Fertility is the ability of an individual or couple to conceive a baby through normal sexual activity.
The most fertile age for a woman is late teens to late 20s . After 30years of age female fertility starts to decline. One can fall pregnant though anytime from puberty at 8-12years of age to just before the menopause usually at about age 51-54 Years of age. Male fertility also starts to decline with age but not until after 40 years of age.
Taking folic acid supplements from before conceiving reduces greatly the risk of abnormalities of the baby's spinal cord and brain (eg cord equina and hydrocephalus) -For ladies you should start taking folic acid 400mcg daily before you become pregnant (For some medical conditions eg sickle cell disease and being on some medication eg epilepsy medication requires a much higher dose 5mg daily so speak to a doctor)-but better late than never -Continue up until the end of first 3 months pregnancy.
A balanced diet, exercise and a relaxed mind are all good boosters for fertility.
Conception can only take place after ovulation(release of an egg from the ovary) in a woman.For a woman with a 28 day menstrual cycle this happens about 2 weeks before the next period ie day 14. Sperm can remain alive in the woman's womb for up to 7 days. The fertile period will be about 5 days before and including ovulation date. The couple can time sexual intercourse around this time to maximise chances of conception. The woman's temperature usually also rises around this time. So regular record of temperature could guide in identifying the fertile date.
Infertility is the opposite of fertility-inability to conceive a child naturally and the problem could be with either the woman or man.
After a year of trying unsuccessfully for a baby consult a doctor for an assessment and investigations if appropriate for both the man and woman.
Infertility can be assumed if a couple have failed to conceive a child after regular un-protected sex for at least a year.
In women pelvic infections and particularly sexually transmitted infections (STIs)may cause infertility(eg chlamydia and gonorrhoea). Reduce risk of complications by condom use, testing for STIs early when you have symptoms or with a new partner and treating infections promptly.
Some unhealthy lifestyle habits can impair fertility eg excessive alcohol, smoking and recreational drug use..
Obesity can impair fertility.
Using the depo provera injectable contraceptive may delay fertility for about 6 months on average (and can be up to 1 year )after the last injection but it does not cause long term infertility.
Some medical conditions may make it difficult to conceive ; see a doctor for regular reviews and discuss plans to start a family if you have conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, uterine fibroids and polycystic ovary disease .
Routine "Tests for fertility " for example hormone tests or scans are not necessary for everyone unless you have not conceived after a year of trying or a doctor has recommended for specific reasons .
For men if you are going to have a sperm analysis test you should avoid sexual intercourse for at least 3 days so that accurate results can be obtained .
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