Infertility: Prevent And Tackle!

There's an alarming growth of infertility among young Indian women. What are the top reasons for it, when should you raise an alarm and visit a specialist? Here's some know-how.

Ask Dr Kaberi

Women are born with a fixed pool of eggs: One to two million at birth,
3,00,000-5,00,000 at puberty, which reduces to about 25,000 when a woman turn 37, and further goes down to 1,000 by the time she hits menopause. From 32, the ability to conceive per monthly cycle decreases gradually but significantly, and goes down rapidly after 37 - which shows a decrease in the egg quality. Lack of sexual activity is also a contributing factor.

Why Is Infertility On The Rise?

Latest research indicates that 10 percent of urban Indian couples in their reproductive age are infertile. However with women of 35 years of age and above, it is as high as 30-40 percent. The rising stats are due to the social changes in the past decade and a half. More women are focusing on their careers and are marrying late. The very process of planning for a baby is delayed.

Even today, most women are unaware of the exponential decline of fertility after the age of 35. Media highlights of celebrity wives and actors conceiving late in life are another negative influence on women. Most of us are unaware that these may be aided pregnancies. A high-powered career and pressure at work may also lead to a reduction in the sperm count of the man, or affect the woman's body negatively.

When Should You Visit A Doctor?

A couple should visit a specialist if they've had sex about 3-4 times a week for more than a year, and failed to conceive. However, women 35 years of age and above, who have been detected with a gynaecological issue such as polycystic ovaries, fibroids, endometriosis or pelvic tuberculosis, should visit a doctor immediately after the tests have shown positive for any of the above mentioned conditions. The actual treatment for infertility can be a mentally, financially and physically draining process for a couple. So it's best to be prepared!*

Top Reasons For Infertility

The main reasons for infertility are divided into four categories: Male factor, female factor, unexplained or both. Broadly speaking, each category is responsible for one fourth of the causes.

The man may have low-quality sperm, or there may be an absence of sperms. This could be because of birth anomalies, hormonal imbalances, an infection, trauma, or excessive smoking and intake of alcohol.

The "women" factor covers ovarian, tubal or uterine factors; poor egg quality possibly due to an infection, injury, cancer treatment, or increasing age. Endometriosis, polycystic ovary, fibroids and tuberculosis are other major causes of infertility among women.

How can you prevent it?
  • Try to conceive before you turn 33.
  • Try to lead a stress-free and happy life. Draw the line at the end of the day; cut off from work concerns, learn to relax.
  • Follow healthy lifestyle habits: Eat a well-balanced diet, drink plenty of fluids and say "no" to alcohol and smoking. Make exercise a part of your daily routine.
  • Practise meditation and yoga: It calms the mind and body.

Fertility enhancing trick 1: Quit alcohol

When it comes to trying for a baby, alcohol is one of the biggest hindrances for both men and women. For men, boozy nights often lead to a rise in oestrogen levels which decreases sperm count and increases the amount of abnormal sperm. Alcohol also affects men’s ability to get an erection. For women, alcohol can cause all sorts of hormonal imbalances and problems with the ovaries that make it difficult – sometimes impossible – to conceive. What might seem like an innocent taste of your favourite tipple can decrease your body’s ability to absorb nutrients such as zinc, which is important for conception. So, when it comes to baby making, swap the cocktails for ‘mocktails’ and the beer for barley water.

Fertility enhancing trick 2: Men, keep your testicles cool

Men, stay cool. We don’t mean it in a hippy way, but in the temperature sense. Your testes are designed to hang outside of your body because sperm needs to be below a certain temperature for it to function properly. Sperm that is too hot gets lazy and can become completely ineffective – this is no good for anyone trying to conceive. To keep your fertile friends in tip-top condition, you must make sure your dangly bits stay at a comfortable temperature. Avoid long hot baths, tight clothing around your crotch, and – we know it defeats the object – but don’t balance your laptop on your lap because it will warm up your genital area and could damage your sperm.

Fertility enhancing trick 3: Avoid lubricants

Researchers have found that vaginal lubricants can be toxic to sperm and often interfere with the role of natural vaginal mucus. Some experts have suggested that, bizarrely, using egg whites is an all-natural way to lube up your love-making parts without harming the sperm. Others suggest that even egg whites can render the sperm ineffective. Luckily, we didn’t fancy spreading raw egg over that region anyway. Instead, we recommend spending more time building up to intercourse to increase your body’s natural lubricants; spend longer kissing, touching, and having oral sex. If you still experience difficulty getting naturally ‘wet’, try warm water. This is a completely natural form of lube that won’t decrease the effectiveness of sperm.
Fertility enhancing trick 4: Relax, de-stress, and be happy

If you’re struggling to conceive and you’re also super stressed-out, there’s a good chance that some simple relaxation techniques will solve infertility issues. It doesn’t sound like an effective resolution, but a report by the University of California has noticed that stress hinders fertility in those trying to conceive naturally, and even those who are trying to conceive through artificial insemination. Relaxing, de-stressing and being happy is often the key to successfully becoming pregnant. Take this as your perfect opportunity to put your feet up and have some rest.
Fertility enhancing trick 5: Boost your zinc intake

When trying for a baby, it is important that sperm is in top condition. It is common for harmful environmental chemicals to be absorbed into our bodies and impede the effects of sperm. Zinc plays an important role in ‘activating’ semen and repairing environmental damage so it’s a good idea to up your intake whilst trying to make babies. Nutritionists recommend taking 15mg of zinc a day to help repair any damaged semen. Foods that are packed with zinc include oysters, red meat, wholegrain, and pulses. Make sure you consult your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet.

Fertility enhancing trick 6: Ladies, plan sex around your cycle

Some lucky ladies become pregnant without having to look into the scientific implications of their menstrual cycle, but for those of us who struggle, it’s an excellent way to boost your baby-making potential. The average menstrual cycle is twenty eight to thirty two days and, whilst it can vary for individuals, ovulation happens on average between day eleven and day twenty one of your cycle. At this point, you may produce discharge that is a slippery egg-white consistency and this helps the semen to make its way to the egg easier – having sex during this time in your cycle is great for boosting your chances of pregnancy. The egg only lives around twelve to twenty four hours – sperm lives for around three to five days – and if it is not fertilised by then, it usually dissolves. By knowing when you’re due to ovulate you and your partner can plan the most effective time to ‘get busy’. There are all sorts of weird and wonderful inventions nowadays that can help to predict when you’re ovulating, from phone apps to ovulation predictor kits (OPK).
Fertility enhancing trick 7: Stop smoking

Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, but many feel that just a ciggie a day won’t affect their chances of having a baby. The truth is, smoking seriously hampers our chances of a successful pregnancy as it is known to decrease fertility in women and bring on early menopause, making cigarettes a particularly bad idea for older women trying to conceive. Male smokers are proven to have a lower sperm count than non-smokers as cigarettes cause the blood vessels to narrow, making it difficult for blood to be carried to the genitals and therefore impacting upon sperm. Having a crafty cigarette whilst you’re trying to conceive is really not a good idea.
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