A fertility doctor has revealed the different ways women who are looking to become mothers could increase their chances of contraception once they are over the age of 30.
Twoplus’ medical advisor Dr Michael Eisenberg told FEMAIL that a woman’s fertility can decline over time as she ages.
He explained: ‘Women are born with a set number of eggs, which decreases as they age and the quality of these eggs also declines with time.’
Yet, it is important to remember that whilst fertility issues are generally perceived to be a female health problem, male factors such as poor sperm count and mobility can also affect a couple’s ability to conceive.
Dr Eisenberg said: ‘The average man now carries around half as much sperm compared to 40 years ago and most sperm don’t naturally make it very far into the female reproductive tract.’
If there are no physiological problems, then factors relating to lifestyle can also play a part. These can include being overweight or drinking too much alcohol.
Here Dr Eisenberg revealed his top tips for increasing fertility – including the time of the month you have sex, and cutting back on unhealthy foods.
One-in-seven UK couples have difficulty conceiving, with age becoming a key factor. Once a woman reaches the age of 30 fertility begins to decline. twoplus Fertility’s medical advisor Dr Michael Eisenberg lists what you can do to improve your chances of conception in your 30s (stock image)
EAT A HEALTHY DIET
Avoiding junk food is generally a very good idea, especially if you are trying to have a baby.
Dr Eisenberg said altering your diet is an important part of preparing your body to have a body.
He revealed: ‘Consuming a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats is the best way to prepare your body to conceive.
‘This is essential for both men and women as minerals such as zinc have been proved to improve sperm quality, whilst eating carrots help to prevent women from anaemia during pregnancy.’
Stress is the culprit for many ailments and discomfort so it is no surprise that it also affects your chances of getting pregnant – if you wanted something else to stress about.
Stress can affect the part of your brain called the hypothalamus, which regulates your hormones and menstrual cycle.
Dr Eisenberg explained that stress could cause you to ovulate later than usual, or mean you don’t ovulate at all.
He suggests considering natural ways to reduce stress such as yoga or meditation for relaxing and taking yourself away from anxiety provoking situations as much as possible.
He said: ‘Ovulation predictor kits or cycle tracking can also help.’
WATCH THE VICES
There are many do nots, when it comes to pregnancy: women aren’t supposed to drink, smoke, or eat sushi.
It is worth noting that avoiding these vices before conception will also improve your chances of becoming pregnant .
Dr Eisenberg advises women to avoid drinking more than two alcoholic drinks a day, because alcohol can change your levels of oestrogen, and reduce the number of eggs you have left.
Reducing caffeine consumption is also worth considering if you drink a lot of tea and coffee.
High levels of caffeine have been linked to reduced oestrogen levels which can prevent ovulation and reduce your chances of conceiving.
MAXIMISE THE AMOUNT OF SPERM THAT REACHES THE EGG
When sperm is ejaculated, it quickly enters the cervical mucus, which helps it move through the reproductive system.
Millions of sperm need to enter the cervix so that hundreds of sperm can prepare the way for the ‘survivor sperm’ to fertilise the egg.
However, without intervention, less than one per cent of sperm reach the egg.
‘There are devices on the market which, when used during sex, can direct sperm to the cervix and is designed to keep the sperm inside to maximise the chances of natural conception,’ said Dr Eisenberg.
USE NATURAL LUBRICANTS IF REQUIRED
WHY ARE WOMEN DELAYING HAVING CHILDREN?
Dr Geeta Nargund, consultant gynaecologist at St George’s Hospital and a fertility pioneer, urged women not to delay starting a family in order to avoid a raft of age-related complications.
Speaking to The Mail on Sunday’s Medical Minefield podcast, she says: ‘A woman’s fertility rapidly declines from her mid-30s. It is important young women have this information so they can plan their families with their own eggs.
‘When celebrity mothers say they had a baby in their early 50s or late 40s, they need to spell out if, as is common in older women, they used a donor egg or frozen eggs.
‘Without that, women think it is easy for them to have babies in their mid-40s, and that is not true.’
Dr Nargund’s comments came after a social-media campaign to scrap ‘offensive’ pregnancy terms which are commonly used by doctors to describe a mother in her least fertile years, such as ‘geriatric mother’ and ‘advanced maternal age’.
The initiative, started by the parenting social network Peanut, calls for an entirely new glossary – clinicians should, for example, use ‘reproductive struggles’ instead of saying infertile and refer to ‘family planning’ rather than a biological clock.
‘It is not the language that is important, but the facts,’ says Dr Nargund, who has seen ‘too many patients’ in their 40s forced to endure the emotional turmoil of fertility treatment.
But what are the facts?
Women are born with roughly two million eggs. But, from puberty, both the number and the quality declines over time.
Gradually, immature eggs – those not released during ovulation – die or are reabsorbed into the body. Meanwhile, those that remain diminish in quality, accumulating DNA errors which, when fertilised, can increase the risk of genetic disorders such as Down’s syndrome.
After the age of 30, the rate of decline in both quality and quantity of eggs rapidly speeds up. In a woman’s 20s, there’s a one in three chance of fertilisation per cycle, compared with a one in five chance in their 30s.
At 40, this drops to roughly one in 20 per cycle.
Specialists recommend using mineral oil, rapeseed (canola) oil, or hydroxyethyl cellulose-based lubricants when necessary as a lupricant.
Rapeseed oil is easy to get hold of as it is readily available at most local supermarkets.
Dr Eisenberg explained that some couples have problems with penetrative sex due to conditions like vaginismus (painful sex because the vaginal muscles involuntarily contract), erectile dysfunction, or premature ejaculation.
He said: ‘Home insemination is a simple, patient friendly and cost-effective way for these couples to get pregnant.
‘There are sperm applicators on the market which eliminate the requirement to have penetrative sex to get pregnant.’
HAVE SEX REGULARLY
Studies show that couples who have sex every other day have more chance of conceiving than those who have sex less often.
However, Dr Eisenberg said: ‘Try to avoid making sexual activity an obligation – make it pleasurable, rather than a chore.’
Timing is another thing to consider as the peak of fertility can vary even in women with regular cycles.
START TRYING TO CONCEIVE EARLY
The earlier you start trying for a baby in your 30s, the higher your chances of a more straightforward conception.
Due to the decline of quality and quantity of eggs, there is also a higher chance of miscarriage.
Women in their 30s also may feel tremendous anxiety when it comes to having children, as many of their friends and family have or are starting a family.
Many healthcare professionals see a lot of emotional stress surrounding conception for these women.
By trying to conceive earlier it minimises this pressure as eggs are in better quality and there are less social pressures.
IF YOU HAVEN’T CONCEIVED AFTER SIX MONTHS, SEE YOUR GP FOR ADVICE
In some cases, there are physiological problems at play.
Some women don’t ovulate due to conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), hormonal problems, premature menopause, fallopian tube obstruction, or physical abnormalities in the uterus.
As women age they are at a higher risk of endometriosis and uterine fibroids which can also affect fertility.
The problem could also be with your partner. Male infertility can be due to a lack of sperm, sperm abnormalities, or sperm movement issues.
Problems in the testicles due to an injury, cancer, surgery, blockage, or infection can also influence the semen quality.
Some men may also experience ejaculation problems or they don’t produce enough hormones to make sperm.
Your GP can run some simple tests and refer you as a couple to a fertility specialist if necessary.
Half of women are now childless at thirty for the first time ever: Official statistics show most common age for giving birth has risen to 31 – compared to 22 for baby boomers
Most women in England and Wales no longer have a child before they are 30, official figures show for the first time.
An Office for National Statistics (ONS) report found 50.1 per cent of women born in 1990 were childless by their 30th birthday.
It is the first time there has been more childless women than mothers below the age of 30 since records dating back to 1920 began.
A third of women born in that decade had not mothered a child by the age of 30, for comparison.
Women born in the 1940s were the most likely to have had at least one child by that milestone (82 per cent).
But there has been a long-term trend of people opting to have children later in life and reduce family size ever since, the ONS said.
The most common age to have a child is now 31, the ONS estimates based on latest data, compared to 22 among baby boomers born in the late 1940s.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show 53 per cent of women born in 1991 were childless by their 30th birthday last year. Graph shows: The proportion of women childless at the age of 30 by their date of birth
The ONS data also shows the average number of children a woman has had by the age of 30 has been dropping since 1971, when it stood at 1.89
The share of women reaching 30 without a child has been increasing consistently since the late 70s, when around a fifth were childless.
That proportion rose dramatically the following decade. By 1980, 24 per cent of women aged 30 were childless, rising to 37 per cent by 1990.
By the turn of the century, some 43 per cent of women mothered a child by their 30th birthday. And last year it breached the 50 per cent mark for the first time.
Amanda Sharfman, an ONS statistician, said: ‘We continue to see a delay in childbearing, with women born in 1990 becoming the first cohort where half of the women remain childless by their 30th birthday.
‘Levels of childlessness by age 30 have been steadily rising since a low of 18 per cent for women born in 1941.
‘Lower levels of fertility in those currently in their 20s indicate that this trend is likely to continue.’
At the same time, there has been an increase in the number of women who never have children.
The report found 18 per cent of women aged 45 were childless by 2020.
Modern women of all ages are also choosing to have smaller families.
Mothers have, on average, 1.92 children now which is lower than the 2.08 for their mothers’ generation.
Two child families remain the most common family size (37 per cent), however this is a decrease in the proportion of those having two children compared with their mothers’ generation born in 1949 (44 per cent).
Ms Sharfman said: ‘The average number of children born to a woman has been below two for women born since the late 1950’s.
‘While two child families are still the most common, women who have recently completed their childbearing are more likely than their mothers’ generation to have only one child or none at all.’
The ONS said: ‘While average family size has decreased, two children families remain the most common family size across both generations, with 37 per cent of women born in 1975 and 44 per cent of those born in 1949 having two children.
‘For those born in 1975, 27 per cent had three or more children and 17 per cent had only one child, compared with 30 per cent and 13 per cent respectively, for their mothers’ generation.’