Age & fertility
According to research women are leaving it later to start a family. The Office of National Statistics has reported that, since the 1980s the rates for women giving birth at age 30 or over have gone up, while the rates for women giving birth aged under 30 have fallen.
Fertility falls more sharply for women as they age than for men. As you can see from the chart below, women are most fertile between the ages of 20 and 24 years - as women grow older the likelihood of getting pregnant falls while the likelihood of infertility rises sharply. Men can remain fertile for much longer but male fertility still declines with age, although less dramatically.
Chart: Pregnancy rates over the course of one year
Both of the line graphs are for women with normal reproductive function.
Source: Management of the Infertile Woman by Helen A. Carcio and The Fertility Sourcebook by M. Sara Rosenthal
As women get older, there are a number of factors that can make it more difficult to conceive. Fertility factors that change, include:
- Ovarian reserve - this is the number of functioning follicles left in the ovaries. As women get older they have fewer viable eggs left; in cases of early menopause, the eggs run out much sooner than usual.
- Menstrual cycle - as women approach the menopause their menstrual cycles can become irregular and shorter.
- Lining of the womb - the endometrium may become thinner and less hospitable to a fertilised egg.
- Mucus secretions - vaginal secretions can become less fluid and more hostile to sperm.
- Diseases affecting the reproductive system - some conditions can damage the reproductive organs as time passes, or worsen if not treated properly, including endometriosis, PCOS, Chlamydia.
- Chronic illnesses - some illnesses can have a negative impact on fertility.
Conception Tips for him
Men can do a great deal to improve their chances of conception by paying attention to health and lifestyle. Below is a check list of key considerations for men who are trying for a baby.
1) Avoid alcohol
Alcohol can lower a man's sperm count even when only drinking small amounts, so is best avoided.
2) Quit smoking
Cut it out. Smoking has been shown to reduce both the sperm count and the sperm motility. Ask your GP or Practice Nurse for help in quitting.
Aim for intercourse 2-3 times a week. Research also shows that a man's sperm count is higher in the morning, so take advantage of it!
4) Keep cool
Men have a higher sperm count when their genitals are kept at a cooler temperature. So stay away from hot tubs, hot showers and baths, direct heat sources and tight fitting underwear.
5) Healthy diet
If men are not getting enough of the right foods and nutrients, the sperm can suffer. Ensure you eat a healthy, balanced diet.
Take a supplement which contains specific nutrients important for male reproductive health such as zinc which contributes to normal fertility and reproduction and the maintenance of normal testosterone levels in the blood, and selenium which contributes to normal spermatogenesis.
7) Work life balance
Fatigue can have an effect on energy levels and interest in sex, so it is important to try and find an effective work life balance. Ensure you take time take to relax and recharge your mind and body.
8) Avoid toxins
Stay clear of environmental poisons and hazards. These include pesticides/insecticides, organic solvents, lead, ionizing radiation, heavy metals, and toxic chemicals.
9) Say no to drugs
Drugs can have a negative impact on sperm health. For example, even in moderate amounts, cannabis can cause a low sperm count, poor sperm speed and increased sperm abnormalities. Avoid recreational drug use.
Daily exercise is very important to stay healthy or improve health. Regular physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as helping reduce your stress levels. Consider swapping the exercise bike for the treadmill, as the repeated banging of the groin against the bicycle seat can damage critical arteries and nerves.
The content of this factsheet is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional regarding any medical condition. While every care is taken to ensure the accuracy of the information presented in the factsheet and to describe best generally accepted current practices, we cannot accept any liability for errors or omissions or for any consequences from application of the information given.