What To Know About Fertility In Your 20s
Learning more about your fertility can be empowering, especially when you’re a career-driven girl boss with her eye on the C-suite.
As women wait longer to have children (and get married), most of us spend our 20s trying to prevent pregnancy (research suggests upwards of 60 percent of women of reproductive age use some form of contraceptive). And while all that energy going toward not getting pregnant can help you reach all of your other goals (you know, like getting ahead at work, traveling the world, and having some serious you time), it also means you likely aren’t super familiar with your fertility. No matter your goals, whether you want to have kids, or what your current relationship status is, your 20s is a prime time to learn about your fertility, docs say. After all, your fertility actually peaks in your mid- to late-20s.
Since one in eight people in the U.S. are impacted by infertility, gaining knowledge about your reproductive health can help you take control of your body and its future. Depending on your ambitions—both personal and professional—you may choose to act on your fertility with your future in mind by freezing your eggs or saving for IVF. And on a more personal level, fertility can be a good indicator of overall health (and vice versa).
So what should you know? In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week we spoke with Dr. Brian Levine M.D., founding partner and practice director of CCRM New York and a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist and OB-GYN. Here are seven biggies.
When it comes to fertility, lifestyle matters
Here’s some seriously good news: “Fertility is not a progressive slide like everyone thinks it is with a peak in your 20s and raisin-like ovaries in your 40s,” Dr. Levine tells. “Fertility is dynamic.”
In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists notes that being underweight, overweight, exercising too much, drinking excess alcohol, and smoking can all hinder fertility. These habits can negatively impact the functioning of your fallopian tubes, which is the where the egg travels from the ovaries to the uterus, explains Dr. Levine. Stress on the body (as in the case of being underweight) can also send your body into protection mode, which could lead to irregular cycles and lead you to stop ovulating.
The good news: “Living a healthy lifestyle is the most positive thing that someone can do to impact their fertility outcome,” Dr. Levine notes. His suggestions: Cut the cigs, don’t overdo it with the drinking, try to get more sleep, keep your stress levels in check (ahem, yoga!), and eat a little bit cleaner. “It’s been demonstrated in numerous studies that having a balanced, normal diet can impact cycle regularity, which is the best predictor of someone being able to get pregnant on their own without assistance,” Dr. Levine says.
Lifestyle can also play a big role in how regular your cycle is — something that, well, plays a big role in fertility. An average cycle is about 28 days, according to the ACOG (though that’s an estimation and every cycle is different). It’s easiest to know when you’re fertile by tracking your cycles with apps such as Flo or Clue. By doing this, you might also uncover your cycle is irregular. Fortunately? One of the best things to do to fix an irregular cycle is living a healthy lifestyle, Dr. Levine says.
Being on the pill doesn’t hurt your fertility
You might have heard this or at the very least worried about it, but allow Dr. Levine to clear things up: “The answer is no. Being on the pill does not hurt your fertility.” After you go off the pill, fertility returns to normal. It usually takes anywhere from weeks to months to ovulate again.
One study out of Boston University that looked at woman who discontinued use of oral contraceptives found that, while there was a temporary delay in return to fertility, long-term use did not hurt a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant and in fact, longer-term use of the pill was linked with a higher likelihood of pregnancy.