By Dr Shobha Gupta
Financial stability is a need for every couple these days. Getting an education, building a career, buying a house, a nice car, good salaried job and much more. The majority of people don’t feel in a position to start a family until later than ever before.
Our lifestyle and health sometimes do not support fertility, particularly when we are waiting. It is very important to be healthy and being physically fit to have a baby. There are now more women giving birth in their 40s than in their 20s and the average age of a [first time] mother is now 30 plus years. Men are also delaying fatherhood, with the average age of a first time father now is 33 plus years.
So, here are seven things that are important to keep in mind about fertility:
1. Age plays a pivotal part:
With increasing age in females, the ovarian reserve or the number of eggs that a lady has reduces drastically translating into decreased chances of natural pregnancy. Moreover there is a rapid decline in quality of eggs too due to which the chances of miscarriages also may increase. Research has shown that a 40 year old female seeking fertility has only 25 per cent chance of pregnancy with own eggs and it decreases to 1.6 per cent at age of 44. If she conceives, the risk of miscarriage is around 25 per cent at 40 years and around 50 per cent at 44 years.
No one is guaranteed to not have a problem conceiving, especially as age of the eggs is only one factor – others include tubal damage, endometriosis, lack of ovulation and, of course, male factor. The only true test of fertility is to actually try to conceive.
2. Infertility affects men just as much as women:
A one-third of couples experiencing fertility problems struggle to conceive due to the man’s fertility; for another third it’s due to the woman’s fertility, and for another third the infertility remains unexplained. But fertility problems in men are on the rise; one in five men now has a low sperm count. Problem with sperm is the most common cause of infertility in men. This may be because of a low count or no sperm, or because the sperm are the wrong shape or don’t move very quickly. Apart from sperm defect other cause of male infertility are damaged testicles, hormone levels, a previous illness, medication or it can be an inherited problem, but often there’s no known cause.
3. Be practical and understand your own fertility:
If fertility problems are spotted early, it can improve chances of conception later and moreover it will save your time. There are majorly five tests that you can undergo which includes AMH blood test, ultrasound examination, antral follicle count, semen analysis and a full review of medical and reproductive history.
Get a full knowledge with your test results and family history, your consultant will be able to give you an accurate picture of your fertility and if any steps need to be taken now to preserve your future family plans.
4. Your lifestyle matters:
Lifestyle choices have a significant impact on fertility but if you change them, in due time; chances are that you can improve your fertility levels. For women, weight has a significant role to play in fertility. If you’re a woman who is underweight or overweight, it can impact the chances of you conceiving and also miscarrying. For men, weight has less of an effect, though sperm quality does decrease as the weight increases, so best to keep a watch.
In addition to this, smoking and alcohol consumption, no physical activity, junk food, too much sugar consumption, etc, may negatively affect fertility.
5. Plan in advance:
If you realise at any point earlier in life that you may have to delay child bearing till the age of 40, then it is a good decision to freeze your eggs. The advantage of this process is that you have a good chance of getting pregnant with your own eggs using IVF at 40 as the age of the eggs at the time of freezing was less than 40 years.
6. It’s important to get to know your cycle:
Skipping of period dates and delays are common sight after 30 years of age; so do keep a check on your menstruation cycle and also on the days that you ovulate. This would ensure the right day you could conceive and it’s how prospective parents can probably decrease the time taken to get pregnant.
Many women with irregular periods use ovulation kits or apps to help. But these tools can add stress and cost, and if it doesn’t work or you are using it incorrectly, you could potentially miss having sex during ovulation; instead try and having sex every two to three days between periods.
7. Limitations with fertility treatments:
IVF was first introduced more than 40 years ago and many couples think they didn’t have to worry about infertility and that they would be able to get pregnant despite the odds. However, there are limitations to every fertility treatment. IVF success declines with age and it’s negligible after the age of 42 years. In fact, there is sharp rise in loss of eggs every month after the age of 35. Once a woman is out of eggs, the only option is to use donor eggs. Many couples delay IVF thinking it’s the last resort, but this actually worsens their chances of conceiving.
So after knowing each and every aspect of declining fertility, it is best to plan early and maintain the healthiest lifestyle.
(The author is Medical Director and IVF Expert from Mother’s Lap IVF Centre.)
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