The fertility of both genders decreases with increasing age – in women this happens in their mid-thirties; in men it is normal from the age of forty. Couples who decide to have a child only in their late thirties should prepare themselves for a longer waiting time until they conceive.
Smoking reduces the fertility of men and women and causes damage to the unborn child. Furthermore, the risk of premature births is greatly increased.
In women, smoking has negative effects on the functioning of the ovaries and on the maturation process of the egg cell.
Men who smoke have far fewer sperm, and these may also demonstrate genetic damage.
High alcohol consumption damages male and female reproductive organs. Drugs lead to a change in the hormonal balance of both genders, leading to a decrease in fertility.
If you need to take medication, you should speak to your doctor as soon as you plan to conceive. Some medications can impair fertility.
Women who are severely overweight experience fluctuations in their menstrual cycle; overweight men have diminished sperm production.
Ovulation often does not occur in women who are underweight; men who are underweight often have impaired testicular function.
Following ovulation, the egg cell may be fertilised for up to 24 hours. If sexual intercourse takes place two to three days prior to ovulation, fertilisation may still occur, as the sperm cells can survive a few days in the fallopian tube.
For fertilisation to be successful, the man’s sperm needs to pass through the vagina, the cervix and the uterus and enter into the fallopian tubes. From there, it must migrate to the egg cell and penetrate it. To cover this distance, the sperm move forward independently on the one hand and are propelled by the reproductive organs of the woman on the other.
During a woman’s fertile phase, the cervical mucus which surrounds the cervix is clear, thin and penetrable for sperm. As soon as a sperm cell penetrates the coating surrounding the egg cell, the perimeter of the egg thickens to prevent other sperm cells from entering. Over the next few hours, the genetic information from the man and the woman unite, and the blueprint for the child is already laid down!
The fertilised egg cell, which develops into a blastocyst, travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus. The blastocyst then implants in the wall of the uterus. Now pregnancy begins.
The probability of becoming pregnant is much greater if the semen contains a high number of healthy sperm cells and if you have sexual intercourse on the day of ovulation or up to 24 hours after this. Ovulation only takes place once during a monthly cycle.