Prepping For Pregnancy: What You Need To Know About Fertility
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By mia bolaris-forget
It seems that couples, once, and not too long ago, as early as the 80s and 90s in fact, who waited a little longer to settle down, are becoming more and more comfortable with marrying younger. And, while time “is” on their side, many are also opting to start their families younger too. Yet, while lifestyle and (medical) technology has increased our longevity, making 40 the new 30, when it comes to baby making, it seems that our modern lifestyles have led to the opposite being true. In fact, 20 is the new 30 and 30 the new 40 when it comes to fertility and conception, with more and more young women in their 20s looking to fertility specialists for help with getting pregnant.
According to statistics, the number of ladies trying to conceive, aged 24 and up, who face difficulty with conception has basically doubled, with nearly 45 percent of those seeking fertility assistance now under the age of 35. The studies go on to suggest that from eating habits to lifestyle habits, including when we have sex, leads many to suggest strategic family planning that begins well before you’re even ready for a family; and that could mean anywhere from five to 10 years before you start trying. In fact, the sooner you start making smart lifestyle changes, the better.
Life has gotten tougher and it seems to have taken a toll on us emotionally and physically. Plus, playing the “waiting game” isn’t helping us (ladies) any. Fact is, that regardless of how much (or little) you take care of yourself, you are virtually defenseless in affecting the aging process of your ovaries.
Experts note that while many ladies can bear healthy children well into their late 30s and 40s, conceiving requires a healthy egg and eggs tend to age with you becoming more and more scarce as you mature. In fact, though women are born with about a million eggs (most which never reach maturity) the body has depleted about half that amount by the time we reach puberty, with the number continuing to decline each year. Plus, not every egg that survives has the ability to produce a baby. Then, of course there’s the concern say experts of birth abnormalities, which according to experts, increase with time, but are present in about half your eggs, even in your baby-making prime.
Ideally most women are most fertile in their 20s through the age of 31, although the rate and ease with which some women can conceive starts to drop by their late 20s. And, by the age of 31 that number starts to drop by about 3 percent each year until the age of around 35. And, from there the decline continues even faster. According to fertility experts by the time a women is in her late 30s and just shy of her 40th birthday, she has half the chance of conceiving than she did at 31 and between 39 and 42 those chances drop in half again, making it difficult for one in four ladies aged 35 or older to get pregnant.
Still, there are those women who “can” have children until age 41 and (some) beyond, but that tends to be less and less the case as you near menopause. In fact, you ability to conceive easily declines significantly about 10 years before you stop menstruating.
One of the ways modern medicine measures fertility is via an FSH measure, though that doesn’t give a complete picture of how many fertile years a woman has left. What they do know, is the higher the number, the less the odds of fertility.
They also point out that while fertility “does” run in families, we can be affected up to seven or so generations back, so that’s not a guarantee either.
Then of course there can be fertility issues with your spouse. Sure men can have babies into their 70s and (some) beyond, but like our eggs, their sperm count and quality declines with age. However, you can help his “stamina” by helping him avoid things that overheat the scrotum, including placing his laptop on his lap, lengthly sessions in a hot-tub, snug (though sexy) tighy-whiteys, smoking, drinking, hard bike seats and other hard, cold surfaces. Having intercourse more often however, can actually improve sperm quality. In fact, the more often your man ejaculates, the stronger his sperm, according to experts. However, this also means the fewer sperm released each time you have sex and try to conceive.
Now that we’ve touched upon the cons, there is plenty of good news, and what’s good about it is improving your fertility is basically (to an extent) up to you.
1. Lower your stress levels: Life is FULL of stress, and while stress alone won’t make you infertile, stress “can” affect sensitive female hormones and throw off our cycle making it more challenging for us to conceive. Remember, even babies can bring about stress, so practice getting de-stressed (rather than distressed) well before baby arrives or before you even start trying.
2. Fill up on folic acid Known as vitamin B9, folic acid helps reduce the risks of birth defects, especially upon conception. Some studies even suggest that an abundance of folic acid makes conceptions easier as well. They theorize that folic acid increased the body’s sensitivity to FSH, the hormone responsible for informing the ovary to release and egg mid menstrual cycle. They recommend at least 400 micrograms daily.
3. Butt out: Smoking is bad on a whole host of levels and its one of the worst things you and/or your mate can do if your trying to procreate. Not only are you allowing harmful toxic chemicals into YOUR body, chemicals that can interfere with your normal and natural estrogen level, damaging ovaries and eggs, but if you do get pregnant welcome your “baby” into a toxic environment from the beginning and it increased your chance of miscarriage or delivering and underweight baby. Women smokers also tend to reach menopause two to three years earlier than nonsmokers; and again, smoking significantly lowers sperm quality and count.
4. Work out regularly: Just make sure you don’t overdo it. We’ve said it before and it’s worth saying again. Too much of a good thing may not be so good for you. And, exercise is no different. In fact, regular moderate exercise is essential for your health and fertility, but too much may mean an irregular cycle that makes it difficult to get pregnant.
5. Drink to your health: While alcohol is, for the most part a “no-no” when pregnant (though some docs say a drink here and there is okay) its best to prep your body for pregnancy beforehand. So, does that mean backing off from alcohol completely? Not necessarily. A glass of red wine we all know is good for you and to quote a famous and well-known joke, “if it wasn’t for the alcohol, may women wouldn’t be “with child” in the first place. With that in mind, drink moderately, about one glass of wine every other day or once or twice a week.
6. Weigh out your options: Weight is a key component to conception. Women who are over or underweight can both experience fertility issues. In fact weight accounts for about 12 percent of conception “problems”. Fat cells secrete hormones that is you have too much or not enough can throw your body and its functioning off balance. Ideally you want a BMI (body mass index) of between 20 and 25. In fact, a recent Dutch study showed that fertility dropped by nearly 4 percent per BMI unit above 29.
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