While many couples have reasonable expectations and hopes of a successful pregnancy, 1 In 6 Australian couples experience difficulty falling pregnant. Age, weight, lifestyle and medical conditions can all affect fertility.
Age and Infertility
Clinical studies show that a woman’s fertility begins to decline when a woman reaches her mid-30s, dropping more steeply after her late 30s. This is due to the fact that women have a finite number of eggs and as they age, the quantity and quality of those eggs decrease.
Studies show that age is the most important clinical factor that affects a woman’s fertility. By the age of 40, a woman’s chance of conception is greatly reduced. By the age of 44 years, the chance of success with IVF is around 1% per cycle.
Unfortunately, female age is one infertility factor we can do almost nothing to combat. Based on medical evidence Primary IVF does not provide IVF treatments to women over 44 years of age.
Age works against fertility in several ways including:
- It reduces the number and quality of eggs.
- Women with older eggs suffer from cycle disturbance, lower chances of natural and assisted pregnancy and a higher chance of miscarriage.
- Older women who do have a baby have a higher chance of having a child with chromosome differences such as Down Syndrome.
Sadly, female age is one infertility factor we can do almost nothing to combat. Understandably, taking a wait and see approach is often not the best strategy. If you are under 35 and have been trying to conceive for 1 year or are over 35 and have been trying for 6 months then make an appointment to see if we can help.
Lifestyle Factors That Can Affect Fertility
Clinical studies show that being overweight or obese not only reduces the chances of a couple conceiving naturally but also means fertility treatment, such as IVF, is less likely to be successful. During pregnancy, it can also lead to complications including gestational diabetes and an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects and obstetric complications.
Obesity has profound effects on ovulation in some, but not all women. Overweight women who are ovulating normally also have reduced chances of pregnancy. Women with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25-30 are 50 percent more likely to have anovulatory infertility (a menstrual cycle in which ovulation does not occur) than women with a normal BMI. This rises significantly for women with a BMI over 30. Unfortunately, IVF success rates may be reduced by as much as 25 percent in obese patients and by 50 percent in very obese patients.
Being underweight can also harm a woman’s ability to conceive and increase the chance of poor pregnancy outcomes.
For these clinical reasons, we generally won’t start your IVF treatment until you have a BMI of between 19 and 34.
If you are outside these BMI parameters don’t worry, our team of Primary IVF GP’s and Dietitians will help you achieve your target BMI.
Women who are trying to conceive or are pregnant should cease drinking alcohol, as it can be harmful to the health of the fetus.
Not only does smoking negatively impact your general health, it can also affect your fertility and causes DNA damage to eggs.
If you do fall pregnant, smoking can also have a harmful effect on your unborn child.
Medical Conditions That Can Affect Fertility
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a common hormone problem and one of the leading causes of infertility in women. The ovaries of women with PCOS often contain many small follicles that do not ovulate an egg each month. These follicles fail to develop normally because of the hormonal imbalances in PCOS.
Symptoms of PCOS include irregular or absent periods, increased hair growth, acne, obesity and difficulty falling pregnant. PCOS can be detected via an ultrasound or by measuring hormone levels through blood tests.
Treatment for PCOS includes weight loss, insulin sensitisers and ovulation inducing drugs.
If you are trying to have a baby and are wondering if you may have PCOS, our experienced doctors can help you.
Endometriosis is a condition where the cells that line the uterus grow outside it on surrounding structures such as the fallopian tubes and ovaries. This distorts these structures and creates blockages, making pregnancy difficult. Endometriosis can also cause the body to resist foreign material, such as sperm.
Symptoms of endometriosis include premenstrual spotting, painful periods, pain during intercourse and problems conceiving.
Laparoscopic surgery is required to treat endometriosis, with a surgeon entering the abdominal cavity through a small incision in the belly button. This treatment can improve a woman’s natural fertility as well as the success of IVF.
Fibroids are benign lumps of tissue made up of uterine cells. They are very common and can affect fertility depending on where they are located.
Fibroids are not cancerous or harmful to your health and if they are affecting your fertility they can be removed via keyhole surgery.
Blocked or Damaged Fallopian Tubes
Fallopian tubes can be damaged or blocked by a previous pregnancy or as the result of surgery. As the fallopian tubes transport the egg to the uterus and are often the site of fertilisation, this blockage or damage can cause infertility.
Tests are available to determine whether this condition is present and problems conceiving can be overcome using IVF.