Should I be concerned about my fertility?
The struggle to conceive affects around 1 in 8 couples, which makes it a pretty common experience, yet it’s not a topic often discussed among friends.
Fertility expert Zita West guides us through the common factors affecting fertility .
No one says the F-word enough these days.
We don’t use it when grabbing a coffee with work colleagues, we rarely let it slip at family lunches and we don’t even drop the F-bomb at drinks with our oldest friends.
“Fertility” is still a taboo word in many circles today and it’s a shame.
“I found the stigma around talking about my fertility (or lack thereof!) confusing,” admits Alex, 33, who tried for over a year to become pregnant. “Every time I tried to talk to my friends about it, they became awkward and changed the topic, which I never understood since so many people go through it.”
The World Health Organization estimated that in 2010, 48.5 million couples worldwide were unable to have a baby after trying for five years. That’s a lot of people going through the same thing so let’s put all the cards on the table now.
According to leading fertility and pregnancy expert Zita West, these are the main points to consider when it comes to your fertility:
“The ideal age to have a baby is under 30, however, this is not always possible with our modern lives or when we meet a partner. Over 35 does make it harder, and over 40 even harder still – but it can happen,” says Zita.
Length of trying with no success
“Generally we advise seeing your doctor if you’ve been trying for a year with no success,” says Zita.
“Being underweight or overweight affects fertility in both women and men,” explains Zita. “The most-used measure of whether or not your weight is healthy is your BMI – Body Mass Index. The ideal range for conception is 20 to 25.”
As you might expect, regular exercise keeps your whole body healthy, reduces stress and reduces the risk of ovulation disorders. Too much high intensity exercise, however, can lower your fertility. Studies by the University of Toronto and several others have found that exercise for more than 90 minutes in duration more than four times a week can lower your fertility by producing too many harmful free radicals. However, a balanced exercise routine of around 30-60 minutes two to three times a week was found to be ideal for maintaining reproductive health.
“No periods also mean that your cycle is abnormal (although doesn’t always mean you won’t get pregnant) so ensure you have seen someone about this before embarking on trying for a baby,” says Zita.
Research by the National Institute of Health in Maryland shows that stress significantly reduces the chances of women conceiving. Finding ways to relax throughout your monthly cycle is very important for your fertility – and that goes for your partner, too.
Smoking, drinking and poor diet can affect your fertility. “A good balance of healthy fats from nuts, seeds and oily fish is vital for healthy reproductive organs as is antioxidants from fruit and vegetables calcium, iron, folate and vitamin D – found in green leafy vegetables, red meat, and sunshine,” advises Zita.
“As a starting point, any woman seeking an indicator of her fertility potential should try and find out what age her mother was when she had her menopause,” explains Zita. “Generally, fertility stops up to 10 years before a woman has her last period. So, subtracting 10 from your mother’s menopausal age will give you a rough idea of when your fertility may be seriously compromised.”
What to do
“Don’t despair if it doesn’t happen straight away because the average duration of trying for a baby is a year,” says Zita. However if you have tried the above tips and still have no luck then it might be a good idea to seek the help of a professional. Start with your local doctor who may do some tests to rule out any extenuating circumstances, you can then see a fertility specialist to discuss your options. If, of course, time is not on your side age-wise then you may want to push this time line forward.
Leading fertility and pregnancy expert Zita West is a practicing midwife, acupuncturist, nutritional adviser and author of 10 fertility and pregnancy books. She has been involved in fertility for over 30 years and is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading experts on how we can improve our prospects at each key stage of the reproductive process.