Fertility Fact or Fiction?

With so much conversation, news and friendly advice about fertility and IVF, it’s not always easy to tell fact from fiction. Deciphering fact from wives tale is made even more difficult given that sometimes facts change as more research is carried out and discoveries are made.

Here are some true and not-so-true facts about fertility and fertility treatments.

By Dr Andrew Zuschmann, Director at City Fertility Centre Sydney

I can wait until I’m 40 to have a baby as technology will help me: Fiction

While assisted reproductive technologies (ART) have advanced considerably over the past two decades and there are many interventions to assist with getting pregnant, the biggest factor impacting on fertility is still the female’s age.

Although some people still have quick pregnancy success after the age of 35, for many it takes longer. From 35 years of age, egg quality and quantity begin to naturally decline. Statistics show that by the age of 40, it is estimated that a female’s natural conception rate is in the range of 8-10 per cent a month and at age 43, the rate is thought to be as low as 1-3 per cent a month.

Unfortunately, advancing age also increases the risk of miscarriage and chromosomal (genetic) abnormalities. Even with the help of ART, the fact is that IVF success rates are certainly affected by age. So, if possible, the earlier you try to fall pregnant the easier it will be.

Both partners’ weight plays a significant role in fertility: Fact

For women, ovulation and egg quality can be impacted by being either underweight or overweight. For men, sperm count and quality can be affected.

To optimise your chances of success, you should aim to be in the normal BMI range. If your BMI is not in the normal range, it is wise to try to make lifestyle changes to lose weight. The “business” of daily life makes it difficult for many of us to maintain a healthy weight, but it is possible to lose (or gain if required) weight and get in better shape if you adopt an appropriate plan.

Male age makes no difference: Fiction

While women have often been the focus of infertility concerns, a recent study has found that a man’s age can also have an influence on the chances of falling pregnant. The study found that if the female partner was already 40-42 years old, the age of the male partner had no impact on success. However, if the female was younger than 40, the success rate was affected by the male partner’s age and was found to decline as the man grew older.

It is thought that advancing male age may cause impaired semen parameters, increased sperm DNA damage, and epigenetic alterations in sperm that affect fertilisation, implantation, or embryo development. However, female age is still considered the dominant factor in predicting (or explaining) a couple’s chance of conception.

Heat can affect male fertility: Fact

Yes, it is true that overheating of the testes can affect sperm quality. The testes are outside the body to keep them cooler for a reason. So it is best to avoid hot spas, saunas, extremely tight pants and even the use of your computer on your lap. If the temperature is too high within the testicles, it can affect sperm quality, so being cautious while trying to conceive is the best option.

Freezing embryos is risky, fresh is best: Fiction

Freezing embryos is no longer risky and many studies have reported higher pregnancy success rates using frozen embryos. The method now commonly used to freeze eggs is called “vitrification”, which is a fast cryopreservation technique that is 7,000 times faster than slow freezing and has resulted in a dramatic increase in pregnancy rates due to the excellent quality of the embryos when thawed.

Vitrification greatly reduces the risk of rupturing or damaging the embryo as there is minimal chance for ice crystals to form within the cell. One of the benefits of frozen embryos is that they do not age. For example, if you freeze an embryo at the age of 30 and decide to thaw and use it at age 35, the cell structure and quality of the embryo remain as they were when you were 30 years old.

Different IVF clinics offer different things: Fact

It is true that there is now a range of IVF providers in the market and all have different business models. There are what are referred to as “full-service clinics’’ (like City Fertility Centre) and “discount clinics”. Here are the top things to compare when selecting a fertility clinic: choice of specialist; success rates; range of services offered; qualifying criteria to be a patient; the level to which IVF treatment is tailored to the patient; and exactly what is included in the cost.

This article was written by Dr Andrew Zuschmann, Director at City Fertility Centre, and has been reproduced with permission.

Got more fertility questions? Contact City Fertility Centre.

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