Should I wait?
You've resolved to wait a few years to have a baby, but is that a wise choice? Is it possible to fool Mother Nature into disregarding the ticking of our biological clocks?
Women used to start families when they were in their late teens and twenties. Nowadays, many are choosing to postpone motherhood until they're well into their thirties. Have we managed to slow down our biological clocks or are we simply learning to ignore the ticking?

Born at the right time

Our biological clocks are definitely not slowing down, nor can we turn back the hands of time to make more space in our busy schedules for having babies, says Dr Johan van Rensburg, a fertility specialist at Medfem Clinic in Johannesburg.

"The biological clock is similar to an ATM at the bank. Every month we withdraw money. Unfortunately, the body cannot issue transaction slips telling us that there are so many ova remaining and how much time we have left to have babies. One day we will simply discover that there are no more reserves left."

Van Rensburg says the general rule, which applies to 90% of all women, is that you should have fallen pregnant by 35. "For many women, 35 is already too late, however, and they only find out once they unsuccessfully try to have a baby."

It is possible to determine your chances of having a baby via a series of hormone tests. "Prior to undergoing these tests, a woman should stop taking oral contraceptives for at least a month and the tests need to be done on the third day of her menstrual cycle," according to Van Rensburg.

He warns that the results of these tests are merely an indication of what's going on in a woman's body at that particular time. They are not a reliable measure of future fertility.

The average woman is born with 150 000 to 400 000 ova in her Fallopian tubes and 20 to 50 of these are released every month. Only one of them develops sufficiently to stand a chance of being fertilised. A couple in their twenties stands a 20-25% chance of conceiving during a normal cycle. The number of times they have sex, stress and the physical condition of each partner are the major factors that influence the likelihood of having a baby. As time goes by, the probability decreases.

What can I do?

You can protect your biological clock with sound lifestyle choices, according to Van Rensburg. "Regular exercise, a healthy and balanced diet and low stress levels can help preserve the ova left in your body."

  • Stop smoking and double your chances of having a baby. If your partner smokes excessively, it could lower his sperm count, inhibit the movement of the sperm and adversely affect its quality.
  • Use antioxidants along with a multi-vitamin supplement to boost your immune system and limit the adverse effects of free radicals.
  • Limit alcohol, which could inhibit sperm production, and increases the chances of a miscarriage.
  • Reduce stress in your own life and encourage your partner to do the same.
  • Watch what you eat by avoiding too much sugar, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, fats and salt. Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and include avos, olives, nuts, seeds and olive oil in your diet, to boost your intake of fatty acids.

    Eat complex carbohydrates such as potatoes, brown rice, maize meal and wheat, instead of processed or refined foods, to keep your blood sugar levels stable. High blood sugar can adversely affect the quality of your ova. The period when you're trying to conceive is not the time to try out a low-kilojoule starvation-type diet.

  • Maintain a healthy body weight because Van Rensburg says women should realise that they could become permanently infertile if they are too thin.

    "The hypothalamus sustains damage and even if your weight normalises, the effects could prove irreversible." (The hypothalamus is located in the brain and is responsible for vital bodily functions such as controlling your temperature, regulating hormone levels, blood pressure and the balance of fluids in the body.)

    Ideally, you should have approximately 20% body fat. This percentage affects the level of oestrogen in your body and oestrogen helps you ovulate.

  • Moderate exercise is sufficient – swim, run, walk or cycle. A heavy exercise regime can affect menstruation.

    Are you trying to avoid your biological clock ticking away?

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