While a woman can’t control the fact that she is ageing, what she does right now will have an impact on her ability to start a family in years to come.
SmartParents gets insights from Dr Kelly Loi, an ob-gyn and fertility and IVF specialist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, and ob-gyn Dr Peter Chew on how a couple can supercharge her fertility at any age…
FROM AGES 20 TO 24
LOOK OUT FOR As a woman’s body is at its peak fertility now, these years are often regarded as the “golden” age for women to conceive naturally. However, more and more women are pursuing other goals at this stage instead of starting a family. Getting a good education and establishing a career often take priority over baby making. Dr Loi points out, “In recent years, the average age of married women has actually shifted later ― towards 30 to 34 years of age.
CHANCES OF CONCEIVING More than 95 per cent within a year of trying.
BOOST YOUR FERTILITY Guys and gals, make sure to stick to a healthy diet and fitness routine, so as to maintain a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI).
Stress can throw your hormones ― such as from your thyroid gland ― out of whack, which will trigger endocrine problems. As a result, you may take a longer time to get pregnant.
FROM AGES 25 TO 29
LOOK OUT FOR If you’re sexually active, refrain from indulging in casual sex, as it’ll increase your chances of catching a sexually transmitted infection (STI). This will lead to a pelvic inflammatory disease and block your fallopian tubes, which will compromise your ability to get pregnant. Dr Loi advises that you check if you are suffering from any underlying gynaecological conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). With early detection and proper treatment, you’re more likely to conceive naturally.
CHANCES OF CONCEIVING About 80 to 90 per cent within a year of trying.
BOOST YOUR FERTILITY Men and women should practise safe sex to avoid getting an STI, says Dr Loi, apart from taking steps to maintain a healthy BMI.
FROM AGES 30 TO 34
LOOK OUT FOR Your work-related stress may jeopardise your baby-making. Not managed properly, stress can throw your hormones ― such as from your thyroid gland ― out of whack, which will trigger endocrine problems. As a result, you may take a longer time to get pregnant. Dr Chew suggests doing preconception tests to help you detect, address and manage any underlying health issues quickly. Do also keep an eye out for any changes to your periods. Pelvic pain and heavy bleeding is a well-known symptom of endometriosis. In this condition, the tissues that usually line the inside of the uterus grow outside instead. Needless to say, your conception chances of drop if you have endometriosis. So, seek medical attention to rectify this problem before it’s too late.
CHANCES OF CONCEIVING About 70 to 80 per cent within a year of trying.
BOOST YOUR FERTILITY Dr Loi states that preconception tests will also help you make an informed decision as to whether to try fertility treatment. A fertility centre can offer specialised assessments, including checking your sperm count/quality and ovarian reserve. This test estimates the number of eggs left in your ovaries, and hence, your ability to conceive. Dr Loi explains that the number of eggs you have decreases with age until there are no eggs left when you’re in menopause. She adds, “For some women, the decline is more rapid, so understanding the state of your reserves may help with decisions regarding fertility treatment.”
FROM AGES 35 TO 39
LOOK OUT FOR As your fertility declines rapidly during these years, time is of the essence, Dr Chew stresses. You are also at a higher risk of having endometriosis, PCOS and uterine fibroids, which makes it more difficult to get pregnant, Dr Loi explains.
CHANCES OF CONCEIVING About 50 to 70 per cent within a year of trying.
BOOST YOUR FERTILITY You may want to consider freezing your eggs if you don’t have plans to settle down or start a family yet. Dr Loi says, ideally, you should consider freezing your eggs sooner rather than later. “The older the age, the fewer the number of eggs that can be stored, and your eggs are also more likely to be unhealthy.” Dr Chew says that a recent study published in a journal on human reproduction shows that the storage time does not change the quality of the frozen eggs and the genes. Unfortunately, freezing of eggs isn’t available in Singapore, except for women suffering from serious medical conditions like cancer, Dr Loi notes. However, you can freeze your eggs in countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Australia.
“The older the age, the fewer the number of eggs that can be stored, and your eggs are also more likely to be unhealthy.”
FROM AGES 40 TO 44
LOOK OUT FOR Your risk of other chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and even cancers is on the rise, Dr Chew warns. So, all the more reason to visit the docs to ensure that you are in the pink of health.
CHANCES OF CONCEIVING For those between 40 and 43 years old, you have less than 35 to 50 per cent chances of hitting the fertility jackpot. After age 43, it’s less than 10 per cent. Your risk of suffering miscarriages rises to 40 per cent, Dr Chew adds. If you did not freeze your eggs earlier, Dr Loi points out that a large percentage — typically more than 50 per cent — of embryos may be unhealthy and unusable.
BOOST YOUR FERTILITY As your chances of conceiving naturally during these five years is extremely slim, you will likely need to turn to assistive reproductive technology to help you have a baby. Dr Loi advises that you ask your doctor if intra-uterine insemination or in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) techniques are viable options.
FROM AGE 45 AND BEYOND
LOOK OUT FOR As you get closer to age 50, the likelihood of menopause increases. In fact, perimenopause — a term used to describe the transitional process before menopause — can start in your 30s or earlier. Symptoms include hot flashes, breast tenderness, lowered sex drive, fatigue, irregular periods, vaginal dryness and mood swings. As these symptoms may make sex uncomfortable, check with your doctor to work through this issue together. Dr Loi notes, “There may be additional medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, which can make it even harder to get pregnant. In addition, the risk of miscarriages is higher for women in this age group.”
CHANCES OF CONCEIVING Through IVF, less than 5 per cent.
BOOST YOUR FERTILITY All hope is not lost, even if you are nearing menopause. You can consider donor eggs if you are still keen on having your own baby. Read our guide to learn important facts about the process. Most of all, good luck with your conception journey. If you get pregnant, do discuss with your doctor how to work together to ensure a smooth pregnancy.
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