According to NHS statistics, around one in seven couples in the UK may have difficulty in conceiving – that’s approximately 3.5 million people. For every one hundred couples trying to conceive naturally 84 will conceive within one year, 92 will conceive within two years, and 93 will conceive within three years. Couples who have been trying to conceive unsuccessfully for more than three years have 25% or less chance of conceiving within the following year, and may need to seek help to achieve their dream of parenthood.
What affects fertility?
There are a number of factors that can affect fertility in women. Some of these problems can be resolved, while some may persist, meaning the couple has to take an alternative route to parenthood such as surrogacy or adoption.
Common causes of fertility problems include:
- Lifestyle factors including age, stress, smoking, alcohol, poor diet, weight, and sexually transmitted infections
- Health problems including endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, prescription medication, and treatment for cancer
Biologically speaking, women are at their reproductive peak between the ages of 20 and 27, but many women are now waiting until their 30s and 40s before starting a family so age is often a major factor in fertility problems. All women
carry a finite number of eggs in their ovaries, so once they’re depleted pregnancy is no longer possible. At around age 35 a woman’s fertility starts to noticeably decline, making it more difficult to conceive naturally.
In addition to the natural depletion in fertility that comes with age, certain lifestyle choices such as smoking or drinking excessively can also contribute to the depletion of eggs in the ovaries. Women who smoke are 1.5 times more likely to take longer than a year to get pregnant than their non-smoking counterparts. If the male partner is also a heavy smoker then conception will be considerably delayed. The good news is that the negative effects of smoking on fertility are reversed after a year of stopping smoking.
Eating a poor diet means that you are not getting the nutrients you need in order to sustain a life inside you, so if your body lacks essential nutrients then you may have difficulty in conceiving. Being underweight, i.e. with a BMI of 18.5 or less, or overweight, i.e. with a BMI of 26 or more can cause hormonal imbalances and lead to problems with ovulation, making pregnancy harder to achieve.
Endometriosis is a condition that will affect around one in ten women at some point throughout their menstrual life. It occurs when the endometrial tissue which is found in the uterine lining grows outside the uterus, usually in the abdominal-pelvic cavity. In moderate to severe cases the tubes become scarred which interferes with the passage of the egg after ovulation. In mild cases it is thought that infertility is caused by a chemical imbalance that affects the ability to conceive. Endometriosis can be treated and around 40% of women go on to conceive without any problems afterwards.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in which the small follicles in the ovaries don’t develop into the larger, mature follicles that release eggs. Women with PCOS experience irregular periods and obesity among other symptoms, making it harder to conceive naturally. Losing weight and taking fertility drugs can help to increase the chances of becoming pregnant for many women.
If you and your partner have been actively trying to get pregnant for more than a year without success then it’s time to seek help. Get in touch with us here at TCM HealthCare; we’re the fertility experts and have helped a great many couples to achieve their dream of being parents.