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Understanding Fertility Factors

By Fredrik Andreasson

For most people, fertility is not a major concern in day-to-day life. After deciding to become pregnant, however, fertility can easily become all-consuming. Women track minute changes in their bodies over the course of their menstrual cycle; men wear loose pants and take vitamin supplements. Understanding the factors that influence fertility for both men and women is important when trying to achieve that all-important conception.

For both men and women, fertility at its most basic is connected to general health. Chronic disease, fatigue, stress, and pain can all negatively impact the chances of conception. In addition, many medications can affect fertility for both men and women. Therefore, when trying to get pregnant, the best things a couple can do are to consult their physicians to control ongoing health issues, eat well, get plenty of rest, and relax.

Fertility awareness in women

Women’s fertility varies over the course of the menstrual cycle, which is approximately 28 days long for most women. A woman may become pregnant at any time in her menstrual cycle, but the highest probability of pregnancy, commonly called the fertile window, occurs within approximately 2 days of ovulation. There are many methods of predicting the timing of the fertile window, also called fertility awareness, including:

Cycle history. In a typical menstrual cycle, ovulation occurs 14 days before menstruation. Women who have regular cycles can predict their ovulation date based on their previous cycle.

Basal body temperature (BBT). When ovulation occurs, the hormones released cause the resting temperature of the body to rise noticeably. Women who chart their BBT can pinpoint the time of ovulation during their cycle.

Cervical mucus signs. The color and viscosity of cervical mucus changes throughout the menstrual cycle. Cervical fluid that is the color and consistency of egg whites is one of the best predictors of an approaching fertile window.

Cervical position. The position and firmness of the cervix also changes throughout the menstrual cycle. A high, soft cervix is a good predictor of fertility.

Hormone concentrations in urine. The concentration of lutenizing hormone (LH) in urine rises shortly before ovulation. Ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) can detect imminent ovulation by measuring the concentration of LH in urine.

Fertility factors in women

The largest factor influencing a woman’s fertility is age. All of the eggs a woman will ever have are formed in the ovaries during fetal development, and they degrade with time. Women are most likely to conceive in their 20s and early 30s, and over half of women are infertile by their early 40s.

Other general factors influencing women’s fertility are:

Smoking. Smoking is physically harmful to the ovaries and also interferes with the body’s ability to produce estrogen.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Many STDs can present no symptoms while damaging the reproductive organs.

Body weight and/or eating disorders. Body fat produces estrogen, one of the hormones that influence fertility. Women with either too much or too little body fat may have irregular menstrual cycles and decreased fertility.

In addition to the above general factors, many medical conditions, including endocrine disorders, malfunctions of the reproductive organs, and genetic disorders may negatively impact fertility.

Fertility factors in men

Fertility for men is measured by the amount and quality of sperm they produce per ejaculation. In addition to the number of sperm produced, their shape and motility strongly influence the odds of conception.

As for women, the biggest general factor influencing fertility is age. Men in their mid-20s have the highest sperm count with the least genetic damage, and both quality and quantity of sperm begin decreasing by the time they reach their early 40s. In addition, older men are also more likely to produce subtle genetic defects in their sperm. According to Dr. Charles Muller, PhD., a member of the advisory board of the Seattle Sperm Bank, subtly defective sperm may fertilize an egg successfully, but have a negative effect on the child’s health later in life.

Other general factors influencing men’s fertility are:

Drugs, alcohol, and smoking. All of these can damage sperm DNA.

Strenuous riding. Excessive horseback or bicycle riding can lower sperm production.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Many STDs can damage reproductive organs even if no symptoms are present.

There are also several specific disorders that may impact men’s fertility, including genetic diseases.

European Sperm Bank USA, located in Seattle, Washington, was established to provide couples and individuals with the donor choices they need to make dreams of conception, pregnancy and childbirth a reality. European Sperm Bank USA is affiliated with Denmark-based European Sperm Bank, and are leading the way for sperm banks in Europe.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Andreasson, Fredrik "Understanding Fertility Factors." Understanding Fertility Factors. 25 Jul. 2010. uberarticles.com. 2 Aug 2014 <http://uberarticles.com/home-and-family/pregnancy/understanding-fertility-factors/>.

APA Style Citation:
Andreasson, F (2010, July 25). Understanding Fertility Factors. Retrieved August 2, 2014, from http://uberarticles.com/home-and-family/pregnancy/understanding-fertility-factors/

Chicago Style Citation:
Andreasson, Fredrik "Understanding Fertility Factors" uberarticles.com. http://uberarticles.com/home-and-family/pregnancy/understanding-fertility-factors/

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