An English scientist has wagged a warning finger at modern Europeans for stonewalling the issue of starting a family, while still in their youth. Prof. Bill Ledger, from the University of Sheffield, points out that it is a trend among young Europeans to postpone starting a family until a later age. This propensity to procastinate is, however, not without its share of sorrows.
Having babies is low on the list of priorities of several Europeans. Many are busy targeting financial stability while others choose to revitalize their fledgling careers. This conscious choice more or less incapacitates them from having babies the natural way.
Infertility is technically defined as a state when a woman fails to conceive after a year of unprotected coitus. This could be due to a defect in the male or the female partner. Statistics reveal that at present one couple among seven is infertile. Ledger predicts ruefully that this estimate is expected to rise to one in three, if the present trend persists.
It is well acknowledged fact that women are at their fertile best while young and nubile, that is, when they are in their late teens and early twenties. Nature ordained it to be so. But with more and more women prioritizing career over establishing the family tree, there is an overall decrease in the fertility rate. While this trend is very acute in developed countries, it is rearing its ugly head in developing countries too especially in the cities.
Some Asian countries, such as India, have seen a spurt of economic growth lately. This runs parallel with improved opportunities for women's education and career. Although it is predominantly an urban scenario, the increasing number of women choosing to ride the 'success wave', is, indeed, worrying. This, in effect, means that women prepare to start a family only when they feel financially secure. This could mean that many of them are well past their optimal reproductive age when they consider starting a family.
There are other reasons as well that might 'add fat to the raging fire '. Obesity is one of them. That obesity is on the rise, pan globally, is widely acknowledged. This is not surprising considering the 'growth and spread' of junk foodies! There are currently about 1.6 billion people in the world who are overweight and there are another 400 million who suffer from obesity. 155 million children are overweight and 30 to 45 million are obese.
What has obesity got to do with infertility, one may ask, and the answer to that is 'A lot'! It is an established fact that medical conditions associated with obesity, such as the Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), considerably reduces a woman's chances to conceive and bear a child. Although not many studies are available on men, research suggests that a 20-pound increase in men's weight may elevate their chances of infertility by about 10 percent. Needless to say, obesity also affects the 'performance' ability of an individual.
Cigarette smoking and alcohol intake are the other factors that are reported to adversely affect infertility by reducing the sperm count and quality and also by bringing about impotence in men.
It has also been discovered that men who frequently use laptops are susceptible to a fertility compromise.
Sexually transmitted diseases, like chlamydia, which have harmful effects on the fertility status, are also on the rise. Chlamydia infection is usually silent, especially in women, as it occurs without symptoms. Untreated episodes can bring about Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), a condition that affects the fallopian tube, which is the meeting site for the egg and the sperm. Does that mean that men are spared? Hardly so. Untreated micro organic infections have a negative impact on sperm count and quality too.
Exposure to pesticides and other chemicals is known to play a role in bringing about infertility by impacting sperm count and quality deleteriously.
Skeptics wonder if an overdose of estrogen in certain food items is capable of bringing about feminization in men.
ART -Myth Busted
It is the norm for couples, who are unable to conceive naturally to seek help. Assisted Reproductive Technology
(ART), including micro manipulative techniques, has helped to bring thousands of babies into this world. Approximately 6% of the world's children are born through assisted measures.
But have we ever pondered over the kind of progenies that a subfertile
human is likely to bring forth into this world?
In the guise of promoting motherhood these ART clinics maybe sowing the seeds of subfertility / infertility in the future generations,
the world over. The ultimate effect on the global fertility rate hence is almost predictable.
Take a break - Make a Baby
One of the easy options to counter subfertility is to 'catch em young'
by remind young couples of the biological clock ticking away and by encouraging them to start a family early on in life. This will help them to have children naturally and will, altogether, do away with the need to go the ART way.
Providing career breaks for young women, and bestowing incentives
on them, are motivating measures that can be implemented. Some countries, such as Scandinavia have instituted policies, while France has introduced a tax waiver of sorts.
We live in a strange, 'make-believe' world, where every problem has a solution, where there is a 'pill for every ill'. There are several chemicals pervading the air we breathe and dissolved in the water and food we consume. The safety quotient associated with these chemicals is still not clear. Until such time when the uncertainties
are ironed out, let us adopt precautionary measures
by being wary of all the chemicals that we encounter every day, be they in the cosmetics, food or household solutions. The emotional effects of childlessness can be profound. It would, therefore, be prudent for women to start a family while still young, instead of being overwhelmed by the clarion call for a 'better' life.
Dr. REEJA THARU/L