Fertility is a topic that attracts a plethora of ideas, myths, and real-life stories. Whether one is considering starting a family or has been trying without success, understanding the science of fertility can be empowering. Here, we demystify the facts, debunk the myths, and share poignant real-life experiences.
- Age and Fertility: It’s a well-established fact that female fertility declines with age. Most women’s fertility peaks in their late teens to late 20s, with a slow decline through their 30s and a steeper decline after 35. However, male fertility also diminishes, albeit at a slower pace, usually starting around the age of 40.
- Ovulation and Fertility Window: Women have a fertile window of around six days each month – five days before ovulation and on the day of ovulation. Sperm can survive in the female reproductive tract for up to five days, but an egg is viable for only 12-24 hours post-ovulation.
- Lifestyle Factors: Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, and certain medications can adversely affect both male and female fertility. Adopting a healthy lifestyle can boost fertility potential.
- ‘You can’t get pregnant during your period’: This is a prevalent misconception. While the likelihood is lower, it’s still possible, especially if someone has a shorter menstrual cycle or a longer period. Sperm’s ability to survive for days in the female reproductive system means that intercourse during a period can lead to fertilisation once ovulation occurs.
- ‘Men don’t have a biological clock’: As mentioned above, while men can produce sperm throughout their lives, their fertility isn’t immune to the effects of age. Older men can experience decreases in sperm quality, volume, and motility.
- ‘Relax, and it will happen’: Telling someone to relax or suggesting that stress is the sole reason for infertility can be deeply insensitive. While chronic stress might have some impact on fertility, many underlying medical conditions can affect one’s ability to conceive.
Sarah’s Journey: After trying to conceive for two years, Sarah sought help from a London fertility clinic. Their investigations revealed she had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common condition affecting ovulation. Guided by the experts, Sarah underwent a series of treatments and lifestyle changes, and she joyfully welcomed a baby girl last year.
Tom and Michael’s Hope: Same-sex couples, like Tom and Michael, often face a unique set of challenges when it comes to fertility. They decided on surrogacy, and after connecting with a wonderful surrogate mother and obtaining eggs from a donor, their dreams of parenthood became a reality.
Ananya’s Choice: Ananya had always dreamt of becoming a mother, but she hadn’t found the right partner. As she approached her late 30s, she decided not to wait any longer. Through a sperm donor and IVF, Ananya became a proud single mother to twins.
Fertility is a complex tapestry of science, emotions, choices, and destiny. While it’s essential to understand the biological facts and be wary of misconceptions, one should also remember that every individual’s journey is unique. The advancements in fertility treatments and a broader understanding of family structures in today’s society offer hope and possibilities to many. Whether you’re navigating the intricate maze of fertility personally or supporting a loved one, knowledge and compassion are paramount.