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Learn about the connection between Age and Infertility

One of the very first factors that fertility specialists look into when a couple approaches them for infertility, is the age of the woman. The most common cause of infertility is age. Age plays a significant role in a woman’s ability to achieve pregnancy. While sperm count and male infertility also decrease with age, it is usually to a much lesser extent when compared to how age affects fertility in women. According to leading studies, a female infant is born with approximately 1 million eggs. This number of eggs is reduced to 300,000 by the time she reaches puberty and of these, only about 300 reach maturity and ovulate. And as she slowly reaches menopause, the number and even the quality of eggs continues to reduce, thus making her less fertile.

While it is completely possible for you to have children at a later stage of life, it may be slightly difficult to reach pregnancy without medical help. Upon reaching pregnancy, your chances of miscarriage also increase. Therefore, medical help, also known as assisted conception, might be required.

How does male fertility age affect fertility?

The male fertility age that is younger than 40 has a better chance of becoming a parent than men who are above 40 years of age. This is because younger men have a better quality of sperm. Furthermore, the amount of semen as well as the motility of the sperm, both reduce continually between ages 20 – 80.

Men are also more likely to develop male infertility as a result of excessive alcohol consumption and smoking. According to statistics, men are two times more likely to indulge in alcohol consumption and smoking than women. Excessive drinking can lead to a decrease in sperm count, lower levels of testosterone, and contribute to erectile dysfunction.
Smoking is proven to decrease sperm motility and concentration and also increases DNA damage and results in abnormally shaped sperm.

Another most common cause of infertility in males is long-term sickness and medications. These medications may be given to treat other serious health concerns like:

  • Kidney failure
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive conditions
  • Infections that cause infertility

How does female fertility age cause infertility?

While males contribute to 20-30 percent of infertility cases, women contribute to 20-35 percent of the infertility cases worldwide. Comparatively, there are many more factors that can hinder infertility for a woman.

In the normal functioning of the female reproductive system, an egg is released every month, to the fallopian tubes where it comes in contact with the sperm and fertilization takes place. However, there are many factors that hinder this process which results in infertility. Some of the most common cause of infertility include:

Age as an independent parameter:

The most fertile age for a woman is in her 20s. Age itself is one of the most important parameters in the fertility of women. With increasing female fertility age, the ovarian reserve gets diminished. Studies have shown that Indian women have a more drastic decline in the ovarian reserve after the female fertility age of 32 as compared to 35 in the western world. This trait is linked to our ethnicity, genetics, and to some extent our lifestyles.
Also, with increasing female fertility age, more eggs become genetically abnormal causing increased chances of failure to conceive and an increase in miscarriages. Even with ART, the success of any procedure is directly linked to the age of the woman. Hence, early timely treatment is always beneficial.

Other Medical Conditions:

  • PCOS:
    PCOS is a hormonal disorder in which the woman develops polycystic morphology of the ovaries and higher levels of testosterone and androgen than normal. This abnormal increase in the male sex hormone in females results in irregular or absence of periods as a result of anovulation which is the most common cause of infertility. With no ovulation, becoming pregnant will be a challenge. PCOS is not a condition that develops with age but the condition worsens with age if left untreated. While it affects the menstruation cycle in adolescent girls, it affects fertility in young women and can cause serious ailments like cardiovascular diseases in older women.
  • Endometriosis:
    Endometriosis is a condition wherein the tissues of the uterine lining also called the endometrial lining, is seen growing outside the uterine cavity. This painful condition makes sexual intercourse painful and also causes adhesions from scar tissues that block the fallopian tubes, thus restricting the sperm from coming in contact with the egg. Furthermore, ovarian endometriosis is also shown to diminish ovarian reserve. According to studies, upto 50% of women who suffer from unexplained infertility have endometriosis and upto 30-40% of women with endometriosis are infertile.
  • Infections:
    Infections that cause infertility like chlamydia, gonorrhea, pelvic inflammatory diseases, and other reproductive tract infections cause serious damage to the female reproductive organs which may lead to std infertility in the future.
  • Thyroid problems, obesity, and other anatomic factors:
    Additional factors like obesity and low thyroid can interfere with the normal release of the egg. The abnormally shaped uterus can also contribute to failure to ovulate and implantation problems.

Lifestyle Factors:

The effects of alcohol and tobacco are far more serious in females. Women who consume alcohol and smoke tobacco are shown to be more likely to have a miscarriage or stillbirth. They are also at a higher risk of developing an ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilized egg implants itself outside the uterus.

Smoking has also resulted in premature menopause, occurring as early as four years before normal.

Therefore, the above factors along with the diminishing quality of ovarian reserve, fairly result in female infertility. It is a common myth that IVF is a good alternative to natural conception at the later stage of life. But in reality, your chances of pregnancy in both natural and artificial conception becomes difficult with age. However, it is vital to remember that even though the risk of health problems increases with age, many healthy babies are born irrespective of the parent’s ages.

For more information on fertility treatments, visit our website at Dr. Banker and to know more about different aspects of infertility, visit our Youtube page and also connect with us through our social media platforms. Dr. Manish Banker is a renowned fertility specialist who is widely popular in India, and Director & Consultant at Banker IVF & Women’s Hospital, Ahmedabad.

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