Understanding fertility

What is fertility?

Fertility relates to the ability to produce a new generation of a living thing. In the wider world, including plants, microbes and animals, fecundity tends to be the term that is used instead. However, so-called soil fertility – the degree to which nutrients are available in the ground to support life – is still a widely used phrase. In humans, females become fertile when they reach puberty but their fertility – their ability to conceive – goes up and down according to their menstrual cycle. Males also become fertile in their teens but are said to be continuously fertile despite fluctuations in their sperm quality. Both males and females can have problems with their fertility, something that is called infertility or, in extreme cases, sterility.

 Why does fertility decrease with age?

Females only have a finite number of ova – or eggs – in their body from birth. Once menstruation begins, the quality of them will vary but, generally speaking, they will be in decline once a woman has turned 40 years of age until the menopause is reached. Darwinian theories would explain this along the lines that the most fertile period is when a female is young enough to raise her young. In men, fertility will also drop with age, although it is quite possible for a man to father a child even once he has become geriatric. The factors that relate to fertility and age are numerous, and no two individuals appear to be exactly the same in this regard.

What does fertility rate mean?

This is a measure of the number of births there are in a particular place over a given period. The crude birth rate and the general fertility rate are two such measures. They are measured over entire societies and do not relate to how fertile, or not, an individual happens to be. Rates may drop for all sorts of reasons, sometimes due to sociological or political factors rather than environmental ones.

How can you improve your fertility naturally?

Your diet is a significant factor in how fertile or otherwise you might be. Although it won't always assist you, refraining from too much caffeine and alcohol is known to help. This is something that has been shown in both men and women. More fertile people tend to have plenty of antioxidants in their diet, so eating things like walnuts is a good idea, one that has been shown to augment sperm counts, for example. Refraining from eating a proper breakfast is a bad move, especially for women who want to be more fertile. Furthermore, uptake in the amount of fibre you have in your diet is also known to help.

Are fertility treatments effective?

Medical fertility treatments can be effective, and they have helped many people to conceive when this would not have been possible otherwise. That said, treatment success rates vary greatly depending on the case. Always seek professional advice and avoid internet-bought treatments which may create more problems than they solve.

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