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    Apr 28, 2015

    22 Things You Should Know About Fertility

    If you're ever thinking of having kids, here are some things you should know.

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    Heads up: This story addresses fertility issues that specifically apply to cisgender men and women. Cisgender means that you identify with the gender you were assigned at birth. Here is Part 2 of this story: 20 Things Transgender People Should Know About Having Kids.

    1. If you think you might ever want kids, you should start thinking about it and planning for it in your twenties.

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    Yes, seriously! "Just like we plan for retirement, we should plan for reproduction," Dr. Lubna Pal, reproductive science specialist, OB-GYN, and director of the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Program at the Yale University School of Medicine tells BuzzFeed Life. That's because there are a lot of things that might make it harder for you to get pregnant in the future, and it's important for you to know about them now so that you can better understand your own risks and make informed choices about your potential timeline. Start talking to your doctor about it, if you haven't already.

    2. Fertility issues can affect both men and women. It's a couple's issue, not just a woman's problem.

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    When a couple seeks help for fertility issues, about a third of the time it's due to male-factor infertility, a third of the time it's female-factor infertility, and the other third is a combination problem — where both partners are contributing, Dr. Landon Trost, assistant professor of urology and head of Male Infertility and Andrology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, tells BuzzFeed Life.

    3. It can take a while to get pregnant, even for young, fertile, healthy couples.

    4. If you think that you might put off having kids until your mid- to late-thirties, you should get an evaluation well before that to find out if that's a viable option for you.

    5. Doctors can perform a blood test to check on your egg reserve, and you can get it anytime.

    6. One in eight couples have trouble with fertility.

    7. If you're a woman under 35 and trying to get pregnant, you and your partner should try for a year before going to see a specialist for help. If you're 35 or over, seek help from a specialist after six months.

    8. If you're a woman 40 or over and trying to get pregnant, you should probably go to a specialist at the outset, to learn more about your odds and your options.

    9. Age is a major factor, even if you're in perfect health.

    10. Other factors and influences can make your age a bigger deal.

    11. Here are some lifestyle factors that can play a role:

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    Small changes to your lifestyle can potentially make a huge difference in your fertility — that's true for both men and women, Trost says. These factors include:

    WOMEN:

    • Smoking cigarettes — according to the ASRM, women who smoke go through menopause roughly four years earlier than women who don't. Infertility rates among smokers are also about TWICE as high as among nonsmokers.

    • Exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke

    • Chronic stress

    • Drinking alcohol

    • Eating a poor diet and not getting enough exercise

    MEN:

    • Smoking marijuana can definitely hurt your sperm

    • Taking testosterone to build muscles can hurt your fertility

    • Drinking alcohol and using cocaine

    • Smoking cigarettes

    • Eating a poor diet

    12. And here are some health conditions that can also make it harder to conceive:

    13. Your mom's pregnancy and menopause history might be able to tell you something about your own fertility.

    14. And STIs can impact your fertility, so if you've ever had one, you should talk to your doctor about what that might mean.

    15. Technology is wonderful, but it's not a sure thing.

    16. You never know what other people have been through to get pregnant, and you shouldn't compare yourself to them.

    17. If you're going to freeze your eggs, the best time to do it is in your twenties or early thirties.

    18. Egg-freezing as an elective procedure is still considered "experimental."

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    In 2012, the ASRM declared that egg freezing shouldn't be considered experimental for women who use it to preserve their fertility (for instance, if they have endometriosis, or if they have cancer and plan to undergo chemotherapy). But in the same report, they indicated that voluntary egg-freezing should still be considered experimental, because there's not enough research to prove that it's worth it. Read 11 Things You Should Know About Freezing Your Eggs to learn more about this.

    19. Age impacts sperm, also.

    20. Problems with sperm count and motility can sometimes be fixed with a simple operation, or even some small lifestyle changes.

    21. Don't assume that a year of not getting pregnant means that you won't ever have babies.

    22. Bottom line: if you know you want to conceive one day, you should start thinking about and planning for that early.