Infertility Basics

The World Health Organization has predicted that infertility is the third most serious condition after cancer and heart disease in the 21st century. Today, 46 per cent of the world’s population lives in countries with low levels of fertility, where women have fewer than 2.1 children on average. Low-fertility countries now include all of Europe and Northern America, as well as many countries in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Gone are the days when women could easily conceive even after 35 years. Earlier, women married at younger ages, conceived quickly and had many children way into their late 30’s. It was not uncommon to see mothers pregnant once again at the same time as their eldest daughter! It is easily discernible that this has changed dramatically now.

In order to examine the possible reasons why this has occurred and to recommend steps to improve your chances of conception, we need to understand what infertility is first.

What is infertility?

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive despite one year of trying. This is now seen to affect one in 5 – 6 couples. Now, one year may seem a short time but evidence has shown that 85% of couples do manage to get pregnant within one year.

Why is infertility more commonly seen these days?

Well, aren’t there innumerable changes in our life style? Let me start with the most important factor – the age of the woman. The peak age of fertility is 24 years which means that women get pregnant very easily at this age. But today, how many women get married so early? Marriages are postponed to late twenties/early thirties and more importantly planning a family is further postponed usually for career reasons. In women, as a rule of thumb, egg numbers are known to begin declining by 32 years with a steeper decrease after 35 years, thereby reducing fertility. Besides this there are very many contributing factors which have varying impacts on the increase in infertility. Preservatives in food, air pollution, sedentary lifestyle with increased weight, smoking, excessive alcohol, radiation and stress are all contributors.

How can you contribute to an increase in infertility?

It is impractical to advise all women to get married sooner rather than later for fertility reasons alone. Therefore, a more pragmatic approach would be to exercise, follow a healthy lifestyle with maintenance of an ideal body mass index, have clean food habits and avoid smoking and excess alcohol all of which contribute to increase in fertility. It is important to remember that if a couple have been trying unsuccessfully for one year, it is imperative to check things out. However, if a lady is 35 years or older it is better to think about seeking help after 6 months. Seeking help does not mean immediate advanced treatment or intervention but checking to see if all is right and obtaining advice from a fertility specialist is highly recommended.

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