Apr 20, 2015 — Many couples struggle with infertility and conceiving a child. Dr. Joseph Stanford is a specialist in restorative medicine for infertility who says many couples might not struggle with getting pregnant if there weren’t so many misconceptions out there. He talks about how women should learn to observe their bodies instead of the calendar and provides some simple tips that might help couples conceive.

Interview

Interviewer: Couples can do a lot to improve their chances of being able to conceive and have a baby. What are those things? We'll talk about that next, on The Scope.

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Interviewer: This is an interesting thought here. In our educated society there is a large deficit in education about basic facts about fertility and a lot of misunderstanding of which days are most likely for intercourse to result in pregnancy. That's according to Dr. Joseph Stanford. He's a specialist in restorative reproductive medicine for infertility at University of Utah Health Care. That's an interesting statement that you make there, and you say there are a lot of things that couples can do to increase their chances of having a baby if they've been struggling with it. Let's talk about some of those. What are some of the big ones?

Dr. Stanford: So let's start with diet and lifestyle. Doesn't everything start with that?

Interviewer: Seems like nowadays. Yes.

Dr. Stanford: But it's really important and it applies to both the women and the men. And it includes things like not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, also certain types of diets have been linked to better reproductive function in women. The Mediterranean diet, you can look that up on the web for what that is; Low Glycemic Index diet has also been shown to be helpful and that's a diet that diabetics also follow. So these types of healthy diets, and then of course a moderate amount of exercise for both women and men, all those things enhance your basic health and that enhances your fertility.

Interviewer: That seems so basic, I mean really does it really in your experience make that big of a difference, or can it?

Dr. Stanford: It definitely can, and the epidemiological studies also bear that out, yeah.

Interviewer: So it can make the difference between being able to have a baby or not?

Dr. Stanford: It can.

Interviewer: Wow. All right. So lifestyle, diet, get rid of the bad habits if you can. I suppose alcohol consumption is in there as well?

Dr. Stanford: Moderate alcohol consumption, okay. But what is moderate? Definitely not more than a drink a day, you're definitely starting to get into a zone that might be a problem.

Interviewer: Okay, what are some other things that couples can do?

Dr. Stanford: The next I would put on the list is for women to understand their fertility biomarkers. Learn to observe your body and not the calendar. So a lot of women have these ideas about when they ovulate and that's all based on timing and number of days. If you can just put that aside and learn about biomarkers of your fertility, and there are a number of ways out there both online and classes and personal instruction. Lean about cervical fluid, learn about the hormones, and learn about when you are most fertile.

For couples that have normal fertility, the woman has five or six days in a cycle where she is really able to get pregnant from intercourse. For couples with infertility if there is a female factor, which there usually is, that may only be one or two days. So that's really critical to learn about when those days are, and again, it's not the calendar, it's your biomarkers.

Interviewer: Interesting. All right, and that could make a difference as well.

Dr. Stanford: Makes a huge difference.

Interviewer: You've seen that actually give success to couples that have struggled?

Dr. Stanford: Sometimes that's all it takes.

Interviewer: All right. What else. What else do you recommend? Certainly there's something that us guys should be doing.

Dr. Stanford: Certainly. On the male side there is definitely stuff to do. We started with the lifestyle earlier, but also men should pay particular attention to antioxidants in the diet or perhaps supplements. There is some data coming out now that folic acid, some other antioxidant supplements like zinc, may enhance the sperm production and the male fertility. I wouldn't go overboard on any of those, but you can look up reasonable doses and especially just getting those kinds of nutrients in the diet would definitely be something all men should do.

Interviewer: Are there things men are taking, supplement wise, that could actually prevent? Go the other way?

Dr. Stanford: Certainly if any men are into body building, steroids, those things are really bad for fertility so.

Interviewer: Yeah, and then finally a couple's tried those things. How long should they kind of keep going before they maybe do step number four which is seek an expert?

Dr. Stanford: The standard answer is about a year, and I think that is appropriate for most couples. There are some caveats to that. One is if the woman is 35 or older, you probably don't want to wait beyond six months or so. Another caveat is if the woman is not having regular menstrual flows, regular periods, then she should get attention earlier and not just wait a year. And if there are any other underlying significant serious medical conditions that concern you in any way there's nothing wrong with having a consultation with a doctor to find out "Should I be concerned earlier?" If none of those things are going on then a year of figuring out your own fertility and especially learning about your fertility cycle is a very wise start.

Interviewer: If a couple called you for the first time, would you still see them at that point even if they haven't tried these things?
Dr. Stanford: Absolutely. Happy to see them at any point and let them know what I think is most appropriate for this point and work with them on whatever it is they want to do next.

Interviewer: Because you might recognize something in the beginning of this one year process that they may not have seen and if you wait, a year could really throw people's schedule off for planning a child.

Dr. Stanford: That sometimes could be the case. If a couple just want to look at preconception health that's a very legitimate reason to come in

Interviewer: So you think couple's should take an active approach to learning about their own fertility. What are some good resources to maybe take that step beyond what they just heard today?

Dr. Stanford: So there's a local nonprofit group called Intermountain Fertility Care, that has nothing to do with Intermountain Health Care I might add, it's an independent non profit group. That group conducts education in fertility. That's a good resource. There are a number of online resources as well. If you look up "fertility awareness," Georgetown University has one. Marquette University has one. So there are a number of places you can go for some information.

Interviewer: And of course they could contact you with any questions they might have as well.

Dr. Stanford: Of course.

Interviewer: Yes and how can they find your website?

Dr. Stanford: If you Google "Natural Procreative Technology Utah" we'll come up and be at the top.

Interviewer: All right, thank you very much. Some good, I think, things that couples can try before maybe they start freaking out a little bit; and from what you said, things that many couples have found successful.

Dr. Stanford: Very much so.

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