The odds of being infertile increase as you get older. Although infertility is most commonly seen after the age of 35, currently a lot of youngsters are also facing the issue. Nowadays, infertility is not so uncommon for couples in their 20s. This could be due to various factors relating to the male partner, or the female partner, or a combination of both, and sometimes even for reasons unexplained. Environmental and lifestyle factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, and exposure to environmental pollutants have been linked to lower fertility rates in both men and women, necessitating increased awareness and consultation with an infertility specialist at the right time.
Dealing with Infertility in Your 20s
According to the CDC (National survey of family growth,2006 to 2010), one in every 8 couples have difficulty in conceiving and sustaining pregnancy. One of the main factors that affect fertility is the unhealthy lifestyle of the youth. Having said that, both men and women, should exercise caution about certain factors right from their 20s. These include:
• Maintain a healthy BMI: The BMI should not be in extremes. The ideal BMI range is approximately 20 to 23 for optimum fertility.
• The fat percentage in the body should not be too low – especially in women. The ideal fat percentage is approximately 20 %.
• A healthy BMI and a good fat percentage depend on what you eat and how much you exercise.
• It is important that we eat healthy homemade food rather than easily available junk food.
• Its important that there is no crash dieting is done as it may worsen fertility due to the deficiency of minerals and vitamins that healthy, wholesome homemade food provides.
• Exercise daily: 30-45 minutes of moderate exercise definitely is good for both men and women.
• Apart from this, sleeping for around 7 to 8 hours and at the right time – sleeping early and waking up early , is very important. Melatonin, a hormone released from the brain which regulates fertility is released in the dark. So, when you sleep at the right time the melatonin hormone is secreted optimally improving natural fertility.
• Stress: It is important to keep stress at bay as it affects fertility. Stress may cause delayed menses. Not only this, it can decrease in the blood flow to the uterus and ovaries in women and testes in men, resulting in poor quality of Gametes (i.e. the eggs and the sperms).
• Also, make sure to take prenatal vitamins when you and your partner are planning for a baby, after consulting your doctor.
What are the reasons that can cause infertility in women?
Ovarian abnormalities like polycystic ovarian disease, fall in the ovarian reserve earlier than expected, tubal blockage, non-functional or abnormally functioning tube, or abnormality in the uterine cavity like a fibroid or polyp or any congenital abnormality, can be some of the causes of infertility in women.
Besides, there could be antibodies in the female genital tract especially at the cervix against the sperms which may prevent the sperms from reaching the egg to effect fertilization. Genetic abnormalities like Turner syndrome which decreases the ovarian reserve can also be a reason for infertility. However, everything may be apparently normal, including the semen parameters, and even then the patient may not be able to conceive. This is called unexplained infertility.
What are the reasons for infertility in men?
Pre-Testicular Infertility in men can be caused due to a problem in the hormones which are being produced from the brain which govern fertility. In such a situation usually, men don’t have a good amount of male characteristic features like hair in the beard region, chest, etc. as well as the muscular built is not good.
Testicular Infertility – Lifestyle factors like diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, increased heat because of laptop usage, smoking, alcoholism, previous infection or trauma to the testis may affect the development of sperms. There could be a congenital abnormality of the testis where the production of the sperm could get arrested. There could also be vascular abnormalities like varicocele which increase heat inside testes impairing sperm production.
There could also be genetic abnormalities like Y chromosome microdeletion and Klinefelter’s syndrome which affect sperm production.
Post-Testicular Infertility: In this case, the sperms are being produced normally but the ducts carrying the sperms may be blocked at one or more levels preventing the sperms from reaching the penile urethra.
Is the ’20s the ‘Fertility Peak’?
Yes, it can be considered that the mid-20s is the peak fertility period for women. After 30 years of age, fertility starts declining, and after 35years there is a drastic fall in fertility. However, once a woman nears 40 years of age, chances of having Chromosomallyabnormal babies. Chance of miscarriage also increases as the woman ages. As far as men are concerned, they generally preserve fertility till the age of 50. After 50 years of age the fertility of men starts to decline.
When to see a doctor?
If the woman in her 20s has been trying to conceive for 12 months and has not succeeded, it’s best to consult a doctor and get a fertility evaluation done. In some cases, delaying fertility treatment can decrease the odds of successful pregnancy.
(Dr. Arunima Haldar, Consultant – IVF & Reproductive Medicine, Manipal Hospital Whitefield, Bangalore)
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