Image: What To Expect While You’re Expecting.
For many young women, the word ‘fertility‘ is nowhere near front of mind. It’s often floating around up the back somewhere, filed away in the ‘For Future Me To Worry About’ section.
Even if you’re in a serious relationship, fertility doesn’t tend to become a priority until you decide to fall pregnant— but, like just about everything, that’s not the case for every couple.
If you are in your 20s and you’re beginning to think seriously about your fertility, there are some measures you can take to allay any concerns you have, and give yourself the best chance for having a family when you’re ready to.
1. Stop smoking
As if you needed another reason to put down the cigarettes, smoking has been shown to have a significant impact on fertility — in both sexes. Research has found smokers take longer to conceive and encounter more fertility issues than non-smokers.
Smoking in men can impact on the DNA of sperm, while maternal smoking increases the risk of birth defects and low birth weight. On top of this, smokers reach menopause earlier than women who don't smoke.
You don't even need to have touched a ciggie in your life to have your fertility affected; passive smoking is only slightly less harmful than the direct form. According to studies, women exposed to smoking are more likely to take more than a year to fall pregnant than women who live in non-smoking households.
However, it's not all doom and gloom. According to Your Fertility, it's estimated many of the negative impacts of smoking will reverse one year after quitting. So save yourself the stress and give them up now. Your general health will also thank you for that. (Post continues after video.)
2. Talk to Mum and Grandma
Hereditary factors can have some bearing on your fertility. If there have been any cases of infertility or early menopause in your family history, or conditions that can impact on fertility (such as endometriosis), being aware of these factors will benefit you and any medical practitioners you consult.
Having a conversation with your mother and/or grandmother is a good place to start, so you can get a good idea of what risk factors might be in the family. Additionally, there's a chance you have similar fertility to your mother and her mother before her.
In a 2012 Danish study of more than 500 women, levels of anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) and antral follicle count (AFC) — the best markers of egg supply — declined faster among those whose mothers went through menopause earlier. (Post continues after gallery.)
3. Take an AMH test
Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) is secreted by the cells that surround each egg in a woman's ovaries. The levels of AMH in a woman's blood is considered a useful indicator of how many eggs and fertile years she has left — which in turn can be informative when it comes to making decisions about starting a family.
Your doctor can give you a referral for an AMH test, which will cost $75 and is not covered by Medicare. You can have an AMH test at any time of the year, as the hormone's levels aren't affected by your period or use of oral contraception. IVF Australia has a AMH Female Reference Range that allows you to compare your AMH count with other women your age and determine whether your level is considered low.
4. Assess your follicles
If an AMH test indicates you have low egg levels for your age, you can have a specialised ultrasound to assess your number of follicles; these are tiny sacs within your ovaries that each house a developing egg. This can help to determine your ovarian reserve and what it means for your fertility — and what the best course of action might be moving forward.
Have you ever tested your fertility?