10 Things You May Not Know About Your Fertility
1) Your fertility is mostly determined by genetics, which influences how many eggs you are born with.
Doctors believe the number of eggs at birth is set with about a million eggs in their ovaries. Over a reproductive lifetime a woman will ovulate 500 times. For every egg ovulated during your reproductive life, about 1,000 eggs undergo programmed cell death. Those that remain at older ages have much higher chromosome abnormality rates, so pregnancy rates decline with age. Other things, such as smoking cigarettes and certain types of chemotherapy, can accelerate egg cell death and promote an earlier menopause.
2) Regular menstrual cycles are a sign of regular ovulation.
Most women have regular cycles lasting between 27 and 29 days. This is usually a sign of regular, predictable ovulation. Women who do not ovulate regularly have irregular menstrual cycles. Most irregular cycles result from a problem in the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, the brain structures that control ovulation, though there are other causes.
3) Reproductive potential is primarily linked to a woman's age, not her lab results.
Female age is the best predictor of egg quality. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH), and estradiol are predictors of the number of eggs available. Women with abnormal lab test results can still conceive, especially when younger.
4) Most women with blocked fallopian tubes are completely unaware they may have had a prior pelvic infection.
About 10 percent of infertility cases are due to tubal disease, either complete blockage or pelvic scarring causing tubal malfunction. One major cause of tubal disease is a prior pelvic infection from a sexually transmitted disease. These infections can cause so few symptoms that you may be completely unaware your tubes are affected.
This is why fertility physicians will order a dye test of the tubes, called a hysterosalpingogram (HSG), if you have been trying and failing to conceive for 6 months or longer.
5) Good fertility requires a good foundation.
Excellent nutrition, stress reduction, and a physically strong body are foundations for optimizing your fertility.
6) Fertility rates decline dramatically through age 40-50.
While fertility treatment can be successful, conception rates are low beyond age 43. Most women who conceive in their late 40s with fertility treatment are using donated eggs from younger women.
7) Having fathered a pregnancy in the past does not guarantee fertility.
Sperm counts can change quite a bit with time, so never assume that a prior pregnancy guarantees fertile sperm. Obtaining a semen analysis is the only way to be sure the sperm are still healthy!
8) For the most part, diet has little or nothing to do with fertility.
Despite popular press, there is little scientific data showing that a particular diet or food promotes fertility. One limited study did suggest a Mediterranean diet with olive oil, fish, and legumes may help promote fertility.
9) Vitamin D may improve results of fertility treatments.
A recent study from the University of Southern California suggested that women who were undergoing fertility treatments, but had low vitamin D levels, might have lower rates of conception. This vitamin is also essential during pregnancy. At Pacific Fertility Center, we recommend our patients check Vitamin D levels and take supplements if their levels are low.
10) Being either underweight or overweight is clearly linked with lowered levels of fertility.
The evidence in recent years is that obesity is clearly linked with a longer time to conception. Having a body mass index (BMI) less than 18 or over 32 is associated with problems ovulating and conceiving, as well as problems during pregnancy.
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