Your Fertility Questions Answered By Dr. Raewyn Tierney

bubble.'s sexual health columnist Dr. Raewyn Tierney answers your questions on emergency contraception, the 'fertile window', and age & fertility.

Fancy Lash

Q: If I take the morning after pill too many times, can that reduce my ability to fall pregnant in the future? A: No. This isn’t true; however, you really don’t want to be taking emergency contraception too often, or rely on it as a form of contraception, simply because it isn’t as effective as the contraceptive pill or condoms, IUDS and so on. It won’t affect your fertility or your future chances of conceiving a baby, but it could have the unwanted effect of causing irregular periods for a while.

Women should feel free to use EC whenever they think it’s necessary. EC is not recommended as an ongoing form of birth control because it’s not as effective at preventing pregnancy as birth control methods like the IUD, patch, pill, ring, or shot. Also, frequent use of EC may cause periods to become irregular and unpredictable. The Morning After Pill is a good fall back if you have had unprotected sex and think you may have conceived when you don’t want to, or say, the condom broke. If you take within 72 hours of unprotected sex, it can reduce your chances of conceiving by up 75 to 89 percent. However, I should stress again that it shouldn’t be relied on as a form of contraception long term. It is called Emergency contraception for a very good reason.

Q: How does the ovulation cycle work? What is the best part of the month I can fall pregnant/avoid falling pregnant? A: What you‘re referring to is the 'fertile window’ of your menstrual cycle. These are the days in your cycle when conceiving a baby is most possible. This window varies with each individual woman and it also depends on the length of your menstrual cycle.

The ‘fertile window’ is the day an egg is released from the ovary (ovulation) and the five days beforehand. Having sex (intercourse) during this time gives you the best chance of getting pregnant. Conversely, avoiding sex during this time gives you the best chance of not conceiving. Signs you are reaching your fertile window include tender, sore breast, cramping and aching in the lower pelvic region on either side, bloating, acne breakouts or excessive oiliness of the skin and a change in your cervical fluids from thick and opaque to clear and quite slippery. This is all related to a rise in the hormone progesterone, which signifies that the egg has been released into the fallopian tubes, or in other words, you’re ovulating.

An ovulation calendar can help you keep track of your most fertile days. Simply use a regular calendar and begin marking on the first day of your period. This is Day One. The last day of your cycle is the day before your next period begins. Make this process even easier with my new conceiveplease app, which is launching any day now! It uses the exact same technology I rely on in my IVF clinic to accurately pinpoint your most fertile days and best improve your chance of falling pregnant (or not falling pregnant if that is your aim).

Q: What age/s are we most fertile? If I want to have a baby in my 30s, what are my chances? I really don't want to have kids in my 20s like the rest of my friends.

A: Women are most fertile between the ages of about 20 – 35. From the age of 35, egg quality and quantity decline rapidly. The younger you are, the more fertile you are – even a 15-year-old can be very fertile, although we don’t recommend teenagers start having babies. The recommended age would be from under 35 years of age for your best chance of conceiving naturally. Fertility is related to age, amongst other things, but age is one of the most important factors. The younger you are, the more fertile you will be. The ideal time to start trying for a baby is in your mid to late 20s, however we can use medical intervention to help women as old as 45 have children. We definitely would advise trying to start at as young an age as possible to really improve your chances of conceiving naturally. If you do wish to wait, you may want to consider freezing your eggs, which is a relatively simple process and means your eggs can be used at a later date, but will be the same ‘age’ as they were when you froze them, even though you may be quite a few years older.