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Age is the single most important factor in predicting your fertility and, unfortunately, is the one factor that cannot really be controlled. Most women can successfully carry a child well into their 40s, as the uterus is fairly resistant to aging. The key to fertility actually lies with your eggs.

As you age, your eggs age right along with you. All women are different, but generally speaking, your fertility peaks during your mid 20s and begins to steadily decline around the age of 30. At 35, your egg quality begins to decline rapidly.

At birth, you had about 1 million eggs. By puberty, your egg reserve had declined by 50% and each month thereafter, you lost an additional 750 eggs.

In addition to quantity, age also affects the quality of your egg supply. According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, the risk of chromosomal abnormalities in newborns increases with the chronological age of the egg, growing to 1 in 66 at age 40 versus 1 in 385 at age 30. The risk of Down Syndrome in particular increases from 1 in 1,000 at age 20, to 1 in 100 at age 40 according to the CDC.

CDC Graph

What to do?
Ideally, you should have a child during your peak fertile years if you are in a position to do so.
If you are not it a position to conceive during your peak fertility, you may also choose to explore more proactive options to protect your future fertility. There are a number of treatments available, including freezing your eggs today to use in the future, which may provide you with the opportunity to “slow down” the biological clock and take fuller advantage of the professional and personal opportunities available to you.

Helpful Links
ASRM Patient Booklet: Age and Fertility
Extend Fertility, a company dedicated to fertility preservation services for women.

Weight, Diet and Exercise
Data confirms that obesity and low body weight account for a combined 12 percent of primary fertility cases in the U.S. (six percent related to obesity and six percent related to underweight issues). Both conditions may contribute to irregular menstrual cycles. The good news is that in most cases these problems can be reversed by correcting the weight situation. While every woman is different, it is best for you to maintain your weight within 15 percent of the ideal body weight based on the Body Mass Index (BMI) range.

What to do?
A healthy diet composed of a variety of fruits, vegetables and low fat protein is ideal for most women. Moderate exercise, including cardio and strength activities, is also an important aspect of your overall health and future fertility. But don’t overdo it, some strenuous exercise, like long distance running can cause amenorrhea (no periods). Heavy exercise has also been tied to low levels of progesterone which may contribute to difficulties getting pregnant.

Helpful Links
CDC’s Body Mass Index (BMI) Calculator

Birth Control Options
In some cases, birth control can actually help preserve your ability to get pregnant in the future. Some contraceptives, such as birth control pills and condoms, have a protective effect on fertility:
  • Birth Control Pills – Using contraceptives that contain hormones, such as the Pill or the patch, can actually help women who suffer from irregular periods or endometriosis. The hormones in these options can help to regulate ovulation and minimize the growth of the uterine lining each month.
  • Condoms – They are the most effective barrier against STDs, which can cause infertility.
However, there are some myths and issues associated with the use of hormonal birth control. Birth Control pills do not suppress egg release. Therefore, you will not have more eggs when you try to conceive if you have been taking them. Some hormonal birth control options can actually linger in your system and cause irregular ovulation and irregular periods after you have stopped taking them.

Other methods of contraception can also impair fertility. Studies show that intrauterine devices (IUDs) are often associated with an increase in pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility due to scarred fallopian tubes.

What to do?
Talk to your doctor about your birth control options, carefully weighing the benefits and risks of each. If you have been using the same method of birth control for a number of years, discuss newer options that are currently available that may better meet your changing needs.

Helpful Links
MedicineNet.com: Birth Control Options
WedMD: Fertility after Birth Control

Many medical procedures, particularly those used for treating cancer, can compromise your fertility by causing premature ovarian failure or early menopause. In some cases, there are treatment options, such as egg freezing or ovarian tissue freezing, that can help young women preserve their future fertility prior to undergoing treatment.

What to do?
Talk to your doctor or specialist about your fertility preservation options prior to beginning treatment.

Helpful Links
Fertile Hope, a national nonprofit organization providing reproductive information and support to cancer patients.
Extend Fertility, a company dedicated to fertility preservation services for women.

Medical Conditions and Warning Signs
In addition to the preventable causes of fertility, other medical conditions can also affect your fertility, including endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS or Syndrome O), and pelvic infections.

Below is a short list of the most common warning signs to look out for:
  • Painful menstrual periods
  • Irregular, or absent (amenorrhea) menstrual periods
  • Irregular pelvic pain
  • Increased hair growth on face, chest and/or stomach (this is a sign of a potentially serious hormone imbalance)
  • Milky discharge from the breast
  • Yellow vaginal discharge or persistent odor

What to do?
If you suspect that you may be suffering from something more serious than the average monthly cramps or recurrent yeast infections, see your doctor to discuss your symptoms. In many cases early detection can lead to effective treatment or to other options, such as egg freezing, to help preserve your fertility.

Helpful Links
CDC’s Women’s Reproductive Health Resource Site
Extend Fertility, a company dedicated to fertility preservation services for women.

While the information on this site has been reviewed and approved by Extend Fertility’s Medical Advisory Board, it should not replace a conversation with a health care provider.
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