Takeaway: Fertility can be a fickle thing. It could be a blessing or an inconvenience, depending on your view about parenthood. But, whether or not you’re ready to welcome a child into your life, your fertility still requires your attention and care.
Fertility can be a fickle thing. It could be a blessing or an inconvenience, depending on your view about parenthood. But, whether or not you’re ready to welcome a child into your life, your fertility still requires your attention and care. This is especially true if you are in a healthy sexual relationship. Many couples are blessed with the ease in conceiving a child, but there are also those who struggle to become parents even after years of trying.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, infertility affects 6.1 million American females, which is about 10% of the whole female population who are of childbearing age. These statistics alone support the notion that infertility is a common issue. Becoming a parent is no longer about making the big decision when to take the leap; it’s also about taking good care of yourself, paying attention to your health, and listening to your body’s needs first.
They say that no one can be truly prepared to become a parent; the same can be said about fertility. While no one can mark an exact date on the calendar to conceive a child, there are healthy ways to improve one’s chances. But, before we dig deeper and find out how to increase fertility for both men and women, let’s first talk about the different factors that affect one’s fertility rate and what that means when it comes to conceiving a child.
What Determines Fertility?
There’s a valid reason why a woman might feel pressured to get pregnant by the time they reach their 30’s. A woman’s fertility rate begins to decline in their mid-30s, and it continues to decline at a faster rate by the time they reach their late 30s. As women age, there are fewer eggs that remain in their ovaries. The quality of those remaining eggs in their ovarian reserve is also no longer at its prime.
In comparison to a woman in her early 20s, a 30-something-year-old woman may find it more challenging to conceive a child simply because of her age. But, despite the age factor, delaying pregnancy is becoming a more common choice among many couples today. While it may be a wise decision for those who are not mentally or financially prepared to take care of a child, it is also important to note that time is of the essence when it comes to conception at a later age.
Thankfully, there are now blood tests that can determine one’s fertility potential in terms of age. In a nutshell, the tests involve screening your FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and estradiol from the blood on the third day of menstruation. If your results show high FSH levels, the chances for pregnancy become a lot slimmer, especially for those over the age of 35.
Infrequent ovulation is a cause for concern among those who are trying to conceive a child. Ovulation happens when ripe eggs are released from the ovary, allowing the body to create a good environment for conception. A woman with regular periods is ovulating at a healthy rate and is more likely to be more fertile than a woman who has inconsistent cycles of menstruation.
Monitoring ovulation is one of the most common methods couples use to increase their chances for conception. It allows the couple to schedule intercourse during a time when they are most likely to get pregnant. In the past, women would use a calendar to estimate the best day for intercourse. But, today there are over-the-counter ovulation prediction kits to help them get a more accurate forecast.
An ovulation prediction kit is essentially a urine test that tracks the flow of the luteinizing hormone (LH) before ovulation. The LH stimulates the production of progesterone as well as the release of an egg from one of the ovaries. The test can also reveal any issues you may have with ovulation. Any abnormal results can help the doctor investigate further and prescribe other types of medication for healthy ovulation.
An open and healthy fallopian tube is required for pregnancy. Patency or tubal openness accounts for 35% of infertility issues in women. To better evaluate the condition of one’s fallopian tubes, doctors may suggest going through an x-ray procedure called hysterosalpingogram or HSG for short. Through the x-ray, doctors can have a look at your uterus and see if you have blocked fallopian tubes. If so, then another exam called laparoscopy may take place to assess the damage in the fallopian tube.
The HSG test mentioned above isn’t just for screening the fallopian tube, but it can also test the inside of one’s uterine cavity. Issues and abnormalities found within the cavity greatly impact the ability of an embryo to implant during prenatal development. Apart from scar tissues as mentioned earlier, some issues that may arise include polyps, fibroids, or an unusually-shaped uterine cavity. Uterine cavities with structural problems may need surgery for further investigation and to eventually correct its shape.
Some of the most common causes of infertility among women involve the peritoneum, also known as the membrane that serves as the lining inside the abdomen. Scar tissues, also known as adhesions, or endometriosis are common peritoneal issues. Endometriosis happens when bodily tissues usually serve as lining for the uterus begins to grow abnormally outside of the uterus. To treat this condition, a surgical procedure called laparoscopy is required not only as a cure but as an opportunity to properly diagnose the condition at hand.
When tackling topics of infertility, it is easy to assume that the responsibility falls on the female in the couple. As we’ve gathered so far, fertility is determined by the overall health of the female reproductive system. But in truth, about 30-40% of infertility cases are caused by male infertility. Just as women need to take care of their health, men also need to take responsibility for their overall well-being.
There are plenty of factors that come into play when it comes to male infertility. It could be anything from diet and lifestyle choices to DNA and certain types of illnesses. Having said all this, it is imperative to have a semen analysis apart from all the other tests the female counterpart has to go through. Neither party is excused from actively participating in a healthy lifestyle and eating nutritious meals as both parties need to work together to conceive a child.
How Is Fertility Different in Men and Women?
It takes a healthy man and woman to conceive a child, and needless to say, fertility is very different for both sexes. While a poor diet and bad lifestyle choices may be common factors that lead to infertility, there are also sex-specific issues that contribute to a couple’s struggle to get pregnant. To know the difference between fertility in men and women, read on below.
Male Fertility vs. Female Fertility
While there are numerous causes of infertility in both males and females, it all boils down to the egg and the sperm in the end.
In the case of female fertility, the number and quality of eggs significantly affect one’s chances of becoming pregnant. Women are born with a certain amount of eggs, also known as their ovarian reserve or egg count, and they are not able to produce any more in their lifetime. Earlier, we’ve learned how age-sensitive female fertility is; as women become older, their egg count decreases. Most women have between 300,000-400,000 eggs by the time they are teens, losing about 1,000 eggs every month.
What’s more is the eggs that do remain in their ovarian reserve may contain DNA that was naturally damaged, making it unsuitable for fertilization or a healthy pregnancy. As women reach their mid-30s, the quality of their eggs declines, making it more difficult to conceive at a later age. Needless to say, age is a huge discerning factor in female fertility. However, it is a very different story when it comes to male fertility.
Men, on the other hand, do not have to worry so much about sperm count. While female eggs are nonrenewable, the male testes produce over 100 to 200 million new sperm every single day. But, that is not to say that a decline in sperm count is impossible. Age and other health-related issues can affect the production of the sperm or the ejaculation process – both of which can cause a significant decline in male fertility.
How to Increase Fertility
Each couple’s journey to parenthood is unique. They all have their own set of circumstances which may or may not affect their ability to conceive. That being said, the rate of success is varied and depends heavily upon the health conditions of both partners as well as the age of the couple. Now, you might be wondering, is there a way to increase fertility in both sexes?
Surprisingly, making a few lifestyle choices may be the only thing that’s keeping you away from becoming pregnant. Infertility, much like other health-related issues, can be corrected by simply improving one’s overall health. Here are 6 ways on how to increase fertility:
Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants
Cell damage is never a good thing. It makes the body vulnerable to different types of diseases; and unsurprisingly, it may even affect your fertility rate. Antioxidants are required to counter the cell damage caused by the body’s free radicals. Eating foods rich in antioxidants can help increase fertility by reducing the effects of cell damage.
Although there are not many studies centered around fertility and antioxidants, taking antioxidants has proven to help the body attain optimal health. Consequently, a healthier body also means having a higher chance of conception.
Many women rave about prenatal and postnatal workouts, but did you know that staying physically active can boost your fertility? According to medical experts, women who do regular exercise have a quicker, higher chance of getting pregnant than those who live a sedentary lifestyle. Interestingly, increasing fertility through a workout does not even entail intense workouts in the gym. As long as it is a fitness activity that raises the heart rate, allows you to breathe faster, and makes you feel warmer, then it makes as a fantastic exercise to boost your chances of conceiving a child.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
In relation to maintaining a more active lifestyle, managing one’s weight can also help increase the chances of becoming pregnant. Being overweight or obese reduces the fertility rate of both men and women. Additionally, being underweight can also cause fertility problems among women. In general, having an unhealthy weight makes the body vulnerable to hormonal issues and health-related issues linked to obesity. Overweight or obese men may also have problems with an erection as well.
Obese women may also have higher chance of developing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is a common cause of infertility. It is essential first to address this condition to improve the chance of conception. Overweight and obese men, on the other hand, need to get in shape at least three months before conception. It takes about three months for the sperm to develop, and being in a healthy weight also supports the development of healthy sperm.
Avoid Excess Alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol is never a good thing for the body, so it comes as no surprise that it can also have adverse effects on one’s fertility. According to medical studies, drinking even small amounts of alcohol can already affect an unborn baby. Alcohol can significantly reduce the chance of pregnancy, even when one is drinking lightly. Heavy drinking, on the other hand, delays pregnancy and can also reduce the possibility of giving birth to a healthy baby.
Maintaining optimal health can improve the chances of becoming pregnant. With that said, vitamin deficiencies can get in the way of fertility in both men and women. So, in an attempt to replenish the body with some much-needed vitamins and minerals, many couples opt to take natural supplements typically in pill form.
While a healthy diet is a no-fail solution to better health, those who are pressed for time look to alternative medicine as a solution for fertility. However, there isn’t solid proof that can fully support the effectivity of natural supplements in increasing fertility. Most people base its effectivity over the assumption that optimal health equals better chances of conception.
Those who are interested in consuming natural supplements to increase fertility are recommended to take supplements such as CoQ10, Acetyl L-Carnitine, Folic Acid, and Vitamin E – some of which are said to have beneficial antioxidant properties while others improve the overall quality of the egg and the sperm.
Mind Your Medications
Certain types of medication can also affect your fertility. One of the most common culprits is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. Sadly, some of the most widely-used drugs are NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and aspirin. Long-term use or consuming high dosages of NSAIDs can significantly affect your chances of becoming pregnant.