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Here are the top 5 things you can do to be proactive about your fertility

At Modern Fertility, we're committed to giving you knowledge that helps you feel in control of your reproductive health, and there's a lot of knowledge to have. Where should you start when it comes to getting proactive about your fertility? Here are 5 essential steps for digging in.

Check in on those hormones!

Your hormones are fertility detectives, and so if you're thinking about having kids in the future, you should get acquainted with what they're up to now. Modern Fertility's test will tell you the levels of the hormones associated with fertility (FYI: if you're on hormonal birth control when you test, that will impact the results of the panel). These hormones are:

Anti-mullerian hormone (AMH): Produced by your follicles (the cellular structures that house and protect your eggs), AMH levels are a good indication of your ovarian reserve, or how many eggs you have.
Estradiol (E2): Estradiol, a sex hormone, plays an essential role in the menstrual cycle and in thicking the uterine lining so a fertilized egg can successfully implant. It's tested along with FSH, since it can impact those levels.
Follicle stimulating (FSH): FSH is responsible for the growth of those follicles, as well as for starting ovulation.
Luteinizing hormone (LH): LH regulates ovarian function, including the production of progesterone, which sustains a growing fetus.
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH): This hormone controls production of other thyroid hormones, regulating thyroid function and reflecting thyroid health.
Free thyroxine (fT4): Produced by your thyroid, this hormone is tested in order to fully evaluate thyroid function.
Prolactin: Known as the "milk" hormone, prolactin stimulates breast milk production. However, high levels can interfere with ovulation
Testosterone: Testosterone is not just a male hormone, it is also produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands in women. Testosterone is important for the development of follicles.

Testing these hormones can help you and your health care provider get a clearer picture of your ovarian reserve, the regularity of your ovulation, how your thyroid is behaving, and other aspects of your fertility, so you can move forward with as much information as possible. Retesting your hormones is also important, so that you can stop on top of your levels and make sure everything is tracking as it should.

Learn about your genetics and your medical history

How much do you know about your family's medical history? When did your mother start menopause? Finding this out can give you a good estimation of when you might start (although your AMH levels along with knowledge of your mother’s age at menopause are a better indication of timing). Did she have any issues with getting or staying pregnant? Are there any thyroid issues you should know about? Do you have a family history of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or premature ovarian insufficiency (POI)? Finding out everything you can about your mother and grandmother's health can help you preempt any fertility issues that you might have in the future.

In terms of your own health, get an STI test, and your partner should do the same. If you do have an STI, make sure to get it treated as soon as possible. And while you're at it, don't forget to check in on your vaccines and make sure they're up to date!

Talk to your doctor

You can bring your Modern Fertility test results to your doctor to discuss, and together, you can strategize around them. Should you stick with your original timeline for having kids, or should you act sooner rather than later? Should you consider egg freezing? What about assisted reproductive technologies like IVF or IUI? What impact might your family medical history have on your timeline? Check in with your doctor about your body mass index (BMI) - is it too high? Too low? BMI can impact fertility, so be sure your proactivity includes diet and exercise, but be sure you're not overdoing either of those. It can be helpful to write down your questions before you go into your visit, so you can spend more time listening and talking and less time trying to remember if you asked about everything you intended to.

Stop smoking

Did you know that quitting smoking is a natural boost to your fertility? The chemicals in nicotine speeds up the loss of eggs (which naturally die off as you get older) and also damage sperm. Smoking can also negatively impact how you respond to IVF, and can result in ectopic pregnancy (when the pregnancy grows in the fallopian tubes), preterm labor, and birth defects. But once you quit, your health, reproductive and in general, can improve within weeks or months, although some aspects take longer. So the sooner you quit, the better.

Get acquainted with myths

There is a lot of inaccurate information out there about fertility, and it's vital to be able to tell the difference between what's true and what isn't. Read on, we're going to bust 3 big myths about fertility.

Myth: You can't have a baby after age 40.

Insight: You can, but because fertility declines with age, it can be more complicated. "We are lucky in that a woman’s womb/uterus does not age the way the eggs do," says Dr. Nataki Douglas, M.D, Ph.D. Chair of the Modern Fertility Medical Advisory Board. IVF or IUI combined with an egg donor (or with your own frozen eggs) might be good options for women trying to get pregnant after 40.

Myth: Being on hormonal birth control will damage your fertility.

Insight: "Birth control has not been proven to have any harmful long-term effects on a woman’s ability to conceive," says Dr. Douglas. However, depending on which birth control you're on, it might take your body a minute to be able to conceive, especially if you've been on it for a long time. Keep in mind that if you were taking hormonal birth control to alleviate symptoms of PCOS or endometriosis, those symptoms will return when you stop taking birth control.

**Myth: Egg freezing guarantees that you'll be able to have a child someday. **

Insight: While freezing your eggs can alleviate some level of stress in regard to the timing of having kids, you should know that it's not guaranteed to work. There are many factors to contend with, including how old you are when you freeze your eggs and how old you are when you decide to use the eggs, and how many frozen eggs ultimately end up being viable. The decision to freeze or not to freeze is one you should make with your doctor, and you should have a plan in mind.

These 5 steps to getting proactive about your fertility will see to it that you're armed with the information you need to make decisions about your health and your future, so go forth and get that knowledge!

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Chanel Dubofsky

Chanel's writing has appeared in Cosmo, Rewire, Lilith, HelloFlo, & Extra Crispy. She has an MFA in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts & lives in New York. Follow her @chaneldubofsky.

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