If you are reading this article, you may have been trying to conceive for a while or have had a recent diagnosis of infertility. Here are some surprising infertility facts you may not be aware of.
Infertility is more common than you think. It affects 1 in 6 of us and is worsening year by year. That is more than 3.5 million people in the UK and more than 48.5 million people worldwide. The WHO has declared it a major worldwide problem.
Infertility affects both women and men. The major causes of infertility are: male factor (37%), ovulatory problems (13%), fallopian tubes problems (12%), endometriosis (6%) and unexplained causes (32%).
What you eat, and drink affect your fertility. A study by Harvard University said it is important to avoid trans fats, use more vegetable oils, prefer vegetable protein instead of animal protein, choose slow carbs, take a multi-vitamin and drink plenty of water.
Your weight and physical activity affect your fertility. The same study by Harvard University identified the fertility zone for weight to be a BMI between 20 to 24. A healthy diet as described above, alongside some physical activity can help you move towards this fertility zone. Whilst daily exercise can be helpful, don’t overdo it as strenuous exercise can worsen fertility. Avoid hot yoga, boot camp training, extreme running and any type of strenuous training. Prefer half an hour walks, yoga, dancing, leisure bike riding, jogging or swimming.
Certain habits and addictions also affect fertility. Studies have shown that caffeine increases the length of time it takes to conceive, decreases live birth rates and affects the health of the developing foetus. Alcohol has also been linked to impotence, poor sperm quality, and increased risk of miscarriage. There is strong evidence that smoking affects fertility, being associated with increased time to conceive, risk of low birth weight, birth defects, damaged sperm DNA and early menopause.
Your beauty and home products also impact your fertility. These may contain chemicals that reduce the quality of your eggs/sperm. Choose products free from BPA, phthalates and other non-organic chemicals
Some supplements, like multi-vitamins and antioxidants can help you conceive. Depending on your particular problem, your doctor may also prescribe aminoacids, DHEA, inositol, NAC or other supplements.
Assisted reproduction treatments range from medication, interventions like IUI, IVF, ICSI, PGS/PGD, surgery and egg/sperm/embryo donation. The most adequate treatment will depend on the cause of your infertility. The number of people seeking treatment has been increasing every year, and due to the nature of the causes of infertility, so has the need for egg/sperm/embryo donation.
The average cost of an IVF cycle varies from country to country. In the UK it is on average £5000 per cycle. This can increase if you need associated interventions like ICSI, PGS, PGD, donation. The NHS has been cutting the number of cycles available which means the majority of treatment (59%) is being self-funded.
Clinics report their success rates but you need to ask how these are calculated. Some clinics may report success as the number of pregnancies achieved; whilst others may report success as the number of live births achieved. You also need to be aware that some clinics may refuse to treat certain patients who present more challenging conditions because that would reduce the clinic’s success rate.
There is still a lot that we don’t know about fertility and ongoing research is giving insight into new solutions. For example, a research team has just recently identified the role of protein dMLL3/4in oocyteactivation. When a good egg is fertilised by a good sperm, their chromosomes need to split and combine. This is only possible when this protein is present. More research in several areas of fertility is required to give insight into the 32% cases of unexplained infertility.
Data shows most couples are unprepared for the emotional upheaval of infertility and subsequent treatment. People underestimate the emotional distress they will go through and this is still the number one reason for patients to stop fertility treatment. Lack of support, low mood, depression, stress, anxiety, and worry are commonly reported.
You can download this poster and keep it as pocket guide to support your fertility journey. For more support improving your health and fertility, and and coping with the rollercoaster of emotions, sign up for our Enhanced Fertility Programme here.