Fertility is a hot topic right now, with an average of over 4,800 people in the UK searching for fertility-related queries every month.
But with so many myths and misconceptions being shared online, it can be a difficult topic to navigate.
From how your ability to conceive is impacted by age to what causes infertility, we've consulted a doctor to bring you the expert-backed answers to the most Googled fertility questions.
Most searched-for fertility questions
1. How does fertility change with age?
For women, your peak reproductive years are between the late teens to mid-twenties.
"By age 30, fertility starts to decline, slowly at first, but from around age 35 and onwards, the drop in fertility becomes more prominent," explains Dr Natasha Fernando, head of clinical excellence at Medichecks. "By age 45, it'll become unlikely for you to fall pregnant, even with fertility treatment."
The factors contributing to age-related declines in fertility include:
Changes in egg quality
Frequency and efficiency of ovulation
Increasing risk of pregnancy complications
Increasing risk of miscarriage
Male fertility starts to decrease between age 40 and 45, when the number and quality of sperm produced begins to drop.
"As you get older, fertility issues may be caused by genetic abnormalities of the sperm, erectile dysfunction and changes in the reproductive organs and tissues," Dr Fernando adds.
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2. What causes infertility?
"Interestingly approximately 25% of infertility relates to the male and 25% relates to the female, 25% is a combination of both, and the other 25% relates to an unknown cause," Dr Fernando adds.
3. What is secondary infertility?
Secondary infertility is where someone who has previously had one or more pregnancies is now struggling to conceive again.
"Having had a previous successful pregnancy doesn’t guarantee that it’ll happen again the second time around," Dr Fernando explains. "Secondary infertility is very common and can be very frustrating for those who are trying to conceive a sibling for their child."
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4. How can you boost fertility?
Lifestyle changes can have a huge impact on reducing your risk of infertility, as well as helping to improve your overall reproductive health.
Some STIs can cause infertility if untreated, so it’s important to practise safe sex and get regular STI screenings if you’re sexually active.
Smoking is associated with a higher risk of infertility, miscarriage and premature birth, so one of the best things you can do for your fertility if you smoke is to quit.
Being significantly over or underweight can negatively affect your fertility by impacting hormone levels and ovulation. It can also prevent fertility treatments from working, so it’s important to try to maintain a healthy weight – you can use a BMI calculator to help you determine whether your weight is healthy or not.
For females, it’s safest not to drink alcohol at all but, for those concerned about long-term fertility, the best advice is to reduce alcohol intake as much as possible and stay within the recommended limits of no more than 14 units a week.
Most research suggests that less than 200mg of caffeine a day (about one to two cups of regular coffee) is unlikely to cause problems for most people, but excessive caffeine might increase the risk of pregnancy complications and even miscarriage so, if you’re trying to conceive, it’s best to reduce your caffeine intake as much as possible.
Chronic stress can interfere with ovulation and decrease fertility, so it’s important to find healthy ways to manage stress.
There’s evidence to suggest that eating healthier foods, like replacing unsaturated fats with more monosaturated fats (like avocados and nuts) and eating more plant-based unprocessed protein (like beans, chickpeas and lentils) can improve fertility. Consuming more fruit, veg and wholegrains also helps with the intake of vitamins and minerals that are important for fertility.
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5. Can you test your fertility?
There's no single test that’ll predict your fertility, and even if a test existed there are so many other factors that may affect a couple's ability to conceive a child.
It is possible to undergo a fertility blood test, however. This measures three hormones and can provide some insights into whether you’re heading towards menopause, or whether your egg supply (ovarian reserve) is normal for your age.
"These tests are usually performed at around day three of your period," Dr Fernando advises. "It measures your follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), oestradiol, and anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) levels, which can determine whether your ovarian reserve is declining and if any age-related changes have begun."
An Advanced Male Fertility Hormone Blood Test could also help investigate hormonal causes of male infertility, such as sexual performance and healthy sperm production.