Fertility facts with Professor Charles Kingsland
Health is a very precious commodity we tend to take for granted when we are young. It is only when one ages a little that health becomes more valued. It does not matter how hard we work or how much money we earn - if you ain't got your health, all else pales into insignificance.
The same goes for our reproductive health.
When we are young, we think that we will find the partner of our dreams, get a job, nice house and when the time is right, start a family. If only that were true. For some of us, that’s what happens. In my experience, however, that only happens in the minority of cases. I know, disappointing isn't it?
Over the past thirty years working in the specialty of fertility, there’s one thing I’ve learnt above everything else, and that is, I really have no idea what "normal" is.
We all aspire to be normal, whatever that means. We aspire to our friends’ apparent normality. Most of us spend our early reproductive years trying to control our fertility and then for an increasing number of us, when we want to reproduce, we can't. All our normal friends seem to be having babies but for some reason we can't. Then before you know it, you're on the fertility treadmill, reading articles on the internet like this one.
There are, however, some signs that that may be indicative of a potential problem with your fertility as well as some lifestyle choices that can exacerbate these when you start trying for a baby. In this article, I deal with some factors which may affect women who are trying to conceive:
- Age; unlike men, who are ‘sperm factories’, making sperm up until the day they die, women are ‘egg warehouses’. They cannot make eggs, they certainly cannot improve their quality - contrary to what you might read in some less well informed fertility articles.
- Eggs get older as you do, so that by the time a woman reaches the age of forty she has a 50:50 chance of being completely out of viable eggs.
- If your periods are regular and predictable, there’s an 85% chance that you are releasing an egg (i.e. ovulating). When ovulating, you may often notice a change in cervical mucus quality. It becomes thinner and more runny. You may also notice pain on the left or right side of your abdomen, lower down. This is normal and is a symptom of encouragement to the fertility doctor.
- If your periods are irregular or don't occur at all, that chance goes down to about 15%. It doesn't necessarily mean you don't have any eggs, it just means they are not being released.
- If you have a poor diet, it does little for your own health and in particular your egg health. There is also a strong relationship between your reproductive health and your weight. Being overweight is not good for your fertility, neither is being too thin.
- There are some illnesses that can affect egg health and hence fertility. Also, some medications can affect egg quality. So if you suffer from any particular illness it’s always useful to ask your GP whether the illness itself or the treatment of that illness can affect your egg store.
- Smoking almost universally affects your egg quality. Of course, we all know of women who smoke and have healthy babies, but if your egg store wasn't very good to start with, then smoking can tip you over the edge into infertility.
- Finally, we often resemble our parents. It can be useful therefore to ask about your mother’s fertility. When she started trying for a family, for instance, did it take her a long time to conceive? When did her periods stop? Although not always helpful, it can be a useful indicator of your own future fertility. I always say that it is a good idea to pick your mother as carefully as possible, because one day, you may end up like her.
If you are struggling with your fertility and feel like you might need a bit of help, you can call us on 0800 564 2270 - it’s so easy to get started.