Some Infertility Problems Can Be Prevented — Here’s How
For generations, women married early, stayed at home and had babies. But today’s reality is quite different — women are pursuing careers, marrying later and postponing motherhood. More and more adolescent and teenage girls are smoking, the incidence of sexually transmitted infections has been steadily rising, particularly in women aged 15-21, and unhealthy extremes in body weight are now more common than ever.
But, what does all this have to do with having a baby? A lot.
Most women first become aware and concerned about their reproductive health when they become sexually active — to prevent pregnancy. But the choices made as teens and into adulthood can have a major impact on a woman’s ability to get pregnant.
Let’s take a look at some of these risk factors and how, with proper information and awareness, we can work towards preventing several causes of infertility.
Age And Your Fertility
Listen closely and you can hear your biological clock tick.
It is an established medical fact that a woman’s fertility — the ability to get pregnant and carry that pregnancy to full term — decreases as she ages. And, while today’s infertility treatments are very successful in helping women of all ages get pregnant, it is most likely that women in their twenties and early thirties will achieve pregnancy, with or without treatment.
Approximately one-third of all couples, with the female partner 35 or older, will have problems getting pregnant. It is also estimated that one-half of women will not be able to get pregnant on their own by the age of 40.
Of course, the decision to have a baby — and determining the right time to start a family — is a highly personal choice. Women need to understand, however, that the biological clock is a very real issue and that the older the female partner, the more difficulty can be faced when trying to get pregnant.
It is still possible, though, that younger women will experience difficulty getting pregnant and require specialized medical treatment to address other medical causes of infertility. Younger patients have a better chance of getting pregnant with appropriate infertility therapy and while younger women and men often face more financial challenges affording fertility treatment set package costs, multi-cycle programs, refund plans and affordable financing to enable access to fertility treatment, there are now helpful treatment and financing packages available. The ARC Fertility Program™ offered by Advanced Reproductive Care (www.arcfertility.com), includes refund plans, to help these patients better manage all aspects of their medical and financial needs.
There are a surprising number of lifestyle factors that couples can change which may improve their reproductive health and ability to have children. Listed below is some easy advice to boost your fertility naturally:
Simply reducing or abstaining from caffeine and alcohol can have a beneficial impact on a couple’s ability to get pregnant.
Maintaining Healthy Weight and Diet:
Epidemiological studies have shown that obesity accounts for six percent of all female infertility and, on the flip side, low body weight accounts for another six percent. So, while seeking medical help from a reproductive specialist, evaluate your body weight, and that of your partner. A balanced diet and exercise regimen might be just what the doctor ordered to help you get pregnant.
For women, maintaining an appropriate weight and participating in moderate exercise can help improve menstrual regularity and overall health. Women who have suffered from anoxeria nervosa, bulimia, or severe obesity may have altered thyroid and other hormonal imbalances which can lead to irregular menstrual patterns and other problems. Competitive athletes practicing intense training regimens may suffer from similar difficulties with irregular menses.
Making time for moderate physical exercise, adequate sleep and leisure and enjoyment with your partner is a healthy step to take to lower stress levels and improve your mental and emotional health. This will help you deal better with the stresses of infertility and manage diet and weight.
Fertility Up In Smoke
We’ve all heard the reports that cigarette smoking can cause cancer and heart disease. But a lesser known health risk is that smoking can negatively affect your ability to have children.
According to former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everette Koop, M.D., “Women who smoke have decreased fertility. The risk of spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) is higher for pregnant women who smoke…” In fact, a study conducted in the U.K. showed that nearly 13 percent of female infertility is caused by cigarette smoking.
Another Good Reason to Practice Safe Sex
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, are leading causes of infertility. Both men and women should practice “Safe Sex”, since sexually transmitted diseases can lead to blockage of fallopian tubes, prostatitis and other problems that reduce fertility.
Using a condom during sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy and STIs will also help to prevent infertility problems when you want to have a baby.
By taking control of lifestyle choices and becoming aware of the risk factors associated with certain behavior, women can help themselves to prevent numerous health problems and preserve their fertility for that special time in their lives when having a baby is the right choice.
But What About the Men?
Infertility is not just a female disease, but affects men equally — nearly half of all diagnosed cases of infertility are attributed at least partially to the male partner. And, men are not immune to the various social risk factors that affect women.
Recent studies are also finding that aging doesn’t just affect a woman’s fertility. As men age, the quality of their sperm may decrease, making pregnancy more difficult.
Drugs such as steroids, cigarettes, marijuana and alcohol can decrease sperm quality and production, and overall male reproductive function, critical to achieving conception. In addition, sexually transmitted infections also are a leading cause of male infertility, while prolonged exposure to high heat (hot tub) or certain chemicals (sometimes found in the work environment) and long hours of sitting or tight underclothes can also lead to male infertility.
Workplace hazards can contribute significantly to infertility. Common toxins such as lead, mercury, PCB’s, DDT, and other chemical compounds can be metabolized into secondary products which adversely affect the reproductive tract. Dioxin pollutants common to the paper industry have been shown to decrease fertility.
If lifestyle adjustments have not resulted in a pregnancy for you and your partner, it may be time to consult a fertility specialist to determine if there are other causes for your difficulty conceiving.
Give Yourself The Best Chance For A Healthy Pregnancy
Don’t wait until you are ready to have a baby to think about your fertility. Know what can affect your ability to get pregnant, how to avoid risk factors that can cause infertility and make smart decisions about your future.
Consult with your OB/GYN or primary care physician early to better understand your body. Schedule yearly appointments to monitor your reproductive health, starting at an early age. Practice a healthy reproductive lifestyle, and take a prenatal vitamin with iron, folate, calcium and vitamin D.
If you are under 35 years of age and trying to get pregnant but have not achieved pregnancy within 12 months, seek medical help from a trained reproductive specialist (a Board certified reproductive endocrinologist). If you are 35 or older, you should visit a reproductive specialist if you have not achieved a pregnancy after 6 months of attempting. As we now know, time is important in reproduction, so delaying appropriate medical treatment may be adding to infertility problems.