Reasons ranging wide from stress to peer pressure, smoking is
a habit that once taken up, is hard to let go. Cigarette smoke contains many different
components, the most significant of which is nicotine, which is converted into a substance
in the body that affects the movement of sperms in men. Cigarette also contains heavy metals like cadmium and lead which affect sperm density. Cigarette smoke also damages
the DNA of sperms, while chewing tobacco affects the structure of sperms. In women,
smoking is associated with miscarriages, ectopic pregnancy by damaging fallopian tubes
(damages its ability to move the fertilized egg towards the uterus) or by causing blockages
in fallopian tubes, as a result of which the meeting of egg and sperm is prevented.
Obesity also impacts reproductive capacity in both males and females. Obesity
has emotional and psychological effect on the persons suffering from it, affecting their
chances of reproduction. Obesity also contributes to menstrual irregularities, affects
ovulation and increases the chances of miscarriages. Obese women are also more likely
to suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which also affects fertility. Obese
males suffer from decreased testosterone levels and are at greater risk of impaired sperm
production and reduced sperm quality.
In addition to affecting their chances of conceiving, older women also are more likely to
give birth to children who have genetic or other inborn effects. They also suffer from
increased risk of miscarriages. 20s are the ideal age for women to reproduce. By the time
a women reaches her mid 30s, the quality as well as the number of eggs in her begin to
decline. In men, sperm quality decreases with age.
Studies have shown that drinking too much alcohol decreases the levels of steroid
(which includes the sex hormones), also resulting in abnormal menstrual cycles in women.
When alcohol is consumed, it is converted into substances that cause oxidative damage to
DNA and proteins. Sperm production is also affected in men who are heavy drinkers, with
the more alcohol that is consumed, the greater is the degradation of the quality of sperm.
Heavy drinking during pregnancy also affects the well-being of the baby.
Hormonal imbalances due to stress, lack of sleep, etc
Hormones are signalling molecules produced in our body that are sensitive to both external
and internal stimulus. Their levels can fluctuate based on a wide variety of factors such as
date of the menstrual cycle in women, stress, or even disorders like those of the thyroid.
Estrogen and progesterone are essential sex hormones whose imbalances can impact
ovulation and fertility in women. They modulate the ovulation cycle in women and hence
hormonal imbalances can be a risk factor for infertility. In men, hormones like prolactin and
estrogen influence the production of another hormone called testosterone, while also
affecting sperm production by the testes.
The Brighter Side
In addition to avoiding habits that harm reproductive health, it is essential to inculcate
lifestyle practices that improve overall well-being. Good diet and exercise have a double
benefit - in addition to directly benefiting reproductive health, these habits also help
maintain healthy body weight. One thing that should be kept in mind, however, is that
extreme exercising can have the opposite effects. If exercises are carried out to exhaustion,
that is, if one exercises to the point where they suffer from severe pain, and if exercises get
in the way of getting sufficient sleep or cause injuries, fertility may be negatively affected.
A good diet can further prevent the development of diseases like blood sugar
, one of the many
complications of which is reproductive problems. Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables,
which are rich in antioxidants, while consuming caffeine only in moderation, are also beneficial to
reproductive health. Recent studies have also implicated air pollution to produce poor quality
of egg or sperms and increased miscarriage rates. It is therefore important to increase exposure
to greener and cleaner environment, making sure to avoid exposure to toxins that may be present
in the surroundings as these may also contribute negatively on Infertility. Avoiding multiple sexual
partners will help reduce the chances of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease. These diseases
may impair the reproductive capacity if they're left untreated for long.
One rarely lends a thought to the more permanent effect of their habits on their health. Even when
such things are considered, people examine other aspects of their health, taking their reproductive
health for granted. It is high time that this behaviour is changed.
Children are the light of one's life. Do not let poor choices deprive you of experiencing
the joy of their existence
Fertility - Does Age Matter?
The young dream of excellence in career and a well settled life, running for improving the
present and building the future. All this has changed the tempo of normal paced life. In the
course of our busy lives, the hopes of a well planned, ideal future declines slowly, as age
somehow creates hindrances Running with time, we tend to forget that age is a factor that
draws the limitations for certain desires like having a family of own. With the changes in
environmental and social scenarios as well as deterioration of health quality, the connection
between age and fertility has strengthened to a great extent.
Age is like a clock ticking, moving ahead in time, and as you grow old so does your age of
fertility. Understanding this biological clock will help you be aware about the effects of
age on the chances of conception (conceiving) and also the health of the newborn. Although
age affects the fertility of both men and women equally, it does discriminate between
them to some extent - the biological clock in men is longer than women. That's because
men can remain fertile throughout their life unlike women.
Age, Fertility and Men vs Women
Looking young, feeling young and being young are all different when science comes
into picture. Although some women may look young even in their 40's, that doesn't
mean they're as fertile as women in 20's. Some men may look well built and fit at
their late 30's or 40's, but this cannot explain the high likelihood of birth defects that
occur when these older men have children.
Men - Time Trial
Men can produce sperms throughout their lifetime after the onset of puberty. But,
they have their own issues and disadvantages relating to age. As they grow older, the
cells (Sertoli and Leydig in the testes) which are responsible for production and maturation
of sperms start to deteriorate in viability and also decrease in numbers. Thus, although
older men can produce sperms, these may have defects which may lead to birth abnormalities
in children born to them. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a condition whose prevalence increases
with age, causing problem in sexual functioning leading to infertility.
Women - Inborn Restrictions
Women possess a finite number of eggs in their ovaries at the time of birth and that's all
they have for their lifetime. One of these eggs is released every month as a part of the normal
ovulation cycle. Thus, with every month and year that passes, the number of eggs in the ovaries
decreases and the chances of them getting pregnant also starts decreasing.
The ability to reproduce in women is restricted to age because the multiplication of the
germ cells (cells that give rise to mature eggs) in an unborn baby stops in around 20 weeks.
Thus, women are born with fixed numbers of oocytes (eggs).
A female is born with around 50 lakh immature follicles that later develop into eggs.
This number further decreases to about 5 lakh by the time she gets her first period
(menarche). Then onwards, there comes a drastic decline in number of immature eggs
with every menstrual cycle. In late 30's, number of eggs reaches to about 25,000, which
comes down to only 1000 immature eggs left during menopause. Thus, the duration for
which a woman is fertile is already decided before hand, and the chances of natural
reproduction only decreases with increasing age.
Age vs Fertility Timeline
Best in 20's In Women
The possibility for normal conception is higher during this decade of lifetime. The reason being
Higher chances of successful fertilization
Lower likelihood of eggs with genetic abnormalities
Lower risk of miscarriages and abortion
Lower possibility of premature babies with health issues
Lower risk of inherited diseases and gestational conditions
Lower risk of hypertension, weaknesses and other problems in mothers during pregnancy
Men have normal fertility; factors such as obesity, sexually transmitted diseases, unhealthy
lifestyle may affect their sperm count and sperm quality.
Moderate in 30's In Women
In the mid 30's, fertility begins to decline. There is a progressive deterioration in egg quality
and quantity. The risks which follow are
Increased chances of genetic problems in newborns
Decreased chances of normal delivery
Higher chances of fetus growing outside the uterus, in the fallopian tube (ectopic pregnancy)
The levels of testosterone and number of sperm decreases around the mid 30's. This can
lower the chances of successful conception.
Fragile in 40's In Women
Getting pregnant in the 40's is not impossible, but the chances become minimal. That's
because after 40's, there is a huge fall in the number of eggs in the ovaries.
The risks of miscarriages, ectopic pregnancy, genetic problems and chromosomal abnormalities
(eg., Down Syndrome), still births, etc., occur at a higher probability.
There is a considerable decrease in sperm count, sperm motility and semen quality.
Connection with other factors
There is gradual decrease in fertility in men and women down the timeline of age. The
prime reason that stillbirths and miscarriages increase with age is the decrease in quality
of health due to hypertension and high high blood pressure, etc. These are the conditions
which have higher chances of occurring with age. Health is also affected due to harmful
habits like smoking, drinking alcohol, addiction to drugs, etc.
The world outside is too vast, too happening, too many chances and opportunities and
extremely busy! The delay in marriages and family planning tend to overshadow the
science that is associated with marital age. Conceiving a child is not impossible even at
older age, the quality of life and health deteriorates with time and age, which is an
important factor for a happy living.
Hormonal Affirmations Through Diagnosis
Although the decline of fertility with ageing is well documented, age alone cannot exactly
predict the fertility in either males or females. This is because, even in people within the
same age group, there is considerable
variation in reproductive capacity. For this, several diagnostic tests are available that
can help assess fertility
Follicular Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
FSH is responsible for production of eggs and production and transportation of sperms.
The levels of FSH significantly rise with age as higher level of FSH accelerate the process
of ageing of female reproductive system.
This hormone is responsible for libido (sex drive), and production of sperms in males.
The level of testosterone declines with increasing age, affecting sperm count and thus
contributing to infertility in men.
Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH)
This test is conducted to evaluate the number of eggs produced in women. Lower level
of AMH indicates diminishing ovarian reserve, which decreases with increasing age.
Thus, it helps to measure ovarian ageing and assess menopause age.
When everyday is a new fight for a living why make age a barrier? Move along with it
and not ahead of it.