Family planning can take many forms. Some people associate it only with birth control and preventing pregnancy, but with advances in fertility and contraceptive technology, planning if, when, and how you grow your family has become easier. Understanding the ways that you can choose how and when to start your family can make the process less stressful, even if fertility challenges do come up.
Understanding the Relationship Between Age and Fertility
Many of the advances in fertility treatment and technology have helped to expand the age range that a pregnancy can safely and successfully occur. Even with those advances, egg and sperm quality and the ability to carry a pregnancy to term decreases with age, so it is important to plan for these changes.
For women, egg quality and quantity generally begins to decline in their mid to late 30s, with the onset of menopause ultimately stopping ovulation and menstruation. Though there have been some cases of extreme advanced maternal age - the verified oldest woman to give birth was 66 when she gave birth to twins - these pregnancies are usually a product of donor eggs and rounds of IVF.
For men, recent studies have shown a decline in sperm quality with age, including an increased risk of miscarriage, autism, and birth defects.
Choosing to Freeze your Eggs, Embryos, or Sperm
Since fertility is so closely tied to age for both men and women, many people choose to plan for a future pregnancy by freezing their eggs, sperm, or embryos when their quality is the best. Advances in freezing technology - moving from the slow freezing method to fast liquid nitrogen freezing, or vitrification - have improved the outcomes of pregnancies using frozen components, with more successful pregnancies resulting and fewer genetic defects from the freezing process.
Another common reason to freeze eggs or sperm is to preserve the option of fertility in the future when facing cancer treatments or other medical conditions that might damage reproductive organs. In these situations it can be difficult to think so far in the future, but many people regret not planning for the family they will someday want. If you are facing a fertility compromising diagnosis or treatment, talk to your doctor about the right time to work with a fertility expert.
Lifestyle Changes You Can Control
Proactive family planning may allow you to choose the time that you want to grow your family - when that time does come there are some lifestyle changes you may want to make to increase your likelihood of getting pregnant.
Overweight or Underweight
If you are outside of the normal weight range for your height, you may experience some difficulty getting pregnant. Women who are very underweight may stop menstruating, making getting pregnant challenging. Many women who are overweight experience hormonal imbalances that cause them to ovulate irregularly, plus beginning a pregnancy overweight may increase the chance of developing gestational diabetes. Work with your doctor to safely adjust your weight into a healthy range.
Smoking and Alcohol
Heavy drinkers and smokers often experience problems getting pregnant, and obviously continuing those behaviors while pregnant is not healthy for the mother or the baby. When you are ready to begin your journey to parenthood, quitting smoking and reducing the amount of alcohol you drink (or quitting altogether) may increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Make Your Plans a Reality
Sometimes the best-laid plans still go awry. Unexpected challenges may change your timeline, your goals, or the feasibility of getting pregnant at a certain time. So whether you’re making plans for the future, choosing when and how you grow your family, or are struggling to make those plans a reality, we are here to help. Contact us for a free consultation and learn about all of your options with a guidance of a fertility expert.