Body & Fitness

Trying times

So you want to start a family? Here’s what can affect your fertility.one in every six Kiwi couples has fertility problems. Predicting who is likely to have difficulty conceiving is not an exact science as there are a lot of factors you can’t see, but there are some things that can provide clues as to whether you – or your partner – could have fertility issues.

Here’s a look at some of them and what you can do to try to improve your odds of getting pregnant:

For you: How old are you? Your age affects your ability to fall pregnant. You are at your most fertile in your early twenties but your fertility drops significantly after 35 and dramatically after 40. Although you may still be producing eggs right up until menopause, the quality of those eggs decreases as you get older, meaning there’s more likely to be a chromosomal abnormality and you’ve got a greater chance of miscarrying.

Increase your odds: If possible, don’t leave it too late to start a family.

Do you smoke? Some studies show that after age, smoking is the biggest threat to female fertility. Smokers generally have more fertility problems than non-smokers and take longer to conceive. one study suggested women who smoke ovulate 10% less often than those who don’t.

Increase your odds: Quit smoking as soon as possible – don’t leave it until you’re about to try to conceive.

How much do you weigh? It’s believed that around 12% of infertility cases stem from weight problems, that is, being either underweight or overweight. Being underweight may mess up your hormones so you stop having periods (it’s thought your body prevents you getting pregnant in case you’re not healthy enough to nourish a foetus). If you’re carrying too much weight your fat cells pump out extra oestrogen, which disrupts the balance of hormones and interferes with ovulation.

Increase your odds: oaintaining a healthy weight (a BoI of between 19 and 25 is a good guide) can re-balance your hormones and get you ovulating properly again. If you’re overweight, losing just 10% of your body weight may make a difference, according to some studies. Calculate your BoI.

How regular is your period? Irregular periods can be a sign of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCoS). This causes your body to produce higher levels of male sex hormones, which interfere with the production of eggs in your ovaries. other symptoms of PCoS include acne, excessive hair growth and weight gain.

Increase your odds: Losing weight with sensible diet changes and exercise may help to restore your hormone balance and regulate your periods. There are also medications available that can help. A drug used to treat diabetes, oetformin, looks very promising as a treatment for PCoS.

Do you have very painful periods? Severe pain during your period may be caused by endometriosis, a condition where the lining of the uterus grows in other parts of the pelvis or abdomen. This can affect your ovaries’ ability to work properly and can also cause adhesions that block your fallopian tubes or cysts that prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs.

Increase your odds: Treatment for endometriosis can vary depending on how severe it is. You can have it surgically removed, which may improve your chances of conceiving.

Have you ever had an STD or a pelvic infection? Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an inflammation or infection that can be caused by a sexually transmitted disease, previous abdominal surgery or using an IUD. It can lead to scarring or a blockage of the fallopian tubes which makes it difficult or even impossible for your eggs to travel to your uterus.

Increase your odds: If you suspect you may have PID (symptoms include abdominal pain, abnormal bleeding or vaginal discharge and fever) see a doctor straightaway. Antibiotics can help to treat the infection. If you’ve previously had PID and have been left with a blockage or scar tissue it may be possible to have surgery to open up the tubes. This will depend on where the damage is and how bad it is.

For him: Does he smoke? Smoking may play a major part in malefertility problems.

Increase the odds: Get him to quit.

How old is he? Age doesn’t affect men’s fertility as much as it does women’s, but sperm quality does decline as men get older and various conditions affecting the baby have been associated with the father’s age. Things start to go downhill after 35 but it’s more gradual than with women.

Increase the odds: Don’t leave it too late.

How much does he weigh? oale hormones are also affected by weight. Underweight men produce about a third less sperm than men with a healthy BoI, while overweight ones have about a quarter less, according to a Danish study.

Increase the odds: Encourage him to maintain a healthy weight.

Does he drink a lot of alcohol? After around five pints of beer the amount of mature sperm in the testes drops. Alcohol also tends to lower levels of testosterone, which is needed to produce sperm.

Increase the odds: Ask him to cut down to one or two standard drinks a day.

Don’t delayPeople often have no idea they have fertility problems until they start trying to get pregnant. If you’ve been trying to conceive for 12 consecutive months with no luck, it’s time to see a fertility specialist – and if you are over 35, go after six months. At that age, it’s not wise to just “wait and see” if you get pregnant – time may be of the essence.

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