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How age and lifestyle affects your fertility

A dandelion representing fertilityHow does age your age and your lifestyle affect your ability to have children?

And what factors do you have to take into consideration when trying to conceive?

Here are 5 important factors that affect your fertility – and that of your partner. These are the things that you should begin thinking about before you try for a baby and ask your doctor about at your pre-conception check-up.

1. Age and fertility

You can’t do anything about how old you are but if you and your partner want to have a child or another child, you might want to factor in your age when trying to conceive and that of your partner.

Women’s fertility starts to decline when women are in their early 30s (and the decline speeds up post-35). Men’s fertility starts to decline at 45 years of age.

As well as declining fertility, there is an increased risk of pregnancy complications for older mothers and and with older fathers, an increased risk of the child having autism spectrum disorders, mental health disorders and learning difficulties.

2. Weight and fertility

Being overweight or obese, or underweight, can affect the fertility of both women and men. For women, being overweight can also cause pregnancy complications and affect a baby’s future health. Obesity can affect a woman’s fertility by causing hormonal imbalances and problems with ovulation. It is also associated with poly-cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common cause of infertility.

If a mother is obese, it increases the risk of pregnancy complications and health problems for the baby. Babies born to overweight or obese mothers are more likely than those born to healthy-weight mothers to become obese children and adults, and to have more health problems. There is also a higher risk of miscarriage or the baby being stillborn.

Women who are obese and smoke are more than twice as likely as healthy weight women to have a baby with congenital heart disease.

3. Smoking and fertility

We all know that smoking is bad for us. But did you also know that it can also affect your fertility? As well as reducing fertility and increasing the time it takes to conceive, smoking can cause women to experience early menopause. Passive smoking is only slightly less harmful to fertility than active smoking.

4. Alcohol and fertility

The scientific evidence about how low-to-moderate drinking affects women’s and men’s fertility isn’t clear. People often have difficulty accurately reporting their alcohol use and it’s hard to do research that isolates alcohol as a lifestyle factor.

But the research evidence is clear that heavy drinking affects fertility, increasing the length of time it takes to get pregnant and reducing the chances of having a live, healthy baby.

The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that women trying to conceive don’t drink any alcohol. It recommends that men who are trying to have a family do not exceed the safe drinking limit of two standard alcoholic drinks per day.

5. How timing affects fertility

It sounds obvious but timing is key to conception – and having sex when a woman is at the most fertile point in her cycle will really help when trying to get pregnant!

Pregnancy is technically possible during the five days before ovulation and the day of ovulation. The likelihood of actually becoming pregnant, though, is dramatically increased if you have intercourse in the three days leading up to and including ovulation.

So from the start of one period to the start of the next period, the ‘fertile window‘ is these three days.

Image credit: solarseven/123RF Stock Photo

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