Whether you’re ready to pop a bun in the oven or dreaming of working off your muffin top by solo hiking across Nepal, there are a few things that every twenty-something should be thinking about for the future. Starting a family (either soon or someday) requires some planning, and understanding your own fertility now might play a bigger role in that than you think.
Here are 5 little things that could make a big difference if you do choose to don the next generation of mom jeans.
- We’ve all heard of the biological clock but midnight might be closer than you think. Studies show that after age 24 most women’s fertility begins a steady decline. Meaning you have a finite number of eggs and they’re aging, too. After 30, healthy woman have about a 20% likelihood of conception during their short monthly window, and it drops to 5% by age 40. In an ideal world there’s a time and a place for everything and postponing motherhood until you’re ready can be a good idea. However, understanding the higher risks (and subsequent higher costs) of trying to conceive later in life should remind you that nothing is guaranteed. While none of us can escape aging, other important factors like lifestyle and genetics may seriously impact how your body handles pregnancy.
For a small portion of women, about 10%, premature ovarian aging will reduce your chances of conception more rapidly. Talking with your doctor and running a few simple tests to establish a baseline and trajectory for your reproductive health can help you screen for POA and make a plan for unexpected (or intentional) bumps along the way.
- Being irregular isn’t regular. If you’ve been blessed with a monthly visitor for long enough to have it down to routine, you may think a little pain is normal. On the other hand, if you’re dealing with serious difficulties associated with painful cramps or frequently irregular bleeding, it’s time to get help. Suffering from pelvic pain or intense cramping can be indications of serious illness. Endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease not only cause pain and damage to your organs but they can also lead to infertility. Treatments for PID can help mitigate damage but they are time sensitive so don’t try to power through. The strong silent act can be dangerous when talking with a medical provider.
- Come one, come all! Some scientist believe that female orgasms may actually increase your chances of conception. The idea is, that contractions near your cervix vacuum sperm up into the uterus and give those guys an extra little push. While I’m not saying that you should focus on climaxing (not just because that’s probably going to make it difficult), I’m saying feel free to enjoy the ride. Keep in mind, orgasms aren’t likely to interfere with prophylactic measures you may be taking to prevent pregnancy either.
- It’s all about timing. Just because you haven’t gotten pregnant in the past while not using protection (and we hope that you are) doesn’t mean that either you or your partner have fertility issues (and yes, men are just as likely as women to struggle with fertility). Contrary to common belief, sex does not always lead to pregnancy and most women are actually only fertile for 2 to 3 days each month. Your most fertile days come right before your period and conveniently your libido generally spikes then, too. Still, knowing exactly when you are accepting applications is harder to pinpoint than you think. Semen can hang out in your metaphorical lobby waiting for a second audition for several days and gauging your exact point of ovulation is a delicate art- so don’t use this as an excuse to risk it. Bottom line: always use contraception if you don’t want to conceive and if you are concerned about infertility, or reduced fertility, your best bet is to seek medical guidance.
- Safety first. STDs/STIs are more common than anyone outside of your high school health class seems eager to talk about. Some, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, can flourish without being seen and pass unnoticed between men and women alike. The only true way to know if you or your partner have been infected is to get tested regularly. Remember, people might not even know that they are carriers so it’s up to you make safe choices. If having a bacterial party in your panties is not enough of a reason for concern, consider that untreated sexually transmitted infections can lead to serious damage to your reproductive organs, especially in woman, and ultimately infertility.