A snooze button for your ticking biological clock
With technological advances and interventions in the field of fertility and other gynaecological issues, the pressure seems to have lifted off women to have babies sooner, writes Dr Nisha Bhatnagar
Until about a decade ago, it was a norm, almost a tradition, for a young woman to get married at a ‘proper’ age set by society and then go on to mother her children while taking care of the house. Careers were forsaken and women were dependent on their luck in finding the right person, and in the process, many a sharp brains were sacrificed to the ragged tale of tradition.
The pressure was high on women until some time ago and they were supposed to live by the biological clock that their body ran on. With technological advances and interventions in the field of fertility and other gynaecological issues, the pressure seems to have lifted off, letting women breathe a lot easier. It is important that both would-be parents are ready for the pregnancy mentally and physically.
Preparing For Pregnancy
One of the most important and oft-ignored aspect is communication. It is important for the hopeful parents to have a heart-to-heart conversation about the bigger parenting issues like sharing childcare responsibilities, religious traditions, and working vs staying at home. While doing so, both of you would have to give the other a fair chance and keep an open mind. It is after all a mutual decision.
Go off the pill: This is a no-brainer. You would have to stop your birth control at least a couple of months before you want to start trying. This helps you understand you natural cycle, its length, the tentative ovulation pattern and dates. In case your periods don’t fall into a pattern even after three months, it is time to see a doctor.
Go a little easy on the partying: As you prepare to start a family, it is important that your body is at its healthiest. Cut down on alcohol and stop smoking. It is often believed that it is only the women who should make these lifestyle changes, however it has been proven that these changes are as important for men too. Alcohol consumption and smoking casts unfavourable impact on the sperm quality and male fertility.
Lower your caffeine intake: It has been established through several studies that high caffeine intake can trigger miscarriage. So if you are planning to start a family soon, it is important that you begin cutting down on your daily dose of caffeine. Whether it is coffee, soda, tea, energy drinks, or even some medicines, make sure that you are aware of your caffeine consumption and are working to bring it down consciously. If you can cut it out completely, there is nothing better.
Workout regularly and keep fit: It is important to step on the scale and understand whether you are in a healthy weight range. If you need to shed a few kilos, work at it, and in case you are underweight, it is time to work out and gain some. The right body weight makes it easier to get pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy with lesser complications even in childbirth.
Talk about finances with your partner: Start saving and create a fund for the pregnancy and for the new arrival. If you plan well, even when you are saving a little from every pay cheque, it will be easier on your pocket when you want to buy a beautiful baby bed or other nursery furniture.
Stock up on your sleep: Pregnancy can be tough on your sleep. Take small naps whenever you can, have a healthy sleep routine at night and do not compromise on your sleep even on weekends. Sleep in with your partner over the weekend and enjoy some cuddle time, you’ll miss it later!
Visit the doctor and get the tests done: This is especially important if you have been trying for some time and have not conceived. In case you have delayed your pregnancy, you might be encountering some problems with your fertility without even realising it. Visiting a fertility specialist or a gynaecologist to begin with is a good idea if you are getting a little anxious.
diet and fertility are related
The lifestyle has changed largely and so has our diet. The lifestyle diseases have begun resurfacing, which are directly related to our unhealthy food habits. Our generation seeks instant gratification and looks for easy, convenient and delicious options. In the process, we have forgotten to think of the nutritional value of the meal we are consuming on a daily basis. Junk food, high-sugar diet, and processed food that we are so quick to turn to are directly linked to obesity, diabetes, blood pressure and even infertility. PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is one such lifestyle disease that is the leading cause of infertility or fertility related issues in most young women in their reproductive ages.
It is important to understand that we are what we eat and in order to be healthy, we need to eat healthy. Replace all the fast food, processed food, junk food, aerated beverages and high-salt dishes in you fridge with food that is healthy and big on taste as well. Begin this transition early, as food habits take a long time to develop and it takes longer to bring about a lasting change.
The looming biological clock
For many reasons including but not limited to career, finding the right partner, health problems and many more, women these days delay starting their family. However, it is a proven fact that with age fertility in women declines and it becomes difficult to conceive.
This should not be a deterring factor for women now that the medical advancements have reached new heights. Today, women need not choose between pursuing their promising careers and starting a family of their own. This is the world of equality, where women are fast conquering the stigma of childlessness by becoming aware of infertility treatments.
There are a number of factors that affect your biological clock. Your age is definitely a factor, as is your mother’s fertility and menopause. Her pregnancy and gynaecological history might help you understand your own body. Still if you want a clearer idea about how much time you have on your hand and how long you can wait before you start your family, there are blood tests to help you with that. These blood tests might not turn the biological clock back, but can help you get a clear idea about the time you may have on you.
Consult a doctor and get your blood tests done along with ultrasound scans to get a clear picture of the egg reserve you have. This test, which is conducted on the third day of your period, gives you the count which can help you decide when you must start your family. In case you have a higher than healthy egg reserve, it is ok to wait longer before you take on parenthood. However, if the reserve is lower than normal, plan your pregnancy before it is too late.
One needs to understand that from the time you decide to start a family, it might take as long as a year to conceive or even more. Hence, the planning should be done keeping in mind this timeline. The risks of genetic diseases are higher in advanced ages, so it is important to keep in touch with your doctor and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
In case you have decided to delay your pregnancy, you have to make sure that you do not fall prey to sedentary lifestyle and the associated diseases in the process. Make sure that you maintain a healthy body weight, manage your BP, keep a check on blood sugar levels, and follow a balanced and healthy diet.
EGG FREEZING TO THE RESCUE
The new technology of egg freezing has come to the rescue of women who want to fight their biological clock and not give up on other priorities or aspects of their lives. In this process, eggs are retrieved at the time of peak reproductive periods and frozen through vitrification in the labs. Later, when women are ready to start their family, they can retrieve these eggs and go through the IVF process to realise their dreams of having a child. The frozen eggs are thawed and fertilised with the father’s sperm in the lab and then implanted in the uterus of the mother that leads to an IVF pregnancy. This technique of egg freezing has taken the pressure off women and lets them choose when and how they want to enter maternity without compromising on their career goals.
Egg freezing has helped many women who have a promising career ahead, but would still like to opt for motherhood in their later ages. Women who are suffering from cancer and have to go through treatments might lose out on their egg reserve. Women going through early menopause have a high chance of running out of their eggs before they conceive. In both cases, egg freezing has been a godsend as they can get their eggs harvested and frozen to be retrieved when their body is prepared to receive the embryo and have a healthy pregnancy.
The writer is an IVF specialist at Aveya Ferility and IVF Centre
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