What affects your fertility?
It's a topic constantly in the news, but what actually does affect your fertility? Find out from the fertility specialist, Dr Jaya Parikh.
Women have complex reproductive cycles - a woman is born with all the oocytes (immature egg cells) she will ever have, and only 400–500 are actually ovulated. As the number of oocytes decline, the menstrual cycle shortens, infertility increases, and menstrual irregularity begins six to seven years before menopause. When under the age of 30, a woman's chances of conceiving may be as high 71 per cent; when over 36, it may only be 41 per cent. Your fertility peaks in your mid and late 20s and starts declining in your early 30s, with a rapid drop after 38.
Approximately 10 to 15 per cent of couples affected by infertility, and while age is the most important factor, poor lifestyle, reduced egg reserve, endometriosis, pelvic infection and sperm issues can play a role. In the UK, about 30 per cent of the issues involved with infertility are due to the man, another 30 per cent due to the woman, and rest the combination of both partners.
But your lifestyle, habits and ways of life are things you can change - and can greatly influence your fertility. But what aspects of your lifestyle can actually affect your fertility?
Consuming a well-balanced diet rich in carbohydrates, fibre and folate as well as fruit and vegetables correlates will improve semen quality. Antioxidants play a very important role in the body in getting rid of reactive oxygen species (ROS), a lot of which can compromise sperm function enormously. Your diet may also affect her fertility, particularly your ovulation, and you should be following a well-balanced diet and takingf folic acid at least three months before trying to get pregnant.
A BMI over 30 or under 19 can both affect your chances of conceiving. A BMI over 30 also increases the risk of miscarriage. Having a balanced diet and regular exercise to maintain your BMI within the normal range will reduce the negative effects on fertility.
This is unfortunately a problem of modern living and can affect a man's semen parameters and a woman's ovulation. High levels of stress can reduce the chances of implantation or cause an increased risk of a miscarriage. It's difficult to cut stress completely out of your life but having a healthy work-life balance will help.
Smoking affects the semen parameters and is one of the most important lifestyle factors to address. For a woman, smoking decreases ovarian function and causes reduced egg reserve. Cutting smoking completely before even trying for a baby is recommended.
5. Illegal drugs
Drugs are known to affect the production of sperm as well as the important parameters for men. It affects the movement of the egg down the fallopian tubes, placental and fetal development and increases the risk of a still birth. It's advisable not to consume any drugs when trying to conceive.
Alcohol consumption has been linked with reducing libido, decreasing sperm count and increasing sperm abnormality. It also increases the DNA fragmentation of the sperm which affects natural conception as well as assisted conception. Alcohol consumption should be minimal for the men and should stop completely for the woman.
Drinking lots of coffee or Coca-Cola can increase the time it may take you to conceive, as well as increasing the risk of miscarriage, preterm labour and still birth. Try to keep your caffeine consumption under 200mg a day to improve your chances. A can of coke can have approximately 50mg of caffeine, and it can be as high as 330mg of caffeine for a cup of coffee.
Changing your lifestyle can ultimately improve your chances of conceiving by improving the quality of sperm and the ability of a woman to carry a pregnancy successfully to term.
Dr Jaya Parikh is a fertility specialist at The Lister Fertility Clinic.