SEX, FERTILITY AND CONCEPTION

So wrote Kahlil Gibran in his magnificent work The Prophet. Nature wants us to conceive. However, nature does not want unhealthy or weak genes and will therefore go to great lengths to weed out all but those that are the strongest and most likely to survive.

One Eastern philosophy believes that the spirit of a child will select its parents. If this is the case then the physically healthier and psychologically more secure the parents, the more likely the infant spirits will be to vie for these parents and, through natural selection, the most healthy and psychologically adjusted child will develop from the parents’ union. From a more grounded and less ethereal point of view, the healthier the parents, the more psychologically ready and the more spiritually secure the couple are, then clearly the chances of the child being born healthy must increase.

CHOOSING A PARTNER

There are two extremes in choosing a partner. The Eastern philosophy of arranged marriages lies at one end and the romantic notion of falling in love lies at the other. At the first end is the conscious appraisal by elders of two youngsters’ attributes and what they would bring to a partnership or to the respective families. At the other end is the emotionally charged, ‘love is blind’ method. As in most matters, the balance probably lies in-between.

I am not seeking to change religious or ethical inclinations but feel strongly that choosing a partner is such an important decision that neither should it be left solely to others nor left entirely to the vagaries of our emotional states.

THE MISCONCEPTIONS OF CONCEPTION

The reasons why we have sex are manifold. The sensory pleasures that are derived from interacting in a sexual way with another human being give both pleasure and comfort. Most people enjoy sex and those who do not, often instead use sex to derive respect, security or to derive some other gain. When all is said and done, however, the one-, two- and three-play that leads up to foreplay and sex are all social distortions of our necessity to create the next generation of our species.

The large majority of women will, at some time in their lives, consider whether they wish to become pregnant. If they did not, we would not be here. The decision is reached when the correct physical age is attained and it is decided that it is time psychologically and spiritually to be a parent.

There are over 750,000 births per year in the UK and five times that number in the USA. It is estimated, however, that as many as two out of every five pregnancies fail to reach maturation (be delivered). This means that there are possibly 2.5 million conceptions in the UK and 12.5 million in the USA each year. Most are not even noticed. The fertilized egg fails to implant in the womb or fails to survive for reasons such as faulty genes in either the sperm or in the egg, or because of problems with the health of the mother. The fertilized egg is then shed imperceptibly, usually at the next period. Problems of conception, however, are not only due to failure once an egg has been fertilized. Many couples failing to conceive do so because the male and female sex cells do not even meet. Problems either with the production of the egg from the ovary or inadequate amounts of sperm or non-viable sperm can also cause infertility.

A minority of the 10 million women in the UK and 50 million in the USA who could conceive at any particular time may have problems in doing so, but what advice and treatment is currently available to those who are unsuccessful?

Approximately 30,000 women, either alone or with their partner, attend clinics or specialists each year in the UK because they have not been able to conceive. Again, an assumption can be drawn that only one-third of those having trouble becoming pregnant actually present themselves to a practitioner. In any particular year, therefore, it can be estimated that 90,000 women in the UK are failing to conceive.

Earlier this decade the orthodox medical establishment stated that only 15 per cent of infertile females respond favourably to orthodox treatment. It was also established that various alternative methods gave much the same response. Holistic medicine, effectively being the use of both orthodox and alternative treatments, may, arguably, double the chances of a couple having a child.

The problem of infertility, as with any health matter, should be studied and treated at the three levels of well-being: body, mind and spirit. The actual causes of infertility can be divided into problems arising from the male or the female, but many factors are shared.

GETTING THE TIMING RIGHT

The average menstrual cycle is 28 days. There is, of course, much variation and some females can have a cycle as long as 40 days whilst others may have periods every three weeks. As a rule, the egg is ready for fertilization approximately 14 days before the next period is due. For women with a regular cycle this can be calculated quite simply but for others, tests on the urine or the vaginal secretions can accurately suggest the time to get their partner into bed. Kits for such tests can be obtained from a high street chemist. Another common method is to measure the half-degree rise in body temperature, which can be used with some confidence towards its accuracy. Simply measure and record your temperature every morning by placing a thermometer under your tongue. Couples must remember that not every period and not every month necessarily means the eviction of an egg from the ovary and they should not be distressed if the tests show negative during some months.

GENERAL

I am satisfied with the ways we resolve our differences.

I am confident about our physical and mental health.

I agree with my partner on our involvement in running our home.

I agree with my partner’s goals and plans.

I wish to be with my partner and I am not being forced.

I never have doubts that we are right for each other.

I share similar interests with my partner.

I am happy to talk with my partner.

I am happy with what my partner expects of me.

I am confident with the compatibility of our education and intelligence.

I find it easy to express my feelings to my partner.

I would worry if I thought that we would not be together.

I feel that we have the same ideas about lifestyle.

I agree with my partner on how to decorate and furnish our home.

Our jobs are not interfering with our relationship.

There are no objections to our being together.

I understand the circumstances that could end our relationship.

We agree on when and whether to get married.

HABITS AND HOBBIES

My partner does not place too much emphasis on neatness.

My partner does not worry me about his/her use of alcohol/tobacco/drugs.

My partner is not too busy for us to do enough things together.

I am not uncomfortable on occasions with my partner’s behaviour.

My partner does not need more outside activities.

Our leisure activities are compatible.

FAMILY/FRIENDS

My partner’s spiritual beliefs are acceptable to me.

My partner’s spiritual beliefs are acceptable to my family.

Our families have similar cultural/social/economic/ethnic values.

We share attitudes about values.

We share attitudes on children and the attitudes we would like them to have.

I like my partner’s friends.

I am happy for my partner to spend time with his/her own friends.

I am happy to spend time with my partner’s friends.

I do not worry that either of our families will cause friction between us.

We have the same feelings about pregnancy, childbirth and adoption.

We agree on our roles as parents in raising children, if we have them.

I believe that my partner will make a good parent if we have children.

We agree on whether to talk about our problems with close friends.

I believe that we should talk about our problems with each other.

We agree on whether to talk about our problems with our families.

My partner is not too dependent on his/her family.

My partner’s family is not too dependent on him/her.

My family agrees with my choice of partner.

My partner’s family likes me.

I am comfortable when I am with my partner’s family.

We agree on whether to have children.

I do not worry that my own childhood will badly affect my relationship with our children, if we have any.

PERSONAL

My partner is not depressed and does not have major mood swings.

My partner is very unlikely to hurt my feelings.

My partner and I have a similar sense of humour.

My partner is a good companion.

My partner expresses feelings well.

My partner does not have a problem with his/her temper.

I have no doubt my partner has made the right choice in me.

I have no doubt that I have made the right choice in my partner.

My partner does not have prejudices that upset me.

Most of the time I am satisfied with life.

I find that I feel comfortable with my partner most of the time.

I try very hard to avoid disagreements with my partner.

My partner tries very hard to avoid disagreements with me.

I always feel safe with my partner.

My partner handles personal problems well.

My partner is not too possessive.

I do not get annoyed with any of my partner’s mannerisms.

I am never embarrassed by my partner’s behaviour.

My partner is not stubborn.

My partner is there for me when I am down.

I am comfortable with my partner’s moods.

My partner is a good listener.

We are able, when necessary, to talk over problems when we disagree.

My partner is not too aggressive.

SEXUAL COMPATIBILITY

I feel good about my sexuality.

I feel good about my partner’s sexuality.

We agree on the process of lovemaking and intercourse.

I like the way I look.

I do not think that sex is the way to sort out our problems.

I am not embarrassed by sexual contact with my partner.

I am happy with how sex is initiated.

I am not worried about being unable to satisfy my partner sexually.

I am not worried about being unsatisfied by my partner sexually.

I can trust my partner with members of the opposite sex.

I am happy in the way we show affection for each other.

I am not worried that I might be sexually impotent or frigid.

I am not worried that my partner might be sexually impotent or frigid.

I understand that if I were unfaithful it could ruin our relationship.

At times I need my personal space and my partner gives it to me.

I can discuss sex with my partner.

My partner and I have the same views on premarital sex.

The method or absence of birth control is not a problem between us.

At times, if my partner does not want sex or to be touched, it is all right with me.

RECOMMENDATION

Where the couple have differing or opposing views, the points should be discussed amongst themselves or their friends and family. If resolution is not forthcoming then I strongly advise a session with a relationships counsellor or, in the case of religious disagreements, a suitable spiritual advisor.

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