Lack of money, building a career and not finding the right partner are all reasons why teenagers and carrier building women may leave having a baby until later in life.
Today fertility clinics are full of women who, for a variety of reasons, have left it too late to conceive naturally: couples who didn’t find each other in time, women on rollercoaster careers that don’t allow for babies, and single women who come with their mothers, each as desperate as the other for a child or grandchild. Women often turn up at 38 and say ‘I wish somebody had told me that age had such a big effect on fertility‘
With lot of stress placed on contraception, now is the need to place fertility education in curriculum in secondary schools so we can start addressing the other side of the coin, in terms of fertility awareness and preventing infertility. Adding fertility to the sex education curriculum would introduce complete and comprehensive reproductive health education which will help to reduce STDs and teenage pregnancies.
It can take up to a generation to achieve a result, so we’ve got to start now. The first thing we is to increase the awareness in young girls of the effect of their age on their fertility with the stress that the decline starts at 30, it becomes rapid after 35, and even more rapid after 37.5.
Girls who exercise excessively and lose bodyweight can find their fertility affected; being overweight can have a similarly negative impact, and smoking can bring on early menopause.
I know it sounds easy to keep putting off starting a family – but seeing the anguish that it can cause, if there are problems, every day can be stressful and sad.
Risk Factors of Infertility
Many of the risk factors for both male and female infertility are the same. According to the Mayo Clinic, risks include:
- Age. A woman’s fertility gradually declines with age, and this decline becomes more pronounced in her mid-30s. Infertility in older women may be due to the number and quality of eggs as they age or to health problems that may interfere with fertility. Men over age 40 may be less fertile than younger men are.
- Tobacco use. A couple’s chance of achieving a pregnancy is reduced if either partner uses tobacco. Smoking also reduces the possible benefit of fertility treatment. Miscarriages are more frequent in women who smoke. Smoking can increase the risk of erectile dysfunction and low sperm count in men.
- Alcohol use. For women, there’s no safe level of alcohol use during conception or pregnancy. Avoid alcohol if you’re planning to become pregnant because you may not realize you’re pregnant for the first few weeks. Alcohol use increases the risk of birth defects, and it may also make it more difficult to become pregnant. For men, heavy alcohol use can decrease sperm count and motility.
- Being overweight. Among American women, an inactive lifestyle and being overweight may increase the risk of infertility. In addition, a man’s sperm count and testosterone levels may be adversely affected if he is overweight.
- Being underweight. Women at risk of fertility problems include those with eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia, and women who follow a very low calorie or restrictive diet.
- Exercise issues. Lack of or not enough exercise contributes to obesity, which increases the risk of infertility. Less often, ovulation problems may be associated with frequent strenuous, intense exercise in women who are not overweight.
WomensHealth.gov lists the risks above and adds:
- Poor diet – this means that whether your weight is over, under, or right on target for your height, your diet may be lacking in proper nutrition. This also includes both bulimia and anorexia, which can cause amenorrhea.
- Athletic training
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Chlamydia and gonorrhea, for example, are important preventable causes of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility. Untreated, about 10-15% of women with chlamydia will develop PID. Chlamydia can also cause fallopian tube infection without any symptoms. PID and “silent” infection in the upper genital tract may cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes, uterus, and surrounding tissues, which can lead to infertility.
Workplace environmental contaminants may also decrease fertility, as can bicycle riding and constricting underwear for men.
It is easy to see from these risk factors why it is important for young people to know that their present behavior may cause them heartache later in life when they are ready to have a family.
The World Health Organization, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recognize infertility as a disease.