The questions below are answered by Joanne Price, M.D., a board-certified ob/gyn at Provide OB/GYN Associates.
Q: My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for eight months. Is it time to talk to my doctor about infertility testing?
Dr. Price I understand your concern and it is certainly OK to touch base with your physician with any questions. But most physicians do not begin infertility testing until the couple has been trying for pregnancy for 12 months without conceiving. If the woman is 35 or older then testing is started after six months of trying without conception.
In the meantime, you can track your menstrual cycles to make sure they’re regular and try an ovulation predictor kit, which is available at most drugstores, to determine the best time to have sex. You should also know your cycle’s length, or the number of days from the first day of your period until the next cycle starts, and when in your cycle you ovulate. This can help your physician identify why you may not yet be pregnant.
A study by the Harvard School of Public Health found some women can improve their chances of getting pregnant by eating a variety of “fertility foods.” These include monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil; vegetable protein, like soy; high-fiber, low-glycemic foods, like whole grains, vegetables and certain fruits; and moderate amounts of high-fat dairy products. Maintaining a healthy weight, reducing stress and acupuncture may also boost your fertility.
Smoking – by the woman or the man – can greatly inhibit fertility. So if you or your husband smoke, kick the habit now. It may be the most important step you take toward becoming parents.
Q: How early do menopause symptoms begin to show up?
Dr. Price: Menopause occurs when a woman doesn’t have a period for a year. Typically, menopause occurs between the ages of 45 and 55; however, symptoms can begin appearing as early as your 30s. This period of time is called perimenopause and may cause a variety of menopausal symptoms as your ovaries produce less and less estrogen. These include: unusual periods (fewer or more, heavier or lighter), night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia, depression, irritability, vaginal dryness and heart racing or pounding. Your physician may do a blood test to determine your hormone levels.
If your symptoms become severe, you may choose to use hormone replacement therapy, or HRT. Before making that decision, be sure to discuss it thoroughly with your health-care provider. Some studies have linked HRT with increased risks of breast cancer, blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. Review your health history with your doctor to determine if you have risk factors for any of these conditions.
If you choose not to take HRT there are lifestyle changes you can make that can provide relief from menopause symptoms. The National Institutes of Health recommends:
• Avoid caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods.
• Get regular exercise.
• Stay sexually active.
• Wear light layers of clothing to manage your body’s temperature changes.
• Eat soy foods and get the right amount of calcium and vitamin D in your diet or with supplements.
• Try relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation.
Dr. Joanne Price is an obstetrician/gynecologist at Memorial Health University Physicians – Provident OB/GYN Associates, 14 Okatie Center Blvd. S., Suite 101, in Okatie, S.C. She is now accepting new patients. To make an appointment, call 843-836-3800.
This article first appeared in the February 1, 2012, edition of the Bluffton Sun.