Why Your Fertility Declines As you Age & What You Can Do About It

Why Your Fertility Declines As you Age & What You Can Do About It

Our ability to conceive will inevitably, at one stage, become non-existent

Fertility is somewhat of a hidden and taboo subject. Today on LinkedIn, I read a very heartfelt post from a woman who had undergone many fertility treatments and, with great joy, finally had a child. The anguish she felt hiding all of her ultrasounds, appointments and symptoms because she didn’t want to seem “uncommitted at work.” It drove home the cost, both mentally, emotionally and financially, families push through to win the war on fertility. A similar situation is happening to a friend of mine. With no underlying fertility issues, at 44, she’s undergoing treatment after treatment with no success. This is her last chance. Knowing you cannot conceive is heartbreaking news — even more so when the infertility is unknown. But this may all change in the future — if scientists can pinpoint ways to reverse the signs of ageing eggs. Women and mammals are born with a particular number of fixed eggs that remain dormant in the ovaries until the release of a single egg per menstrual cycle. Women’s fertility starts to decline at about age 35. Infertility occurs when defected eggs have an abnormal number of chromosomes. These are called aneuploid eggs and increase as women age. “This is the key reason older women have trouble becoming pregnant and having full-term pregnancies. But, unfortunately, these eggs also have a higher risk of being defective and increase the risk of miscarriage, or may cause Down’s Syndrome in full-term babies,”  said Greg Fitzharris — a CRCHUM researcher and Université de Montréal professor. Fitzharris also mentions that there are also other problems, such as defects in the microtubule, which can contribute to specific types of chromosome segmentation error. Researchers delved into the laboratory to test various instances of Mice, which may one day lead to new fertility treatments which can help women carry a baby to full term. Although this is the goal, there are still many more years of research to understand how each egg progresses in cell division and allow scientists to correct the errors — to the extent it produces a healthy egg that can be fertilised. What a remarkable discovery that can give hope to those experiencing challenges with their fertility. The question does leave us with a way we can help assist this problem, primarily if you are now proceeding with fertility treatments. Lifestyle, food and exercise can play a big part in the health of your fertility to some extent — and as a sufferer of endometriosis, I too know how painful it is when you are doing all your can — yet the problem still exists. To that, I say don’t lose hope. With a positive and healthy lifestyle plan, you can give yourself the best chance along the way.Original research from Current Biology

Four things you can do to enhance your fertility

One: Eat the most nutrient-rich diet

Eating well gives your fertility a boost, but it will also help your mood and energy levels. Fertility treatments can leave you tired, worn out, and possibly stressed. That anticipation and endless doctor visits can take their toll on your mental and physical health. Be sure to give your body the best chance by eating a nourishing diet filled with protein, whole fat dairy (if you can tolerate it) and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Folate is known to help with. For example, higher rates of implantation, live births and clinical pregnancies. You can add this through a supplement or by eating lots of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts and antioxidants. 

Two: Eat more vegan sources of protein

Try to limit your red meat consumption by swapping it regularly with vegan sources and lots of omega-three-rich seafood. An interesting study showed that eating more calories from vegetable protein instead of the animal variety decreased the risk of ovulatory infertility by 50 per cent! 

Three: Be honest about your journey, and find an outlet for relieving stress.

I don’t think enough emphasis is placed on couples constantly going through IVF cycles and the detrimental effect on their mental health. The stress in itself decreases your chances of becoming pregnant. But sometimes, your thoughts may not be causing this — as it can very well be the hormonal changes during fertility treatment. It’s just as important to look after your mental health to stay active and eat well. Take the time to speak to someone about your journey and your feelings. Try some guided meditation or yoga. These small things you can do every day make a huge difference. I have found that it does help to be honest with your workplace and inform them of the process. Mistakingly, women feel they will be judged as not being committed — but that’s further from the truth. Your workplace and colleagues want to support you, so give them a chance. Once you have the comfort of knowing they are by your side, then that alleviates a huge stress burden. Then, it’s just you and your mindset left to tackle. 

Four: Be active and stay fit — but don’t exercise at high intensity

Exercise can be one small step towards relieving your stress levels and maintaining a weight that will benefit you through the treatment. The trick is knowing when the intensity is too high. Right now, you aim to be as healthy as possible to help you along the fertility journey. Moderate physical activity benefits both men and women — whilst positively affecting fertility. On the other hand, excessive exercise could decrease your chances — so don’t take that risk at the moment. Instead, stay active by exercising and taking regular breaks during the day. For example, go for a walk, do some yoga, or practice mindful meditation. These factors will help you push past the stress involved in infertility treatments and procedures that come your way. 

Key take away

Now I know that nothing works for some people, and disappointment follows. It’s heartbreaking to write this part of the post because I have many friends who have let go of their dream of becoming a parent. Science and doctors cannot explain their problems — because they do not have one. Do seek out someone you can speak to who will understand what you are going through and offer support. Many groups on social media help empower both men and women going through the journey. You are never alone. I wish you well along your journey. 

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