We have heard and I am certain you may have been told that, as far as life is concerned, time is everything. To extend this fact a bit to a religious level, we can take a look at a well written ageless advice: Let us look at the Book of Proverbs: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing….”
In no other areas of human endeavor is time so precious as in human reproduction, especially in the female. Let us also look at some timeless wisdom that we may borrow a leaf from to guide us in our quest to understand human reproduction and fertility. There is a saying by the sage that as far as talents and resources are concerned, especially human endowment, “if you don’t use what you have been given, you will lose it.”
Combined with the idea of time, it means that if we don’t use our resources at the time allocated for it, age will catch up with us; the talents, resources and endowment that we have been given will decay and we will lose our chance and ability to make use of what we have been given.
This is even truer in the case of fertility and especially in female fertility. Aside, if you also misuse these resources in human body and misuse the time, infection such as pelvic inflammatory diseases (PID) may set in. Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) may ensue and damage the human reproductive parts and fertility. Delay in child-bearing may also allow fibroid to grow in the womb.
For Female: At the time of when babies are still in their mother’s womb and for a female, at about 14-22 weeks in the womb, a typical female baby (fetus while in the womb), carries about three million eggs (follicles) in each of her ovaries (one on each side of the womb). At birth, these eggs had fallen to about one million in each ovary. By the time of first menstrual cycle or puberty, say about 13-15 ), these eggs had fallen to 250, 000 in each ovaries. Fertility doctors call these follicles ovarian reserves.
Of all of these follicles, only a total of 500 will be released for fertilisation throughout the life of the woman. The rest of the follicles or eggs will remain dormant or go into natural waste.
Thus, a typical female’s peak reproductive time and fertility is between 22 and 32. Before 22, the physical structures supporting pregnancy is relatively immature. And besides, the individual may not be mentally ready to be a mother.
From age of 35, the ovarian reserves begin to diminish at an alarming rate so much that the fertility and reproductive ability falls off rapidly. That is not to say that women may not be naturally fertile beyond this time. Some do even into age of mid-forties. Those lucky ones are exceptions. Some may claim to be fertile up to age of 50, an age when the ovarian reserve is just about 1000 follicles that is left. To address the problem of age, assisted reproductive technology (ART) may be called for.
Such ability to naturally conceive at 50 is rare and women should not take things for granted or be misled especially as relates to timing of fertility. Women who have babies at 35 and above risk having genetically-deformed children, such as Down’s syndrome child. This is not to claim that all women having children beyond this age will have abnormal child. There are other risk factors at play. Again, women at the extremes of reproduction time should not take things for granted.
For Men: While one is tempted to think that women are at a fertility disadvantage compared to men, or put in another way, that men are at a reproductive advantage, such ideas are not true. Just as women undergo menopause, men also undergo fertility change. In fact, the reproductive ability of men diminish with age and from 65, men are likely to produce sperms that are abnormal that may give rise to mentally abnormal children. In addition, except in some cases, just as in women, the sexual ability or sexual stamina of men diminishes with age. In summary, as we can see, time is everything. Fertility in women is more timely controlled and women desiring children should take advantage of the fertility window as I have discussed in this article.
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