You may be young and in the pink of health, but some things that you’re doing now could severely affect your chances of pregnancy in the future.
Six things to do to increase the odds of popping.
1. Quit smoking for real
2. Maintain a healthy weight
3. Stop chugging vodka redbulls. And maybe switch to decaf
4. Eat like a proper adult
5. Don't over exercise
6. Having period problems? Don't ignore them
Just because you won’t be having a baby anytime soon doesn’t mean you don’t have to care about your fertility right now. “Lifestyle choices you make in your teens and 20s can have a significant impact on your fertility in the future,” says Dr Liow Swee Lian, Scientific Director at Virtus Fertility Centre Singapore.
According to her, your odds of success when it comes to childbearing decrease with each passing year. “Age is the major cause of fertility problems in women. The older they get, the fewer the number of healthy eggs they produce,” she says. “The normal monthly success rate for couples trying to conceive naturally at 25 years of age is approximately 20 percent.”
She points out that once a woman is 36 years old, her chances of conceiving naturally are half of what they were when she was 20, and by the time she’s 41, her chances of getting pregnant dip to just four percent. Sure, you may not intend to have a baby that late—but it doesn’t change the fact that it gets harder every year.
Here are six things she recommends doing so your odds of having a baby are better when you eventually try for one.
ONCE A WOMAN IS 36 YEARS OLD, HER CHANCES OF CONCEIVING NATURALLY ARE HALF OF WHAT THEY WERE WHEN SHE WAS 20.
Quit smoking for real
It’s no secret that cigarettes are bad for your health, so it probably isn’t surprising that it can affect your fertility.
“Smoking damages the DNA in your eggs,” says Dr Liow. “Also, it can have negative effects at each stage of the reproductive process, including egg maturation, hormone production and embryo transport [which can complicate your pregnancy]. It can also affect the environment in the uterus.”
She adds that women who smoke are also likely to go through menopause at a younger age.
Maintain a healthy weight
Your weight is an important factor in your ability to get pregnant.
“If you’re significantly overweight or underweight, your body may produce too much or too little of the hormones that regulate ovulation,” she explains. She adds that if you’re overweight, a mere five percent reduction in weight can improve ovulation and enhance your fertility.
Cut down on alcohol and coffee
Can’t get through your day without coffee, or the weekend without drinking? Having too much of these beverages could make it hard for you to conceive.
“Research has found a link between fertility and alcohol. Women who drink large amounts of alcohol (more than seven drinks a week) are more likely to have heavy or irregular periods and fertility problems,” she says.
Caffeine can also negatively affect your fertility, and she recommends having no more than two cups of coffee or five cups of tea a day. It’ll also help if you’re mindful of the hidden caffeine in treats such as sodas and chocolates.
Eat like a proper adult
A diet rich in vitamins and minerals and low in trans-fat can help improve your fertility. Dr Liow recommends consuming high-protein foods regularly as protein helps to create new hormones, which can enhance your fertility.
Exercise is great, but as with most things, isn’t good for you when done in excess as it can then affect your fertility.
“Over-exercising can disrupt a regular menstrual cycle and make implantation of embryos more difficult,” says Dr Liow. She adds that too much exercise can also lead to drastic weight loss, and that women who are underweight are at risk of irregular ovulation, thereby lowering their chances of pregnancy.
Don’t ignore period problems
Experience menstrual cramps, abnormal or heavy menstrual bleeding or pelvic pain? You shouldn’t hold off seeing a gynaecologist as these could be symptoms of underlying fertility issues.
“Intense menstrual cramps can be caused by a number of diseases that impact fertility,” she says. “Some of these diseases develop over time, even years. This is why you might start having with cramps when you didn’t have them before.”
She adds that the possible causes for abnormal period cramps include endometriosis (a condition where the tissue that makes up the uterus lining grows outside of the uterus) and fibroids (benign lumps of tissue that grow in the muscular part of the uterus).
“In women with endometriosis, the eggs, and subsequently the embryos created from those eggs, are of poor quality,” she explains. “And if the fibroids are located on the inside of your uterus and obstruct the uterine cavity or block the fallopian tubes, they are likely to affect your fertility, as they can interfere with implantation.”