Assoc. Prof. Tayfun Kutlu, MD from the Reproductive Health Center at Anadolu Medical Center shares insights on reproductive health
Fertility is that state of the reproductive system that renders it capable of naturally conceiving a child. The major fertility evaluation criteria for women is the number of ovarian follicles and whether the Fallopian tubes are passable or not, and for men – the semen quality. A number of factors attribute to fertility – diet, lifestyle, balance of hormones, certain diseases.
How is age related to fertility?
Men produce semen throughout their lifetime. If a 70-year old male engages in coitus ending in ejaculation, it should not be a problem for him to become a father. Due to the reduced hormonal levels in men, it is possible for the number of spermatozoa to be somewhat diminished, but in no way non-existent.
The situation with women is entirely different. Egg cells of females are shaped while girls are still in their mothers’ wombs. After birth about half of them are lost and gradually diminish over time. When a girl enters puberty, there are about 400 thousand egg cells left in her ovaries. Thereafter these egg cells are on the constant decrease. A sharp plummet occurs about the age of 45. This is the reason why it is more difficult to conceive after 45, but it is not impossible. Speaking agewise, the most fertile period is the one from 20 to 30 years of age. If a woman below 35 regularly engages in sexual intercourse, her Fallopian tubes are passable and there are no issues with the semen of the male, the likelihood of her conceiving every month is 30-35%. After the age of 35 this percentage gradually drops. When a woman turns 40 her chances of conceiving without treatment are estimated to be 10%. Therefore, as women today delay pregnancy, fertility is reduced.
How does the environment affect fertility?
Men are more affected by negative environmental impact. Spermatozoa are produced constantly and are among the fastest cells to spread in male bodies. That is why they are more vulnerable to environmental impact. It takes about 3 months for spermatozoa to be produced. The presence of chemical substances, radiation, pesticides and uncontrolled hormones in foods may affect reproductive organs.
Female ovaries are produced in gestation during the delicate stage of cell division. That is why they are sensitive to external environmental factors. With time, chromosomal impairments occur in these egg cells. Therefore, we absolutely recommend genetic tests for pregnancies after the age of 35.
What can we do to preserve our fertility?
Lifestyle is certain to affect human reproduction. In fact, smoking rather affects ovarian functions as cigarettes abound in chemicals that cause vasoconstriction, thus impeding oxygen transportation to every organ. To quit smoking should be a priority. Alcohol comes second. A drink every now and then will do no harm, but regular alcohol consumption should be discontinued. We also recommend to reduce the consumption of caffeine drinks such as coffee and tea. Additionally, frequent consumption of foods with artificial food colorants containing chemical substances and a large amount of preservatives, such as nitrites or hydrogen sulfide, should be avoided.