Do you often wonder if what you are hearing on the topic of having babies and your fertility is fact or fiction? I know many people are unsure of what is true and what isn’t. Interestingly, sometimes facts change as more research is carried out and discoveries are made. Here are some true and not so true facts about fertility and fertility treatments that I hope you will find interesting.
I can wait until I’m 40 to have a baby as technology will help me: Fiction
While assisted reproductive technologies (ART) have advanced considerably over the past two decades and there are many interventions to assist getting pregnant, the biggest factor impacting fertility is still the female’s age. Although, some people still have quick pregnancy success after the age of 35, for many it takes longer. From 35 years of age, egg quality and quantity begins to naturally decline. Statistics show that by the age of 40, it is estimated that a female’s natural conception rate is in the range of 8-10 per cent a month and at age 43, the rate is thought to be as low as 1-3 per cent a month. Advancing age also unfortunately increases the risk of miscarriage and chromosomal (genetic) abnormalities. Even with the help of ART, the fact is, that IVF success rates are certainly affected by age. So, if possible, the earlier you try to fall pregnant the easier it will be.
Both partners’ weight plays a significant role in fertility: Fact
For women, ovulation and egg quality can be impacted by being either underweight or overweight. For men, sperm count and quality can be affected. In order to optimise your chances of success you should aim to be in the normal BMI range. If your BMI is not in the normal range it is wise to try and make some changes to your lifestyle that will positively impact your weight. The “business” of daily life makes it difficult for many of us to maintain a healthy weight, but it is possible to lose (or gain if required) weight and get in better shape if you adopt a healthy plan.
Male age makes no difference: Fiction
While women have often been the focus of infertility concerns, a recent study has found that a man’s age can also have an influence on the chances of falling pregnant. The study found that if the female partner was already 40-42 years old, the age of the male partner had no impact on success. However, if the female was younger than 40, the success rate was affected by the male partner’s age and was found to decline as the man grew older. It is thought that advancing male age may cause impaired semen parameters, increased sperm DNA damage, and epigenetic alterations in sperm that affect fertilisation, implantation, or embryo development. However, female age is still considered the dominant factor in predicting (or explaining) a couples chance of conception.
Heat can affect male fertility: Fact
Yes it is true that excessive overheating of the testes can affect sperm quality. The testes are outside the body to keep them cooler for a reason. So it is best to avoid hot spas, saunas, extremely tight jeans or pants, and even the use of your computer laptop on your lap. If the temperature is too high within the testicles it can affect sperm quality so being cautious while trying to conceive is the best option.
Freezing embryos is risky, fresh is best: Fiction
Freezing embryos is no longer risky and many studies have reported higher pregnancy success rates using frozen embryos. The method now commonly used to freeze eggs is called ‘vitrification’ which is a fast cryopreservation technique that is 7,000 times faster than slow freezing and has resulted in a dramatic increase in pregnancy rates due to the excellent quality of the embryos when thawed. Vitrification greatly reduces the risk of rupturing or damage to the embryo as there is minimal chance for ice crystals to form within the cell. One of the benefits of frozen embryos is that they do not age. For example, if you freeze an embryo at the age of 30 and decide to thaw and use it at age 35, the cell structure and quality of the embryo remain as they were when you were 30 years old.
Different IVF clinics offer different things: Fact
It is true, there are now a range of IVF providers in the market and all have different business models. There are what is referred to as ‘full-service clinics’ (like City Fertility Centre) and ‘discount clinics’. Here are the top things to compare when selecting a fertility clinic: choice of specialist; success rates; range of fertility services offered; qualifying criteria to be a patient; level that IVF treatment is tailored to the patient; and exactly what is included in the cost.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com