More women today are delaying having a baby for various social or career-related reasons, more than ever before. According to the report of Society of Assisted Reproductive Technologies, the percentage of 40-year plus women seeking fertility treatment has increased by 80 % during the last decade across the world.
This article is written to share information about the reproductive system and the impact of age on your fertility potential.
These reserved eggs are used up in every menstrual cycle, and only one of them matures to qualify for reproduction. Each egg is harbored in follicle within the ovary. These follicles keep growing as your menstrual cycle advances. The follicles are quite visible on radiology ultra-sound.
Your fertility potential depends a lot on the number of these follicles seen during the first few days of menstrual cycle. Your doctor can count the number of small follicles you have, and the total number reflects your ovarian egg reserve. The more the eggs, the better the chances of pregnancy. But the number should not be more than enough as it happens in Polycystic ovaries. More is bad, less is worse. The quality of egg is best before age 30, after which egg quality starts declining. The aged egg has a high risk that the pregnancy ends in miscarriage or with genetically abnormal baby. Fertility declines remarkably from age 35 and is 5% by 40.
Similarly in men, the belief is that they produce sperm all their life which is true; but it is critical to know that sperm quality too declines with age. A man normally ejaculates above 40 million sperms to fertilize an egg. Whereas a woman ovulates one egg in a month, which means she can ovulate around 500 eggs in her whole lifetime.
Sexual urge and frequency also declines as age advances. This is one of the reasons why fertility declines with age. The aged couple are more likely to go through fertility treatment even when there is no reproductive problem. Given this reality, it is best to try conceiving sooner rather than later. Also, when the male partner is over 45, there is an increased risk of miscarriage. There is now enough evidence that shows that not only the eggs, but the sperm too undergoes genetic damage with advancing age. To add on the worry list, as women age advances, certain reproductive diseases start evolving in the uterus and ovary that greatly hamper the chance of a successful pregnancy. These reproductive problems include Fibroids, Adenomyosis, Endometriosis, and few medical conditions like diabetes, hypertension and thyroid disorder. When ready to have a baby, women and men should aim to be as healthy as possible.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle, that is, being fit, limiting caffeine intake, avoiding tobacco, leading an active lifestyle by exercising regularly, increases the chances of conception. Having an active and healthy lifestyle is also critical to the long-term health of the baby. Also, the couple should seek proper pre-pregnancy advice from an obstetrician so that all the factors that could impact your pregnancy are properly evaluated and optimised. It is easier to lose weight by proper diet plan and exercise than to invite lots of obesity-related pregnancy complications. It is important to note as well that pregnancy is only possible during the fertility window phase.
This phase occurs five days before ovulation through to the day of ovulation.
Exposure to some environmental pollutants and chemicals can affect fertility as well. Most people get pregnant within a year of trying. If a couple has been trying for 12 months or more (six months if a woman is older than 35) without success, then it is time to consult a fertility specialist about a possible fertility condition without any delay. Couples can talk to a fertility expert about fertility treatment options that best suit their body physiology and are available to them.
Dr. Rajesh Chaudhary is a Reproductive Gynecologist & IVF specialist with Fertility Point Clinic @ Fortis Suites in Nairobi. He has previously also practiced his expertise in Nepal and India.
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