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David Adamson, M.D., F.R.C.S.C., F.A.C.O.G., F.A.C.S., is a board certified reproductive endocrinologist and surgeon and Director of Fertility Physicians of Northern California in Palo Alto and San Jose, California, a private medical practice specializing in fertility and reproductive medicine. In 1997, he founded Advanced Reproductive Care, Inc., a national network of reproductive specialists dedicated to increasing the value of infertility care through lowering barriers to patient access, information technology, clinical research, and outcomes assessment. Dr. Adamson is a Clinical Professor at Stanford University's School of Medicine and Associate Clinical Professor at the University of California San Francisco's School of Medicine. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles, numerous book chapters, and a textbook.

Some Infertility Problems Can Be Prevented -- Here's How

For generations, women married early, stayed at home and had babies.† Today's reality is quite different -- women are pursuing careers, marrying later and postponing motherhood.† More and more adolescent and teenage girls are smoking, the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases has been steadily rising (particularly in women aged 15-21), and unhealthy extremes in body weight are now more common than ever.

What does all this have to do with having a baby?† A lot.

Most women first become aware and concerned about their reproductive health when they become sexually active - they want to prevent pregnancy.† The choices made as teens and in early adulthood can have a devastating effect on a woman's ability to get pregnant.

Let's take a look at some of these risk factors and how, with proper information and awareness, we can work towards preventing several causes of infertility.

Aging And Your Fertility
Listen closely and you can hear your biological clock tick.†

It is a known medical fact that a woman's fertility -- the ability to get pregnant and carry that pregnancy to full term -- decreases as she ages.† While today's infertility treatments are very successful in helping women of all ages get pregnant, it is most likely that women in their twenties and early thirties will achieve pregnancy, with or without treatment.

Approximately one-third of all couples, with the female partner 35 or older, will have problems conceiving.† It is also estimated that two-thirds of women will not be able to conceive spontaneously by the age of 40.

Of course, the decision to have a baby -- and determining the right time to start a family -- is a highly personal choice.† Women need to understand, however, that the biological clock is a very real issue and that the older the female partner, the more difficulty a couple can face when trying to get pregnant.

Some younger women will also experience difficulty conceiving and require specialized medical treatment to address other causes of infertility.† Younger patients have a better chance of getting pregnant with appropriate infertility therapy and there are now helpful treatment and financing packages available, such as The Family Building Programô offered by Advanced Reproductive Care (www.arcfertility.com), which includes refund guarantees, to help all patients better manage their medical and financial needs.

Fertility Up In Smoke
We've all heard the reports that cigarette smoking can cause cancer and heart disease. A lesser-known fact is that smoking can negatively affect your ability to have children. †

According to former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everette Koop, M.D., "Women who smoke have decreased fertility.† The risk of spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) is higher for pregnant women who smoke..."† In fact, a study conducted in the U.K. showed that nearly 13 percent of female infertility is caused by cigarette smoking.

Weighing The Facts
A healthy body weight, maintained through proper nutrition and exercise, can help to protect your chances of conceiving.†

Epidemiological studies have shown that obesity accounts for six percent of all female infertility and, on the flip side, low body weight accounts for another six percent.† So, while seeking medical help from a reproductive specialist, evaluate your body weight, and that of your partner.† A balanced diet and exercise regimen might be just what the doctor ordered to help you get pregnant.

Another Good Reason to Practice Safe Sex
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, are leading causes of infertility.†

Using a condom during sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy and STDs will also help to prevent infertility problems when you want to have a baby.

By taking control of lifestyle choices and becoming aware of the risk factors associated with certain behavior, women can help prevent numerous health problems and preserve their fertility for that special time in their lives when having a baby is the right choice.

But What About The Men?
Infertility is not just a female problem. It affects men equally -- nearly half of all diagnosed cases of infertility are attributed to the male partner.† And, men are not immune to the various social risk factors that affect women.

Recent studies are also finding that aging doesn't just affect a woman's fertility.† As men age, the quality of their sperm may decrease, making conception more difficult.

Drugs such as steroids, cigarettes, marijuana and alcohol can decrease sperm quality and production, as well as overall male reproductive function, critical to achieving conception.† In addition, sexually transmitted diseases are a leading cause of male infertility, while prolonged exposure to high heat (hot tub) or certain chemicals (perhaps found in the work environment) and long hours of sitting or tight underclothes can also lead to male infertility.

Give Yourself The Best Chance For A Healthy Pregnancy
Don't wait until you are ready to have a baby to think about your fertility.† Know what can affect your ability to get pregnant, how to avoid risk factors that can cause infertility, and make smart decisions about your future.

Consult with your OB/GYN or primary care physician early, to better understand your body, and schedule yearly appointments to monitor your reproductive health, starting at an early age.

If you are under 35 years of age and trying to conceive but have not achieved pregnancy within 12 months, seek medical help from a trained reproductive specialist (a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist).† If you are 35 or older, you should immediately visit a reproductive specialist if you have not achieved a pregnancy after 6 months.† As we now know, time is of the essence in reproduction, so delaying appropriate medical treatment may be adding to infertility problems.

RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association publishes a helpful tip sheet on selecting an infertility specialist and also provides valuable information and resources for women and men experiencing infertility.†

A recent national public health campaign launched by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine is targeting women and men in their 20s and 30s, to help educate people about the risk factors of smoking, sexually transmitted diseases, unhealthy body weight and age as they relate to fertility and the ability to have a baby.† For more information about this public health campaign or to learn more about how to protect your fertility, visit www.protectyourfertility.com.

For further information on infertility, click here.

Created: 9/22/2001  -  David Adamson, M.D., F.R.C.S.C., F.A.C.

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