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10 Things you may be surprised to learn about fertility

PFCLA
13 Jan 2022

Fertility is sometimes a mysterious or confusing topic that often carries several misconceptions. This article intends to provide you with ten fertility facts that may surprise you.

Age is a significant factor, even if you are in good health.

Age is undoubtedly a significant contributor to a person’s fertility. Even if all other fertility factors are ideal, age can be the one element that can drastically change a person’s chance of conception.

For women, age is the best predictor of egg quality and reproductive potential. Even though common lab results such as Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH), and estradiol levels are good predictors of whether a woman is fertile or not, a woman with abnormal test results can still conceive at a younger age in many scenarios. Female fertility typically begins to decline in your late 20s and deteriorates significantly after age 35, with fertility rates continuing to fall dramatically after age 40. For comparison, a healthy 30-year-old woman has around 20 percent chance of conceiving each month on her own. By age 40, it’s just around 5 percent. While fertility treatment can be successful, conception rates are traditionally very low beyond age 43. Fertility treatments commonly use egg donors to assist with fertility complications with women who conceive in their late 40s. 

But women are not exclusive to the effects of age on fertility.  Age can also impact a man’s sperm quality as well. Men older than 40 have fewer healthy sperm than men at a younger age. The amount of semen and sperm motility decreases continually after the age of 20. More details on sperm quality are discussed later in this article.

Your diet may not impact your fertility as much as you think.

You might often see articles on social media about how certain foods can help with infertility.  However, there is limited scientific evidence and medical studies out today to support these theories. That being said, some evidence suggests that vitamin D deficiency can be a contributing factor to infertility in some women. This vitamin is also essential during pregnancy, so we recommend that you speak with our IVF specialists if your Vitamin D levels are low for fertility complications or a higher likelihood of carrying your child to term.

Your BMI matters.

Bodyweight influences hormone levels in women; being overweight or underweight can affect your estrogen production, which is essential for your body’s ability to ovulate regularly. Recent studies show that a body mass index (BMI) less than 18 or over 32 is associated with problems ovulating and conceiving. The normal range for a woman’s BMI (18.5 to 24.9) is ideal for getting pregnant. For a woman to become pregnant, regular ovulation and healthy estrogen levels are crucial when it comes to fertility. Therefore, maintaining a healthy BMI range plays a vital role in your journey to conception.

Sperm quality can change gradually. 

For men, various factors can cause drastic changes in sperm count and motility. Some of the more common include age, genetic issues, various medical conditions, and excessive smoking or drinking alcohol. It’s also important to note that you should never assume that a prior pregnancy guarantees fertile sperm. 

When PFCLA reviews our clients with infertility in mind, a semen evaluation is usually required by our IVF specialists before starting the treatment. The standard semen analysis looks at the following parameters, which also include an example of a normal result:

Semen volume (ml) 1.5 
Total sperm number (million per ejaculate) 39
Sperm concentration (million per ml) 15
Progressive motility (%) 32
Sperm morphology (normal %) 4
Vitality (live sperm, %) 58

Because every man’s health and situation is different, various methods and recommendations are provided depending on the situation. For more information on these methods, you can reach out to one of our IVF professionals to discuss further options.

Stress level and lifestyle matters

Studies show that stress levels can severely impact your hormone levels and menstrual cycles. An increase of stress or emotional fatigue can cause or increase complications when trying to conceive. When your menstrual cycles are irregular, one of the biggest obstacles is not knowing when to time intercourse or insemination to increase your chances of getting pregnant — and if your period stops altogether, then you can’t conceive at all. 

Lifestyle can also impact fertility. You should avoid smoking cigarettes and exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke. Maintaining a healthy diet and avoiding excess alcohol use are also helpful. While this advice is good in general for fertility and conception, it’s also important to note that a withdrawal of these things can further increase stress on the body (you’ll need to quit drinking/smoking and maintain a healthy diet throughout your pregnancy regardless). 

Some health conditions can also make it harder to conceive.

While factors like BMI and personal lifestyle can be controlled or changed, some fertility factors we are either born with or develop as we go through our lives. Below is a list of conditions that can impact fertility and cause complications that may inhibit your chances of pregnancy:

  • Ovulation disorder
  • Blocked fallopian tubes
  • Endometriosis
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Polycystic ovarian disease

Although this may prove intimidating, with careful planning and consultation with an IVF specialist, even these challenges may be overcome, allowing you to conceive still and bring life into the world.

STIs (Sexual Transmitted Infections) can affect both men's and women’s fertility. 

It is a common belief that many STIs only affect a woman’s fertility and ability to conceive. The truth is that untreated STIs can impact both men and women, and some can even cause risk to your unborn child, either during the pregnancy or even during delivery itself.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause damage to a woman’s fallopian tubes, which can make it harder to get pregnant and could also significantly increase your risk of ectopic pregnancy. Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection commonly caused by STIs, can lead to tubal factor infertility and damage the ovaries, which can also contribute to infertility. 

For men, these STIs can also cause damage to the epididymis (where the sperm ducts are located) and even cause DNA fragmentation in the sperm itself. Both can cause significant damage and infertility complications that may be irreversible if untreated.

An infectious panel test is always required by our IVF specialist before starting the infertility treatment.

A woman is born with her lifetime supply of eggs.

While men generate sperm throughout their lifetime, women are born with their lifetime supply of eggs already inside their ovaries. Starting with your first menstrual cycle, eggs are released by your ovaries each month, causing the egg supply to decline over the years. Your remaining supply of eggs is called your ovarian reserve, an indicator of your fertility potential. The antral follicle count is a test that measures your ovarian reserve, which your fertility doctor can perform.

If you consider freezing your eggs, the best time to do it is in your 20s or early 30s

As previously mentioned above, female fertility starts to decline from the age of thirty and is greatly reduced after forty. Considering this, the optimal age for a woman to freeze her eggs is in her twenties or early thirties. While there are many reasons to freeze your eggs, if you are ever unsure when you may want to conceive or a fertility factor that may impact your fertility down the road, it’s best to freeze your eggs sooner rather than later.

Basal Temperature Charting Might Not Always Predict Ovulation

Your Basal temperature is the temperature of your body when it is fully at rest. This is often used as an indicator for when to attempt to conceive. A person’s body temperature typically increases slightly when they ovulate. 

It is more complicated than you think to track your Basal temperature accurately. This is because Basal temperature doesn’t always rise the day after ovulation. If you use basal temperature to time intercourse, you may wrongly estimate your fertile window by a few days and reduce the chance of conceiving. Furthermore, by worrying about ‘perfect timing’, you can add additional stress to you or your partner, which can negatively impact conception.

If you have any questions about fertility, you can always reach out to our IVF specialist here.   

Note: This is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Information provided is for general educational purposes only and is subject to change without notice. Speak to your doctor directly with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Any information contained herein does not replace any care plan as determined by a physician. 

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