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Over 35, still trying to conceive? ... See a doctor

Reproductive Health
 Studies show infertility affects 12 per cent of couples and both genders can experience fertility issues. [iStockphoto]

The longer a couple takes to seek medical assistance if they can’t conceive naturally for at least one year, the worse the situation gets, according to fertility experts.

Dr Charles Muteshi, a consultant gynaecologist at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, says the long waits may reduce the chances of conception.

Studies show infertility affects 12 per cent of couples and both genders can experience fertility issues.

Dr Muteshi, also a specialist in Reproductive Endocrinology and Fertility, says “if it has taken you one year or six months to conceive and you’re older than 35 then see a doctor for a quick referral as chances of getting successful treatment.

He adds that conceiving also depends “on your age and the longer you stay, the less likely it will be.”  

Dr Muteshi says age is an important factor in fertility, as some try getting children when their natural fertility has declined due to their advanced ages which reduces the chances of conception.

It is possible that with the help of a fertility expert, a couple can conceive naturally, but where necessary, there are conventional ways that can help those who are unable to conceive.

“We have conventional medicines that we give couples to help them conceive but unfortunately some revert to unconventional ways,” laments Dr Muteshi, explaining that there are advanced technologies for helping a couple to conceive including in vitro Fertilization (IVF).

There are fertility myths in relationships the most common being that the woman is the one with the problem if no pregnancy is forthcoming.

 “We once had a public forum to discuss with people who thought they had fertility problems and almost 70 per cent were men,” he recalls adding that there are extensive tests done to establish a diagnosis and underlying causes.

Experts both male and female factors, both tubal and ovulation and after establishing causes they start with medication given to those who have taken more than a year and those not ovulating regularly.

Some health conditions that could result in irregular ovulation may include high-stress levels, excessive production of prolactin hormone, an overactive or underactive thyroid, low body weight, premature ovarian failure and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

Another myth about fertility is that it may be delayed due to certain birth control methods. But medics have debunked it by explaining that some who have been on birth control pills have been more fertile than others especially those on estrogen and progestin birth control pills for more than three years.

However, fertility may delay for almost two to six months before fertility returns once one stops using other methods of birth control such as patches, rings, IUDs and implants.

A 2018 study by Boston University School of Public Health found that women who had high levels of perceived stress experienced lower levels of fertility than those with less stress.

Researchers also observed that in situations where one of the partners was significantly more stressed than the other, there was a lowered chance of conception. 

Stress can push people towards unhealthy behaviours that have been proven to impact fertility. 

These may include sleeping too much or sleeping too little, having a harder time sticking to healthy eating habits, skipping regular exercise or pushing oneself to exercise too much, drinking alcoholic drinks, smoking, and drinking too much caffeine, especially for those that are sleep-deprived and losing interest in having sex. 

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