Whether you’re ready for pregnancy now or are just keeping your options open for the future, it is never too early to start a conversation with your doctor about your reproductive health. Unfortunately, a lot of women don’t even approach the subject of their fertility with their doctor until they start trying to get pregnant and find that they are having difficulty. If you are between ages 20 to 40 and your doctor does not raise the subject, then you should.
Ask your doctor to test your ovarian reserve. Women are born with about one million eggs in the ovaries, and from that point on, egg supply is slowly dwindling down. This process speeds up in the mid-to-late 30s, which makes getting pregnant more challenging with age. A simple blood test to check your Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) level can provide information about your current egg reserve. As a woman’s egg supply declines, so does her AMH level. The AMH test is fairly routine, and can be completed by most standard laboratories.
Ask your doctor to check you for fibroids. It’s not only size, but location of fibroids that makes them a threat to fertility. If you have been diagnosed with fibroids, you should have periodic monitoring of your fibroids with a pelvic exam and ultrasound to be sure that they are not impacting your fertility. If you have surgery for your fibroids, you should ask your doctor how surgery may affect your future fertility.
Have an honest conversation with your doctor about your weight and lifestyle. If you are overweight, you are at greater risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. You may also have more difficulty conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy. At your annual exam, talk with your doctor about your body mass index (BMI) and ways to keep it in a healthy range.
There are other things that you can do to protect your reproductive health. You should get annual gynecologic exams, and practice safe sex techniques to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Don’t smoke cigarettes and avoid secondhand smoke, because both can lower your fertility. Lastly, incorporate healthy diet and regular exercise into your daily routine.
So are you ready to be a conversation starter? There’s no time like the present to talk about your reproductive health, especially during NIAW. #StartAsking
Desireé McCarthy-Keith, MD, MPH, FACOG
Dr. McCarthy-Keith is board certified in both obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. She earned her medical degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and also a Master of Public Health in maternal and child health from the University of North Carolina. She completed her obstetrics and gynecology residency training at Duke University Medical Center and a fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. McCarthy-Keith has special interests in male and female infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome, uterine fibroids and in vitro fertilization.
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