the #7ways7days campaign will focus on a different factor – or a series of related factors – which can impact on fertility.

We spoke to Louise Johnson, CEO of the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA), the lead agency in the Fertility Coalition, which runs Your Fertility and its annual Fertility Week campaign about what people should know.

How many people have difficulty trying to have a baby?

About one in six couples in Australia have difficulty getting pregnant. If you are trying for a baby and think you might be having trouble, there are things you can do to improve your chance of getting pregnant naturally. For couples who need expert help like IVF, many of these lifestyle or behavioural changes can also boost their chance of fertility treatment success.

What are the ‘7 ways in 7 days’ you are talking about?

The ‘7 ways in 7 days’ campaign for Fertility Week 2016 – or #7way7days as it is on social media – is designed to inform men and women what they should know about the top factors that may be affecting their fertility. The factors are:

Timing of sex

Pregnancy is only possible during a woman’s ‘fertile window’ – the five days before a woman ovulates through to the day of ovulation. A couple’s chance of conceiving increases further if they have sex during the three days leading up to and including the day she ovulates.

STI’s

Not only should people practice safe sex wherever possible but they should also be tested for STIs if they suspect that they have been exposed to one. Early detection and treatment of STIs can make all the difference in reducing the risk that an infection could lead to infertility.

Age

The age of both parents – particularly a woman’s age – affects a couple’s chance of conceiving and having a healthy baby. For people who want a baby (or another baby), trying sooner rather than later could make all the difference.

Preconception health

There is growing evidence that conditions before and at the time a baby is conceived affects its short and long-term health. Wherever possible, parents should try to maximise their preconception and pregnancy health.

Smoking, alcohol and caffeine

When it comes to drinking coffee, women trying to conceive and those who are pregnant are advised to try not to have more than two cups of coffee a day. With regard to alcohol, however, the best advice for women is that not drinking is safest while men are recommended to avoid heavy alcohol consumption.

Smoking has a significant impact on fertility and child health. Smokers take longer to get pregnant because of the damage smoking can cause in sperm and eggs – and passive smoking is also very harmful. Fortunately, quitting by either partner (or both) will increase a couple’s chance of conceiving and having a healthy baby.

Weight and exercise

Being overweight – especially significantly so – can create hormonal imbalance that affects a woman’s chances of conceiving and having a healthy baby. Excess weight can also lower male fertility. Fortunately, even a modest weight loss of 5-10 kilos can improve a woman’s fertility and pregnancy health, if she is overweight.  Exercise can also improve a couple’s chances of conceiving.

Vitamin and minerals

There are a few supplements that people should consider taking if they are pregnant or trying for a baby. For women, taking folate helps prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida in babies and should be taken daily from at least one month before conception and during the first two months of pregnancy. Women who are pregnant and breastfeeding – or those thinking about having a baby – should take iodine supplements daily, to support the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system.

The presence of ‘free radicals’ at a high level in the body can pose health risks. For men who want to be fathers, increasing their intake of zinc and selenium can reduce the damage to sperm caused by free radicals and improve sperm quality.

If people want to read more where should they go?

For people wanting to know more about Fertility Week and the ‘7 ways in 7 days’ campaign they should visit www.yourfertility.org.au which has an excellent range of accessible resources, including facts sheets on the factors highlighted during Fertility Week 2016. They can also look out for the #Fertility Week and #7ways7days hashtags – and we encourage people to share and support these important messages as much as possible.