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Dear Doctor: Fertility supplements

After a year of trying, I'm still not pregnant. Should I take herbal supplements to boost my fertility?

I have been trying for nearly a year now to get pregnant. I've seen fertility herbs advertised. Would they help?

It's not surprising that you are looking to herbs to help you conceive as conventional treatment to help fertility can be a long and expensive process.

For a healthy, fertile couple, the per month success rate is around 15-20pc, so it is not at all uncommon for it to take some months to conceive. Around 85pc of couples will be pregnant after one year of trying.

But before you explore alternative treatments, speak to your doctor. This will give you both the opportunity to explore any underlying problems. It is important that your doctor takes a detailed history and examination. He/she can check certain hormone levels such as LH/FSH on day two of your cycle. LH and FSH are hormones that stimulate egg development and release. Progesterone levels are checked seven days before a period is due. Rubella antibody levels are also checked to see that immunity is present. If there is a history of irregular periods then thyroid disease needs to be excluded. Depending on age and other factors you can be referred to a fertility specialist, too.

I have started using a home fertility test, but am not sure if I'm using it correctly. Are they reliable?

Most home kits involve a urine test which can measure LH levels. LH levels surge 24-36 hours before ovulation. Conception is most likely one to three days after this surge. But the test is not as reliable for women with an irregular menstrual cycle and you may need to test for several days to detect a surge in LH. Before you do the test don't drink large amounts of water. Some medications such as Danazol or Clomid may interfere with the test results. Women who have recently stopped taking the Pill should wait for two to three menstrual cycles before using this test.

Alternatively, home fertility monitors are digital handheld devices that predict ovulation based on electrolyte levels in saliva, LH levels in urine, or your basal body temperature.

I've been under stress recently; would this interfere with my chances of getting pregnant?

Though a direct link between stress and infertility has not yet been proven, it is always better to keep your mind and body relaxed if you want to conceive. To reduce your stress, talk to your partner, join a support group and realise you're not alone.

I am still interested to know if there are any herbs or supplements that can help you conceive?

Commonly used herbs for fertility are red clover and chaste berry. These should be taken after consultation with a medical herbalist. Remember, it's not known how herbs may interact with prescribed medication or their long-term effect.