Protect your fertility

With the average modern woman leaving it later and later to have a family, it could pay to look after your fertility until you're ready to take the big step of having a baby.

Boost your fertility

Pic: Getty

About age-related fertility problems
Fertility declines over time, so the later you leave it, you may have more trouble conceiving. This decline, particularly of the quality of the eggs, is more rapid after the age of 35, with one-third of women over the age of 35 experiencing fertility problems. This decline may even affect a woman's success rate when it comes to fertility treatment.

By contrast, men's fertility begins to decline from around the age of 40, but most are capable of fathering a child well into their 50s and beyond.

How to protect your fertility
A healthy weight
If you are underweight or overweight, it can reduce your chances of getting pregnant. According to an eight-year Harvard study of more than 18,000 women, the "fertility zone" is a BMI (Body Mass Index) between 18.5 and 24. Anything over 25 is considered overweight, and over 30 obese.

And the heavier you are, the more you're likely to suffer with 'sub fertility'. A study carried out in the Netherlands found that for every BMI unit over 29, the chances of pregnancy fell by four per cent.

Women who are underweight are likely to be less fertile too. If you have a BMI of less than 18.5, you're more likely to have an irregular menstrual cycle – and won't be ovulating each month.

Maintaining a healthy weight will mean you stand a better chance of conceiving when you do reach the stage of wanting to start a family, so keeping active and eating healthily could make all the difference.

Quit smoking, drink in moderation
Just as the health warnings advise, smoking can damage both men's and women's fertility. According to the NHS, women who smoke 20 cigarettes a day experience the menopause two years earlier on average, while smoking also damages sperm, so quitting will help to keep both in good health.

Similarly, too much alcohol can have a detrimental effect. More than three to four units a day can damage sperm, while the chances of conception are also quite significantly reduced in women who drink to excess. Moderation is the key.

Sexual health
Safe sex is strongly advised throughout your young, free and single years, as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can not only be pretty unpleasant, but can affect fertility too. Both chlamydia and gonorrhoea can damage the fallopian tubes, so staying clear of STIs, or getting them treated as soon as possible should you contract one, is a must.

Be cool
This one's for the boys. It turns out there is some truth in the rumour daily hot baths can affect your swimmers. The NHS advises that the testicles should be one or two degrees cooler than the rest of the body - hot baths, showers and even tight underwear can raise the temperature, affecting sperm count and motility.

Be careful of chemicals
Exposure to a number of chemicals, including those found in pesticides and the glycol ester found in some paints, are believed to damage fertility. Radiation also has a harmful effect, though patients that have undergone cancer treatment usually find their fertility returns.

Can't conceive?
If you have been trying for a baby for a year or more, having regular, unprotected sex, but are having no luck, visit your GP. Both parties can be tested to identify the problem, after which you can discuss your options with your doctor.

Do you take steps to protect your fertility? Leave your comments below...