Fertility is unfortunately effected by age. Which means if you really want to start a family, leaving it until your 30s might cause you problems.
Women are at their most fertile in their early twenties and then studies show that there is a slow decline in fertility until you reach of thirty five, when the decrease becomes more significant.
That isn’t to say women over the age of thirty aren’t becoming pregnant. In fact a recent Canadian study found that more women over the age of thirty were giving birth than in past generations. It also found that 11 percent of first time mothers were in fact over the age of thirty five.
The reason that women only have a limited window of opportunity (unlike men) is due to their ovaries. Women are born with about a million eggs, which decrease to around half a million by the time they reach puberty and then they continue to decrease every year after that. Added to this is the fact that not every egg will be healthy enough to make a baby.
When a women is in her twenties her fertility is at its peak until her late twenties. By the time a woman reaches thirty nine she has half the chance of becoming pregnant than she did in her early thirties and by her early forties it is very difficult to become pregnant and have a healthy baby.
There is a way to check your fertility. A simple blood test can measure the amount of the hormone FSH in your bloodstream. Normal levels indicate fertility, but a high level means that you are in the menopause and that you are no longer fertile.
Men on the other hand can father children late in life, into their seventies and even their eighties. This is because men produce sperm throughout their lives. However their sperm quality and quantity decreases with age as well. Older men tend to have less sperm and it moves at a slower rate, which means it might not reach the egg in time to fertilise it. Sperm can also become misshapen, which causes chromosomal disorders.
Men and women can’t halt the march of time, but there ways to optimise fertility:
Give Up Smoking
If you are smokers and you want to conceive, then it’s time to stop. Smoking interferes with oestrogen levels in women and smoking whilst pregnant increases the risk of having an under -weight baby or even miscarriage. Studies have also shown that sperm is damaged by smoking as it increases the levels of free radicals in the sperm fluid.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Studies show that it takes longer for an overweight person to become pregnant. It is therefore better to keep your BMI at a normal level.
Don’t drink too much
Too much alcohol effects sperm development and can make women less fertile by causing an imbalance in their hormonal system. Before you conceive if you must drink, try to stick to government guidelines and only have one or two units a week. Once you become pregnant it is best to give up altogether.
Careful with Caffeine
Caffeine can also effect fertility, so don’t drink too many cups of coffee or soft drinks which contain caffeine.
If you are trying to conceive you can buy an ovulation kit over the counter at your pharmacy, which will tell you when you are at your most fertile. You can also calculate this yourself if you have regular periods by using one of the many online ovulation calendars, such as this one from WebMD.