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Fertility 101: Five Things You Should Know About Fertility In Your 20s and 30s

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Source: 123RF & 123RF

If you’re making resolutions for 2024, here’s one you might want to add to your New Year checklist: taking care of your fertility. While career goals and life experiences might seem like more pressing concerns for many young adults, it’s worth paying attention to reproductive health if you’re thinking about having children one day.

“It’s easy to think that this is some distant, future concern, but the reality is that you should start thinking about fertility even in your 20s,” says Dr Lau Soon Yen, Consultant Fertility Specialist at Genesis IVF & Women’s Specialist Centre in Penang.

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Dr Lau Soon Yen

To get you into a reflective mood and start planning ahead, Dr Lau offers some food for thought for young people to be more proactive about their fertility health.

 

1. Age is a number that matters

The metaphorical ticking of one’s biological clock is grounded in some truth — your age is a major determinant of your fertility. Dr Lau says that compared to men, women experience a starker downturn in fertility as they get older.

“Women have a limited supply of eggs that begin to deteriorate in both quality and quantity after age 30 — so the risk of abnormalities in eggs increases, which in turn can affect their chance of conceiving,” he says. “Another challenge women face is that it is hard to check for egg quality, compared to carrying out a sperm test for example.”

While men’s fertility stays relatively consistent as long as they produce sperm, newer studies suggest that sperm volume and motility (the ability of the sperm to “swim” efficiently) can decline with age as well. [1]

 

2. Fitness doesn’t guarantee fertility

If you generally feel healthy, surely that means you’re unlikely to face fertility issues, right? The fact is certain health conditions can sneakily affect your chances of conceiving, regardless of how fit you are.

“Based on my experience, some very common causes of fertility problems in women are conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis. Others might have issues such as blocked fallopian tubes, or fibroids that are growing in a less than optimal position in the uterus. For men, regular issues include low sperm counts,” says Dr Lau.

However, that doesn’t mean you get to party your health away! Aside from avoiding harmful habits like smoking and excessive drinking, sticking to a balanced diet and regular exercise will help keep both your fertility and overall well-being in check. “No one’s expecting you to run marathons or be on a strict diet — it’s all about having some balance to stay as healthy as you can,” adds Dr Lau.

 

3. It’s never too early to seek help

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While many couples believe that fertility checkups are necessary only after unsuccessful attempts at conception, Dr Lau is quick to wave this away as a misconception.

“Infertility is usually defined as being unable to conceive after a year of unprotected sexual intercourse, but this timeframe is just a guideline and not a fixed rule,” he explains. “Let’s say we’re talking about a couple who got married a bit later, maybe around 37 or 38. That already means time’s not on their side. In this case, if they’re still unsuccessful after six months of trying, it might be wise to consult a doctor.”

In other cases, couples may even instinctively feel like something is amiss. “It’s not necessary to stick to any specific timeline – if something feels off, it’s worth looking into. Think of it as any other medical checkup; if we identify any possible issue early on, then we can start looking at the best treatment options that will suit you,” adds Dr Lau.

 

4. Infertility treatments are more than just IVF

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Possibly the most widely known fertility treatment, in vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a process where eggs are retrieved from the ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a lab, before being transferred to the uterus. However, the procedure is far from the only treatment option available to couples. An equally common treatment option is intrauterine insemination (IUI), which involves placing specially processed sperm directly into the uterus around the time ovulation occurs.

“We don’t immediately jump to IVF as a solution because we need to understand what the root cause of infertility is. The first thing we do with our patients is rule out any other medical issues or lifestyle factors that might be affecting their fertility. In some cases, they might even end up conceiving naturally,” says Dr Lau.

He adds that age is also a factor in having a successful IVF procedure. “For example, if you’re in your 40s, the success rate might be around 20%, but if you’re below 30 years old, the success rate can be as high as 70%. So it’s not just about looking at overall success rates, but assessing what are the right options for your circumstances,” says Dr Lau.

 

5. Tech has made it easier to preserve your fertility for the future

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For those still unsure about when they want to start having babies, technological innovations have made fertility preservation better than ever. “The evolution of fertility tech has been like that of mobile phones, we’ve gone from basic “models” to cutting-edge,” says Dr Lau.

Among these cutting-edge advancements Dr Lau is referring to involves egg and sperm freezing. While not new, more modern methods of freezing such as vitrification have made for safer and quicker processes. “Eggs, sperm, or embryos — whatever you give me, I can save it. Theoretically, once these have been frozen, we can keep them indefinitely until you’re ready to have children,” says Dr Lau.

A simple first step to looking after your fertility this year is to go in for a medical checkup. “It’s about being informed about your own health,” says Dr Lau. “Early check-ups can help identify potential fertility issues before they become major obstacles. By knowing what your fertility status is, you can understand what your options are and make better choices for your future..”

If you’d like to learn more about Genesis IVF & Women’s Specialist Centre Penang, you can visit their website here.

 

References:
1. Consistent age-dependent declines in human semen quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Aging Research Reviews, 2015.

 

Also read: Increase in Educated Women Among Factors of Alarming Current Male Fertility Rate in Malaysia

My Post 1 2023 04 05T150254.485

Source: 123RF
Source: 123RF
Source: 123RF

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