The various stages of life each bring new challenges – including ones that impact fertility. Women in the USA are holding off on having children, with many waiting until their 30s or 40s to start a family. With the “biological clock” ticking, there are often worries about maintaining reproductive health.
The 20s: Programmed for Childbirth
The chances of getting pregnant are far higher in your 20s – the body is programmed for fertility. The quality of the eggs produced is at an all-time high during the 20s. The statistics reveal that there is a 25 percent chance of getting pregnant every month during this decade. While it may be physically one of the easiest times to get pregnant, it may not be ideal for many other reasons, including education, a focus on a professional career, lack of financial security, no partner, or the desire to pursue other personal goals before having children.
That doesn’t mean that some women in their 20s don’t have trouble getting pregnant – fertility problems can occur at any age. Some simple ways to protect your reproductive health include:
- Track your menstrual cycle. An uneven cycle is an indication of other issues, often stress-related. It is important for your overall health, as well as your reproductive health, that you care for your body.
- Stay hydrated. While it may sound too simple, drinking enough water is actually important for your physical wellbeing across the boards – including your reproductive organs.
- Healthy Living. Certain types of chemicals and compounds are known to pose a risk to reproductive health. These are endocrine-disrupting chemicals and can impact the ability to get pregnant. Some types of chemical exposure could lead to birth defects as well, so it is wise to be aware of exposure to certain chemicals that could be present in your workplace or as you live your life. Many women are choosing to eat organically grown foods to help avoid the risk of pesticide exposure, as some of these chemicals could affect fertility.
- Maintain a fitness regimen: Keeping your body strong is easier in your 20s, but it’s the right time to develop habits that will carry you throughout your life. Strength training increases muscle mass, burns calories, and helps you sleep. Your fitness regime can be varied, including biking, hiking, and standard fitness training.
Maintaining Reproductive Health in the 30s
During the 30s, your body slows in the production of certain hormones. To maintain your reproductive health during this decade, take the following steps:
- Watch your diet: As it becomes easier to gain weight in your 30s due to hormonal changes, it becomes more important to eat right. Eat adequate protein, healthy veggies and fruits, and avoid highly-processed foods, snacks, and sugary, fatty treats. Being significantly overweight can affect fertility. Eating right will not only keep you looking slim and trim, it will help keep your body healthier, including your reproductive system.
- Monitor your reproductive system: During the 30s it can become more likely for a woman to develop certain health problems, such as endometriosis or PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). It is advised that you have regular checkups with your OBY/GYN to ensure your reproductive system is in good health, and treat any conditions that may arise.
- Eat fertility-boosting foods: Various foods are known to boost fertility. As it may be harder to become pregnant in your 30s (for some), adding certain foods can be helpful. These include avoiding excessive caffeine, alcohol, and recreational drugs or even over-the-counter medications. Eat plenty of iodine-rich foods such as fish, bread, dairy, and eggs, and add vitamin D as a supplement.
Reproductive Health in the 40s
While it is known that fertility declines your 40s, it is becoming more common. While some women choose IVF treatments when natural pregnancy is more difficult, certain actions can help you maintain your reproductive health, even in this decade:
- Monitor your cycle: Use a system to monitor ovulation, such as basal metabolism testing. Keeping a graph of your cycle will help you choose the right time to try to conceive a child – during ovulation.
- Healthy habits: Smoking will affect your entire body health, including the ability to conceive. If you have the habit, now is the time to end it. Heavy consumption of alcohol and obesity impact fertility, so a healthy lifestyle matters now more than ever – if you want to become pregnant.
- Thyroid testing: You want your TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) to be at a healthy level, as when it is above 2.5 it can affect fertility.
- Watch blood sugar levels: Your blood sugar levels impact fertility. You can protect your fertility by watching your blood sugar levels. Eat a healthy diet with lean proteins and lots of fiber from veggies. Avoid (now more than in any other decade) sugar, refined foods, and overconsumption of carbohydrates.
- Monitor progesterone levels: If you have a lack of adequate progesterone, it will affect your ability to conceive or carry a child to term. You can be tested to discover if you have this condition, and if so, your OBY/GYN can help you.
- Limit caffeine consumption: The best choice is to stop consuming any caffeine at all. Second best is to consume a very limited amount. If you want to conceive, consider ending your caffeine addiction, as it can impact fertility significantly. Switch to a healthy decaffeinated version if you must have coffee or tea.
- Track your reproductive health: Get a yearly checkup to ensure your reproductive system is healthy and to treat any conditions that may arise during this decade.
Difficulties Conceiving? We Can Help.
If you want to become pregnant and are running into difficulties, Virginia Beach Obstetrics & Gynecology is here to help. We perform fertility testing and have a range of testing methods to determine the underlying problem, including blood tests to measure the level of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), progesterone levels, prolactin, and thyroid hormones. We work hard to detect the underlying issues affecting fertility and to address these issues correctly to increase the chances of conception.