By Dr Sonia Malik
The fertility rate among women has decreased by 21 per cent in the last decade, which is alarming. In comparison to the urban belt, the rural belt has a higher fertility rate of 82 per cent whereas the urban population has a much lower fertility rate of 60 per cent. It has also been observed that the causes of infertility among women living in urban and rural areas differ on a large scale in terms of their quality of life. In addition to contraceptive measures, rural women face infertility issues due to various tubal infections whereas for urban women it is a concern about their fast-paced lifestyle and late marriages.
With the alarming infertility numbers that we are observing today, a woman needs to understand why and how age can affect one’s fertility, apart from other additional causes of infertility. The reproductive span of a woman ranges from 15-49 years. Fertility reaches the peak for women in the age group 25-29 and declines thereafter. Data shows that fertility has declined very steeply for women trying to conceive after 29 years of age.
So why does age matter when trying to conceive?
We say that age is just a number, but it is not just the chronological age that matters while a woman is trying to conceive. It is the physiological age that we need to consider while planning for a pregnancy. The ovary is the only organ in a woman’s body that stops functioning in a lifetime after a certain age. This means that when the ovaries stop functioning, the body stops producing eggs and that is the end of fertility for a woman.
When does fertility start to decline?
Ovarian ageing is a fact, and it starts taking place very early in the life of a woman. Menopause for women in India takes place five years earlier, as compared to women from European countries and the rest of the world. This means that Indian women start ageing much earlier than the rest of the world.
Take help from your fertility expert whenever you are planning your pregnancy and plan it according to your age bracket. Get your ovarian reserve tested so that you know your potential to produce a child. It is important for both men and women to know their fertility quotient as and when they wish to plan their families and for single women too if marriage and children are nowhere in sight.
With robust fertility preservation programmes available in the country, the fertility index can very well be kept intact hand in hand with the family planning program.
(The writer is Program Director, Nova Southend Fertility & IVF, New Delhi)