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    5 Factors that can affect your fertility

    The world of fertility can be extremely overwhelming with a lot of information to try and understand, often in a very short amount of time as you and your partner have made the decision to expand your family. For many, this is the first time they have ever looked into their own fertility levels – how fertile they are, how their lifestyle choices have impacted their likelihood of conceiving and what options they have due to their socioeconomic class.

    It is estimated that in the UK, infertility affects 1 in 7 heterosexual couples. For those couples, this time can be awfully upsetting and confusing. In order to become more prepared for when the time does come, it’s vital that we all start understanding our own fertility before we have to.

    What factors can affect my fertility?

    Some people manage to conceive very quickly after they begin trying, with around 84% of couples successfully becoming pregnant in the first year after having regular, unprotected sex every 2 or 3 days. If you have not become pregnant or managing to have a successful pregnancy within the first year of trying, it is recommended that you see your GP.

    The regularity of your sexual intercourse can play a big part in your likelihood of conceiving. A common misconception is that you should be having sex daily whilst trying. This is not true! Due to sperm taking 2-3 days to mature, immature sperm could be released whilst trying and making no effort to fertilise the egg. The recommend sexual intercourse frequency whilst trying to conceive is 2-3 days. Constant sexual intercourse is also not recommended as this can lower your libido, as the process becomes more mundane and predictable. It is important for your mental wellbeing to keep your sex life satisfying and enjoyable whilst trying for a baby.

    There are many risk factors which, unbeknownst to many, can affect your own fertility. Some are not in your control, and some you can change.

    1. Age

    Fertility naturally declines with age. Although a woman can conceive up until her menopause, her chances of becoming pregnant do lower with each decade. A woman’s most fertile time is during her 20s. By most fertile, this means that she has the highest number of good quality eggs available and the risks for miscarriage are at their lowest. For example, the average 25 year old woman has a 20% chance of conceiving after just 3 months of trying. Whereas an average 35 year old woman has a 12% chance of conceiving after 3 months of trying. The risk for miscarriage and genetic abnormalities also begins to rise after age 35. When a woman reaches her 40s, although she is still able to have a healthy baby if her menopause has not begun, pregnancy risks have dramatically increased by this time. These risks include:

    • The need for a caesarean

    • Premature birth

    • Low birth weight

    • Birth defects

    • Stillbirth

    By the time a woman has reached 40, her odds of becoming pregnant after 3 months of trying are down to just 7%.

    2. Weight

    Being either overweight or obese does reduce your fertility levels. Likewise, women who are severely underweight can find becoming pregnant difficult due to irregular, or the stopping of their ovulation. Being an unhealthy weight can also cause a hormonal imbalance and menstrual disorders. Being overweight is also a symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome which is a common cause of fertility issues in women.

    3. Sexually transmitted infections

    For some sexually transmitted infections (STIs), if they are left untreated, they can develop into pelvic inflammatory disease. This is one of the biggest causes of infertility as it causes scarring on the fallopian tubes which makes it difficult for sperm to reach the egg to fertilise it. This can then lead to an ectopic pregnancy which if not recognised early, can cause major health complications.

    The STIs which are known to lead to infertility if left untreated, are chlamydia, gonorrhoea and for men, herpes. There is some evidence to show that herpes may be associated with reduced sperm count and lower sperm quality. Even if you are not exhibiting any symptoms, if you are sexually active then it is vital that you have regular STI checks.

    4. Smoking

    It is well known that smoking can negatively impact your heart and lungs, however it can also lead to problems with fertility. Erectile dysfunction and complications in pregnancy are more prevalent in smokers. Chemicals found in cigarettes including nicotine, cyanide and carbon monoxide can speed up the loss of female eggs. Once eggs die, they do not regenerate meaning they are lost forever. This is a reason as women age, they become less fertile. Eggs die with age. This also means that the menopause on average, occurs 1 - 4 years earlier in women who smoke, compared to a woman of the same age who does not smoke. For men who smoke, they can experience a low sperm quality, reduced sperm count and low mobility, meaning their sperm do not move well. Even if despite all of these factors, the sperm does manage to reach the egg, smoking may also reduce the sperm’s ability to fertilise the egg.

    5. Alcohol

    For men who drink heavily, this can cause them to experience impotence, a reduced sex drive, reduced sexual performance or affect the quality of their sperm.

    For women, even light drinking can add to the time it would take them to become pregnant and can reduce their chance of having a healthy baby. Women who drink 7 or more drinks a week, or 3 or more on one occasion, are more likely to experience fertility problems and irregular periods. Alcohol is also known to affect ovulation.

    For those wanting to explore their own fertility, whether in a precautionary manner or if they have decided to extend their family, UK Meds is now offering products from Babystart in our brand-new Fertility section. A Nottingham based company, they offer support to all with home testing kits, sperm-friendly lubricants, vitamin supplements and more!

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