A little research or a visit with your doctor can quickly reveal that there is a lot to know when it comes to fertility. There’s so much to remember, in fact, that it makes sense that anyone would forget a piece of information or two about conceiving. Some things, however, aren’t worth forgetting – especially the “big picture” pieces of information that can help your family planning efforts in major ways!
To help you keep your own family planning efforts on track, we’ve selected four “big picture” pieces of helpful information that are always worth remembering. Some of them will give you long-term pieces of conception-related advice. Others are more of a friendly reminder that your journey to parenthood is probably not that out of the ordinary, and not worth stressing over. But no matter where you are in your family planning journey, men and women of all ages should keep all of these points in mind:
1) Family planning can begin long before you actually want to start a family. Family planning is not something that has to take place just when you’re settling down and actually preparing to start your family. In fact, Dr. Lubna Pal, reproductive science specialist, OB-GYN, and director of the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Program at the Yale University School of Medicine, has stated in interviews that she recommends approaching family planning the same way we approach retirement: address your future needs now, to make things easier later on. This means that even if you’re currently in your 20s, if having a family is a lifetime goal, there is nothing wrong with speaking with a doctor about any lifestyle choices, chronic health issues, or even potential genetic factors that you should address and control to the best of your ability in the years to come. Doing this can influence your overall future fertility, and can give you better odds of conceiving sooner when you do decide the time is right to start your family. (Of course, plenty of women successfully conceive each year even if they don’t do this – so please don’t stress too much if you’re in your 30s and you missed this optional checkpoint!)
2) Age can impact a woman’s fertility – but it’s not a singular reason to panic. We’ve all heard something like this before: “You better get to work on starting a family! Your biological clock is ticking!” Unfortunately, this constant reminder that older women experience more difficulty getting pregnant can be a major source of stress – even for women in their 20s! The reality is that yes, at some point after the age of 35, the viability and health of a woman’s eggs is going to decrease. As a result of this, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine reports that a healthy 40-year-old woman has a 5% chance of getting pregnant each menstrual cycle, compared to the 20% odds of a woman ten years younger. But still, it’s important to remember that there’s no need to panic, as more and more women are successfully conceiving in their late 30s and early 40s. So while admittedly more difficult, pregnancy at a later age is not impossible – and there’s no reason to give up on your dreams just yet!
3) Age can affect a man’s fertility, too. We tend to incorrectly assume that men produce healthy sperm throughout their lifetime. However, while men are definitely capable of having children long after a woman is not, their own fertility rates do drop over time. This is because sperm quality decreases as men age, resulting in lower numbers of sperm that are unable to swim as quickly after an ejaculation. Just like women, then, men are advised to take steps earlier rather than later to address their own fertility needs. Working with a doctor, maintaining a healthy weight, and living a healthy lifestyle can help ensure that even men who get a late start in their family planning have a fair shake at becoming fathers.
4) One in six couples will struggle with fertility issues. Too often, couples who are having difficulties conceiving stay silent about their struggles. The reality is that fertility issues are really not that rare: one in six couples have trouble getting pregnant. Because of this, we urge any couple who is experiencing delays in getting pregnant to continue to try. In fact, chances are that if you are experiencing difficulty getting pregnant, it’s likely because of an issue that you can address right at home. Just to make sure that this is the case, though, there is no harm in asking a doctor for input or feedback on your overall health. And it also never hurts to ask if there are ways you can improve your ovulation tracking efforts, to increase your chances of conceiving even more each month!
Each of these four points are excellent reminders that no matter how old you are, there are things you can do to help increase your chances of starting a family. Whether you’re in your 20s and you have time to plan for the years to come, or you’ve decided later in life that you would love to start a family after all, being proactive can go a long way in advancing your family planning journey. Most of all, it’s important to never fret if you don’t get pregnant right away. Remember: you are not alone, and this journey isn’t over yet!