This year we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of IVF! Forty years ago, Louise Brown was born and became known as the first test-tube baby. What seemed like a miracle back then, is today a medical intervention performed thousands of times daily in hospitals and clinics around the world, from which so many healthy babies were born. Since Louise Brown was born, 300.000 babies more were born in the UK as a result of IVF and IVF as a treatment has improved significantly over the years, allowing a success rate increase from 8% in 1991 to 21% in 2016.
However, fertility rates worldwide continue to reduce. Actually, since 1950, the average births per woman in Europe has fallen from more than 3 to just 1.6. For the first time in more than a hundred years, the total world population growth is slowing (1).
Data also shows that childlessness is increasing and more people don’t have children (2).
Infertility is also a male concern: in less than 40 years, collective sperm count among this group of men has declined more than 50% and the causes can be lifestyle related (3).
Data from HFEA shows that in 2016, 42% of patients undergoing IVF treatment cycles were under 35 and 23% were aged between 35–37.
Knowing that we are at the most fertile when we are under 35 years old, something is wrong when most people seeking IVF is in this age group.
At a time when we have an amazingly successful intervention like IVF that can help so many people conceive, we are faced with a new challenge: poor quality eggs and sperm. And without these, IVF is does not work.
Data shows that the most common causes of infertility are:
The most common reasons for IVF treatment cycles being carried out were male infertility (37% of recorded reasons), unexplained (32%), an ovulatory disorder (13%), tubal disease (12%) and endometriosis (6%). Some of these can be improved with lifestyle and environmental changes.
If we don’t have good quality eggs and sperm, IVF is not going to be successful. This leads to more people are seeking Donor sperm/egg/embryo.
This correlates with HFEA data:
There is no doubt that we are being presented with a new silent epidemic, of lifestyle, environmental factors and lack of holistic support that people require to improve their fertility.
This is why the way forward to improve my fertility is to change my lifestyle and environment, so I can have a healthier body, healthier eggs (and my partner can have healthier sperm!).
Even though there is a lot of information online, I only want to make changes that are useful, and evidence based. And after much research I started making small changes in my diet and supplements, in my physical activity, in certain habits and in my environment. Every little change helps improve my health and my fertility.
Having a child is more than healthy eggs and sperm, it takes a healthy family to embrace this new human being, so as I’m making these changes, I keep this vision in mind. Because no matter the outcome of this rollercoaster, I also need to take care of myself.
Andreia Trigo RN BSc MSc