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Whether you’re planning on falling pregnant, or family planning is the LAST thing on your mind, you’ve probably wondered at some point about your fertility. But which fertility issues are actually worth thinking about in your twenties, and which are nothing more than scaremongering about our biological clock? We spoke to fertility experts Zita West and Dr Geeta Nargund to find out more.

1. First off, you SHOULD care about your fertility and reproductive health

While it’s difficult to even think about your fertility when babies are a long way off, both experts insist that it’s super important to be aware of your reproductive health, aka what’s going on in your ovaries, from periods to hormonal changes.

Geeta says that if having children is one of your priorities, then being aware of your reproductive health is crucial. “Lifestyle choices you make in your teens and twenties, as well as genetic health issues, can have a significant impact on your fertility in later life. Being aware of this now will increase your chances of falling pregnant naturally later on” she says.

2. Your fertility can decline after 35 – but it’s not all doom and gloom

Many people believe their biological clock runs out as soon as they hit 30 – but it’s just not true.

“Some women will have better fertility than others for their age”

“Don’t believe the hype” says Zita West. “Everyone is different – and some women will have better fertility than others for their age.”

Geeta adds: “Biologically speaking, the quality and number of eggs a woman has usually declines quite rapidly after 35. We are born with a finite number of eggs that deplete as we age. However, every woman is different and will have a personal fertility timeline that could be earlier or later depending on health, medical and family history.”

3. There is no ‘normal’ amount of time to try for a baby

Geeta says that the time it takes varies from person to person, and couple to couple. There are a number of influencing factors including your age, reproductive health, general health and of course the amount of times you have sex that mean some couples will fall pregnant within weeks, others may take months or years. But she advises a visit to the GP if after 12 months of trying naturally you haven’t managed to conceive.

4. But it might not be as instant as you’d think

Zita says that “Quite often, women will come and see me at the age of 30 and say that they’re going to wait a year or two before they start trying. I always encourage them to start as soon as they can, because it can take a while to conceive and a miscarriage is really common when you first get pregnant, which means you have to pick yourself up and try again”.

5. Missed a period? Don’t freak out – but keep an eye on it

Irregular periods happen to many women, and for most, it’s not a cause for alarm. There’s a myriad of reasons why you might miss a period, from weight gain, to being underweight, a bad diet, new medication and even stress.

“Missed periods do not necessarily mean you are infertile or cause infertility”

But Geeta advises that if you start to miss periods regularly you should see your GP: “Missed periods do not necessarily mean you are infertile or cause infertility, but could indicate underlying health issues that could affect your fertility, such as PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).

6. The same goes for irregular bleeding

When starting hormonal contraception, such as the pill or implant, irregular bleeding is common for the first 3 months. There are many different causes of bleeding between periods, most are not anything to worry about, but seek medical advice if it lasts longer than 3 months.

7. Your painful periods are probably normal – sorry!

Sadly, discomfort during menstruation isn’t uncommon, especially in young women. However, if your cramps are stopping you from going about your normal life or not responding to over the counter painkillers then you need to see your GP.

8. Fertility tracking apps have their place

There has been an explosion of fertility-related app technology in recent years. Geeta says that while they are useful for tracking your cycle, they shouldn’t be relied upon in isolation of specialist medical or fertility advice.

9. Certain lifestyle factors actually DO impact your fertility

Geeta says that lifestyle factors such as your BMI, diet and smoking have a significant impact on fertility health and “it’s important to be conscious of the longer-term damage you can do to your fertility health, even at a young age”.

When it comes to smoking – time to give it up! The advice from the NHS is that “smoking may reduce fertility in women by reducing egg quality”.

10. Caffeine should be treated with caution

Zita says that “For women, caffeine can put stress on the adrenals and cause blood sugar to rollercoaster with high peaks and low troughs which also affects energy levels, mood and irritability”.

However, researchers don’t yet know for certain how caffeine levels relate to conception itself. Coffee, tea, over-the-counter medications, chocolate and fizzy drinks all contain caffeine – so her advice is to try to cut back on caffeine-containing foods and drinks during the week, treating yourself at weekends. If you do need a shot of caffeine, take it from tea, which has much lower caffeine levels than coffee.

11. And the same goes for booze.

According to Zita, alcohol may contribute to irregular periods, irregular ovulation and luteal phase defects, reducing chances of conception.

“Studies show that if neither you nor your partner drinks at all you will typically get pregnant more quickly than couples who drink regularly” she says. “However, I’m a realist – it’s fine if alcohol forms part of your normal life, as long as you drink at the lower limits of what is recommended for your age and gender.”

12. Exercise is good for your fertility – but don’t overdo it.

“Being underweight or overweight affects fertility in both women and men, so I advise that you try to do 30 to 60 minutes of exercise daily” Zita says.

This is because regular exercise ensures that endorphins circulate your body and improves general circulation. Better circulation means that more nutrients can reach your ovaries and will improve your blood-sugar balance, which will be good for your fertility.

“Being underweight can be more detrimental to fertility than being slightly overweight”

But weight fluctuations can also have an impact – and it’s important to remember that being underweight can be more detrimental to fertility than being slightly overweight.

13. Endometriosis *might* affect your chances of having a baby later on

Endometriosis is a chronic condition that causes inflammatory changes, scarring and cysts in the ovaries. And Geeta says that whilst endometriosis may not necessarily cause infertility, it is associated with fertility problems. However, even with severe endometriosis, natural conception is still possible.

14. As can PCOS

PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome is a common hormonal condition that can affect your ovarian function. Polycystic ovaries contain a large number of small follicles, or immature egg sacs. If you have irregular periods and are overweight, your ovulation can be affected, which makes natural conception difficult.

Geeta advises that if you are showing symptoms of PCOS, but have not yet been formally diagnosed, see your GP for a referral to a specialist. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to avoid IVF and other invasive treatments. Zita adds that “Many women with PCOS worry they will never be able to conceive because of it but PCOS is a treatable condition, but many women with PCOS do get pregnant”.

15. But there are other factors to consider

Thyroid issues, ovulatory issues, premature menopause and high prolactin levels can also have an affect on your fertility. Both Zita and Geeta advise taking a fertility MOT test or speaking to your GP if you are concerned.

16. Ask your Mum about her period history

Geeta says that understanding your family’s medical history can give a good indication of your own fertility, a factor that is often overlooked. “If your mother struggled to get pregnant naturally or had recurrent miscarriages or early menopause, the likelihood is you will as well. Conditions such as PCOS, that have an impact on your fertility, also tend to run in families, so it is worth asking your female relatives a few personal questions!”

17. The pill won’t ruin your fertility

The pill affects all women differently. Most women find that their normal cycle will return within a few months of ending the pill, which is something to be aware of when trying to fall pregnant. Some women find that their usual cycles begin again very quickly after stopping, but for others, it can take longer.

Zita also advises that the first month after you stop taking the pill is usually a particularly fertile cycle. After this ovulation can be disrupted for a few months in most women, but normally returns back to a more regular cycle.

18. IVF is not an insurance policy

Geeta stresses that while IVF can work, it is not guaranteed to give you a baby. “Fertility education needs to be taken seriously to avoid the misconception that you can put off having a baby into your late 30s and early 40s and ‘fall back’ on IVF if you struggle to fall pregnant naturally.”

20. But don’t lose hope

Zita adds that the biggest myth about fertility that both young and older woman think is that there’s a “cut off point” for fertility, and that you’re either fertile or infertile. In reality there are many more shades of grey.

Professor Geeta Nargund is the Medical Director at CREATE Fertility.

View original article – http://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/body/health/a13027645/fertility-in-30s-20s-facts-advice/