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?
A: I understand your concern, but most physicians do not begin infertility testing until the couple has not used birth control for 12 months and has not conceived, or if the woman is 35 or older. At that point, you should contact your health-care provider.
In the meantime, you could try an ovulation-predictor kit, which is available at most drugstores, to determine the best time to have sex.
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: I’m only 41, but I wonder if I’m starting to go through menopause. How early do symptoms begin to show up?
A: 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 or urine 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.
Preuninger is an OB/GYN at Memorial Health University Physicians — Provident OB/GYN Associates, 2429 Highway 17 S. in Richmond Hill.