By the time you are 40, the chance of falling pregnant naturally is about 5% each month, compared to 20% in those under the age of 30. You can still get pregnant after 40, but you may need some support. This is because younger women typically have more and healthier eggs than older women. And while most men make millions of new sperm every day, men younger than 40 typically have healthier sperm compared to men over 40. The amount of semen (the fluid that contains sperm) and sperm motility (ability to move towards an egg) decrease as men age.
Some couples may consider assisted reproductive technology (ART) such as IUI or IVF. Though these fertility procedures help bring the sperm and egg (closer) together, they are not always successful. In fact, the success rate for IVF procedures is only 20% to 40% for those in their thirties. A successful embryo transfer doesn’t necessarily translate into a successful pregnancy. Various factors, besides your age, affect your ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby to term. Whether you are trying to conceive naturally or attempting the IVF route, the following are important things to consider:
- Egg quality, egg quality, egg quality! Many patients over 35 who walk into Dr. Yik‘s office want to improve egg quality. Through nutraeuticals/ supplements, medicinal herbs and dietary recommendations, Dr. Yik helps each of her patients not only improve egg quality but also optimise uterine lining, promote pelvic circulation, cervical mucus and overall health. She has helped women doing IVF successfully conceive (these women are often those who have tried IVF on its own without success). There have even been cases where patients, after adopting a certain dietary and lifestyle regimen, fall pregnant before their scheduled IVF procedure. What about age, you ask? Everyone knows that fertility decreases as you age. But did you know that your biological age may be different from your chronological age? The good news is, you can lower your biological age through lifestyle (and nutraceuticals under the direction of a trained practitioner). There are ways to prevent aging and in some cases, even reverse it.
- Are you experiencing miscarriages? There may be underlying conditions or reasons affecting your ability to carry a baby to term. For example, people with a MTHFR gene defect may be prone to recurrent miscarriages. Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR for short) is an enzyme that is responsible for the conversion of folic acid to its active form folate. If you have a MTHFR gene mutation, your body cannot break down folic acid into folate, and studies show that people with a MTHFR gene mutation are more susceptible to subfertility, recurrent miscarriages, pre-eclampsia and a baby born with spina bifida. Keep in mind that while recurrent miscarriages are often multi-factorial, Dr. Yik usually tests her patients for MTHFR mutation when frequent pregnancy loss is unexplained so that proper treatment can be given to those with a MTHFR gene defect. Other reasons for recurrent miscarriages include nutrient deficiencies, poor egg quality, immune responses and thyroid hormone imbalances.
- Could it be toxins? The older you are, the more toxins that have accumulated in your body over the years. A study done in Hong Kong on 150 infertile couples undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) versus 20 fertile couples found that the infertile couples had significantly higher blood mercury then the fertile group. Over 1/3 of infertile men had abnormally high mercury and about 1/4 of the infertile females had high mercury levels. High levels of PCBs have also been linked to IVF failure. Many women in Hong Kong resort to consuming medicinal herbs when they see traditional Chinese doctors, sometimes continuing to do so for years. Many of these herbs are sourced from China and may contain harmful heavy metals or contaminants, which adds to the body’s toxic burden.
Remember, numerous factors affect your ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby to term. Find a fertility doctor who looks beyond IUI or IVF to help your body prepare for and boost your chances of an optimal pregnancy.