Getting pregnant isn’t always easy, no matter what your high school health teacher told you. Fortunately, when couples are proactive and well-informed, there are a lot of ways to help our bodies make healthy babies.

Of course, the elephant in the room when it comes to fertility is age. “There’s been a huge paradigm shift,” says Dr. Marjorie Dixon, CEO and Medical Director at Anova Fertility & Reproductive Health in Toronto. “I know people think that 40 is the new 30, but we consider advanced maternal age to be 35. By the time a woman is 30, her ovaries have been depleted of 90 percent of their eggs. The good news is that the remaining 10 percent are still relatively well-functioning. By the time she is 40, she’ll have a 97 percent depletion of eggs, and the 3 percent that remain will be poorer quality.”

"If a woman or couple knows they might be predisposed to fertility issues, waiting even a year may not be appropriate.”

Be an active participant in your reproductive health

Increasingly, women are delaying having children in favour of pursuing higher education, traveling, and starting a career. This trend makes sense, but women do need to be mindful of their own personal biological clock and what makes it tick. This includes taking proactive steps like not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, and starting a conversation with their doctor. “Between the ages of 25 and 30, women should ideally be having a fertility check-up,” says Dr. Dixon. “There are factors their family doctor can ask them about or see in their health history as well as simple blood tests that could alert them to potential fertility issues.”

Don’t suffer in silence, there are options

When fertility issues are revealed, it’s important to know that they are common, often treatable, and nothing to be ashamed about. More than 15 percent of all Canadian couples looking to conceive deal with fertility issues. And, it’s not all about women’s bodies either, men are a contributing factor to these issues up to 40 percent of the time.

When there is any concern about fertility, because age is so important, it is always better to look into modern options like IVF, insemination, or cryogenic egg preservation sooner rather than later. “The traditional definition of infertility is one year of unprotected intercourse without success,” says Dr. Dixon. “However, if a woman or couple knows they might be predisposed to fertility issues, waiting even a year may not be appropriate.”

The most important message, for women looking to get pregnant now or 10 years from now, is that they have everything to gain by talking to their doctor early and taking an active role in their own reproductive health.