When couples decide to conceive, health is often a big concern, though not one most young couples think they need to worry about.
When Sabrina and Ryan Loviner started trying to conceive four and a half years ago, “basically as soon as we got married,” said Ryan, they didn’t think they had any health problems to address beforehand.
Ryan, 28, said their biggest obstacle was him being in the Army; between deployments and training, they’ve spent over half of their marriage apart.
But after trying without success, they finally consulted a fertility specialist and Sabrina, 29, was told she has polycystic ovarian syndrome.
“It means that I have cysts on my ovaries and they don’t release eggs as they should,” said Sabrina.
According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, “Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age. … The exact cause … is unknown.”
Sabrina said that after seeing the specialist she started exercising more regularly and eating better. She and Ryan eat less red meat and more fresh fruits and vegetables.
Ryan advised not making any drastic changes and to focus on being healthy for the sake of being healthy, not for making a baby. He said stressing out about it will only make the situation worse.
Sabrina is currently on her first round of hormone medication, which should prompt her ovaries to start releasing eggs and will hopefully prevent them from having to pursue more extreme treatments such as In Vitro Fertilization.
The Fort Benning-based couple is sharing their story through the TLC web series “A Conception Story,” and they said the process of blogging and sharing videos about their experience has been positive.
“We wanted to share what we’re going through, let people know they’re not alone,” said Ryan. “It’s been a great experience.”
Sabrina said prior to documenting their journey for the web series she would keep her own private records, but enjoys being able to share it with other people.
“It makes it easier because when you go through problems like this, sometimes you feel isolated,” she said. “It helps to know I’m not alone.”
Sabrina added that she’s gotten particularly close with one of the other five couples participating on “A Conception Story” (they’re all Fort Benning families) and that it helps to have someone close to talk to since her mom and sisters live far away.
But their best piece of advice to couples trying to conceive is to relax.
“Stress is an added obstacle when you’re trying to conceive,” said Sabrina. “Just relax. A lot of people told us that at first. It really is a lifesaver sometimes. You just need to stop and take a deep breath and relax.”
Tips from a doctor
Dr. Amanda McPherson, a local obstetrician/gynecologist with St. Francis OB/GYN Associates, said that the first things couples should do before trying to conceive is consult with their doctor.
A pre-conception consultation can help identify anything that should be taken care of prior to pregnancy, such as getting updated on vaccinations, addressing pre-existing health concerns, exercise and weight-loss for the mother, review of current medications and smoking cessation for both parents, if necessary.
“It’s advisable also for the father to quit smoking because you’re going to be bringing a baby into that home,” she said, and you want it to be as safe an environment as possible.
Taking a supplement that includes folic acid (at least 400 micrograms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), such as over-the-counter prenatal vitamins, is also recommended. This vitamin should replace, not be taken in addition to, a daily multivitamin.
While living a healthy lifestyle will often improve fertility, McPherson said there are no special foods or exercises that will increase the chances of conception.
“The whole mind-body-spirit (connection) is definitely true,” said McPherson. “And overall wellness is definitely encouraged and things you can do to reduce your risk for diabetes and hypertension will help you have a healthier pregnancy. So meeting with your doctor, talking about what medical problems you have, trying to create that lifestyle or fitness routine that would reduce those medical problems is really what we’re looking for.”
In instances where couples need assistance, McPherson recommends young couples to try for a year and those 35 and older for six months before consulting a gynecologist or reproductive endocrinologist.
But like the Loviners, McPherson said that if you’re not immediately successful, don’t stress out about it.
“Keeping track of your menstrual period is important and having frequent intercourse will increase your odds without having to stress out so much about when you’re ovulating,” she said. “Just have fun.”