Written by Dr Rutuja R Athawale
A study by the Indian Society of Assisted Reproduction has highlighted that infertility affects roughly 10 to 14 per cent of Indian couples and is more common in cities, where one out of every six couples is seeking help.
More women are showing signs of declining fertility and low egg reserves after the age of 30. As more women enter their 30s without a child, trends and statistics point to delayed motherhood becoming the norm. Although the known triggers and physiological conditions continue to affect women’s hormones, latest research shows how a sedentary and plugged in lifestyle is robbing women of their work-life balance and affecting their gynaecological health. Sedentary lifestyle or physical inactivity is more likely to turn a woman infertile than a man. It often causes hormonal imbalance, polycystic ovarian disease and weight issues that impact the embryo. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a crucial factor and being overweight or underweight isn’t conducive for egg production.
Causes of Infertility
Infertility can be caused by disorders resulting in infrequent ovulation or no ovulation at all. The Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), Hypothalamic Dysfunction and Premature Ovarian Failure are some of the common abnormalities.
Also, for some women, damaged fallopian tubes can lead to infertility as they prevent the sperm from reaching the egg or the fertilised egg from reaching the uterus.
Then there is endometriosis. This chronic disorder can damage the eggs and the sperm by causing inflammation in the body and the uterine lining. Polyps or tumour in the uterus, birth abnormalities, cervical stenosis and other uterine issues can also lead to infertility in women.
One of the biggest reasons for infertility is a sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle combined with excessive stress and an unhealthy diet. Unhealthy habits increase the chance of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy, which can even result in infertility.
As women have effectively transitioned from the kitchen to the workplace, it has led to increased stress and compromising physical and emotional health. Young women are so preoccupied with pursuing their jobs and taking care of their homes on the same pitch that they overlook the reproductive cycle or biological clock. Various studies have been conducted by scientists all around the world to investigate the subject. The following are some of the significant findings of these studies:
*Owing to higher stress levels or physically demanding jobs, women are more likely to be infertile; women who have to lift or handle large goods at work are particularly vulnerable.
*Working women frequently overwork themselves, putting their bodies under unnecessary physical and mental stress.
*Women’s hormones change as a result of excessive stress. It causes a decrease in estrogen levels, which are necessary for reproduction.
*In women who are subjected to physical stress at work, the number of antral follicles and eggs decreases.
*Women who work at night are more likely to be infertile and have lower egg counts. The night shifts are much against the body’s natural processes. Also, changes in sleep patterns induce hormonal abnormalities in women who work rotational shifts and result in Polycystic Ovarian disorders.
* Working mothers have the added stress while trying to balance family and work, which might result in secondary infertility (unable to conceive the second time).
* A plugged-in lifestyle may be causing more harm than good. Electromagnetic Waves (EMW) have been reported to partially induce adverse effects on women’s fertility and ability to reproduce. Some studies suggest that prolonged use of a laptop, mobile phone, tablet, microwave and such touch devices can delay egg production simply because they keep you static and not agile that’s necessary for hormones to be on an even keel.
Infertility is only one of the many issues that can negatively impact working women. Here are a few ways they can ease out of the problem.
* Take regular breaks to manage stress.
* Avoid snacking if working late nights.
* Concentrate on a nutritious and well-balanced diet.
* Develop healthy habits such as yoga and exercise.
*Maintain a healthy lifestyle
* Aim for work schedules that fall within the office hours, so that you are not taking on an extra burden.
Medical advances to the rescue
Over the last decade, the number of infertile couples and fertility treatment providers in India has increased significantly.
With breakthroughs in medical technology, infertile couples can now have biological children with the help of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and so on. In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) has been successful in about 90 per cent of cases and it is estimated that, worldwide, over eight million babies have been born through this procedure. But before consulting a specialist, try out a few lifestyle changes.
Dr Rutuja R Athawale is an infertility specialist