Are you fertility aware? 6 points the experts want you to know
Nowadays we’re having babies later than we used to: the average age to become a first-time mum is 30 years old (compared to 26.4 in 1973). Many women have good reasons for leaving it a little longer to get pregnant: some are focused on their careers, others haven’t yet met The One and don’t wish to compromise, others feel they can’t afford to. Unfortunately, the female biological clock can be out of sync with these concerns – see the infographic below for more information – so we need to talk about the options, to stay informed of the options that are available.
This tick-tock of the fertility clock has spurred European fertility group IVI to launch an ‘Are You Fertility Aware?’ campaign. Identifying the changes in our culture, they emphasise the importance of educating women about their fertility journeys so they don’t risk missing the ‘baby boat’.
Of course, famous faces in the news also keep us aware of fertility issues. Whilst Janet Jackson has become pregnant for the first time aged 49, TV presenter Anthea Turner recently said she has undergone ‘more fertility treatments than you can shake a stick at’. Reality star Amy Childs has announced plans to freeze her eggs whilst waiting for Prince Charming, and after 10 years, presenter Suzie Perry has given up on having kids.
So what do you need to know to stay in the loop about your cycle? We talked to fertility specialist Dr Anabel Salazar from IVI for her advice:
1 You should know your fertility life span in facts and figures
Aged 13, women have approximately 300,000 oocytes (egg cells). Salazar explains: ‘From this age onwards, we will start to lose around 1000 oocytes each month.’ Past age 28, the annual loss of oocytes increases, and at 40, losses further increase. So, your 20s, potentially clouded by memories of sticky club floors and spilled pints, are also your most fertile years. While many women are able to conceive in their late-30s and 40s, your body reaches its prime decade for conceiving and carrying a baby sooner than many of us might have yet got our heads around.
2 If you plan to freeze your eggs, try to do it in their prime
Freezing your eggs at 40 may make it tricky to get the results you want. Dr Salazar reminds us: ‘The best age to freeze your eggs would be your late 20s/early 30s as the younger your eggs are, the higher the pregnancy success rate will be’. Imagine your home freezer – cakes frozen fresh are most likely to come out still perfectly sweet and fluffy on the other side.
3 Stay alert to any medical conditions affecting your fertility
Ageing happens. But, unfortunately, so do common illnesses such as PCOS and endometriosis, which can affect a woman’s fertility. Dr Salazar describes PCOS as ‘a hormone-related problem caused by small cysts growing on a woman’s ovaries’, while endometriosisis is ‘the emergence and growth of endometrial tissue outside the uterus which cases severe cramps and irregular heavy bleeding’. An irregular menstrual cycle may signal these issues, so stay alert – increased awareness of female health problems can also trigger women to seek advice from fertility specialists if necessary.
4 You can enjoy a normal lifestyle, if you’re sensible
Dr Salazar busts the myths which surround nutrition and fertility, arguing: ‘There is no scientific link between food or drink and fertility’. So a diet consisting of so-called fertility superfoods may not get you far. Alcohol and caffeine are often demonized as fertility’s worst enemies. However, these are fine in moderation, according to Salazar. But your best shot to keeping your fertility on track is, she says, ‘leading an overall balanced lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight.’
5 Stop smoking
This is something most people agree on. Dr Salazar says that smoking can affect conception rates, ‘and also the health of unborn babies. I recommend to my patients who are smokers that they should either cut down on the amount they smoke or quit altogether when trying to conceive’. Advice worth listening to.
6 The end of your journey may be when your body says so
If you haven’t managed to get pregnant naturally, there are other options on the fertility road. Salazar says: ‘If you have been trying to conceive naturally for a year and have been unsuccessful, then I would recommend visiting a fertility specialist’. Following tests, options discussed may include IVF, ICSI (intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection), egg donation or sperm donation. With increased awareness of your fertility cycle, help can be sought at any stage of your journey.
To find out more information about the average fertility timeline, see the infographic below:
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