Fertility can also be used as a metaphor: having a "fertile imagination" means being able to think of many new and interesting things.
As a measure, fertility rate is the number of children born per couple, or person or population. This is different to fecundity. This is defined as the potential for reproduction (influenced by gamete production, fertilisation and carrying a pregnancy to term. In English language, the term was originally applied only to females, but increasingly is applied to males as well, as common understanding of reproductive mechanisms increases and the importance of the male role is better known. Infertility is a deficient fertility.
Human fertility depends on factors of nutrition, sexual behavior, culture, instinct, endocrinology, timing, economics, way of life, and emotions. Animal fertility is no less complex, and may display astounding mechanisms.
In the United States, the average age of menarche (first period) is about 12.5 years. However, in most girls, menarche does not signal that ovulation has occurred. In postmenarchal girls, about 80% of the cycles are anovulatory in the first year after menarche, 50% in the third and 10% in the sixth year. Women's fertility peaks between ages 22–26, and after 35 it starts to sharply decline.
Birth rates have been noted by Henri Leridon, PhD, as an epidemiologist with the French Institute of Health and Medical Research. Of women trying to get pregnant, without using fertility drugs or in vitro fertilization:
- At age 30
- 75% will have a conception ending in a live birth within one year
- 91% will have a conception ending in a live birth within four years.
- At age 35
- 66% will have a conception ending in a live birth within one year
- 84% will have a conception ending in a live birth within four years.
- At age 40
There is evidence that male reproduction abilities are reduced with higher age. Sperm count is becoming smaller with age, with men aged 50–80 years producing 75% of sperm compared with 20–50 years old males. If the sperm count is too low, a man could increase it with herbal and chemical supplements. Even larger change can be seen in the number of seminiferous tubules produced by males at different age stages:
- In males 20–39 years old, 90% of the seminiferous tubules contain mature sperm.
- In males 40–69 years old, 50% of the seminiferous tubules contain mature sperm.
- In males 80 years old and older, 10% of the seminiferous tubules contain mature sperm.
When a person is infertile it means that they are unable to have a child naturally. Infertility is define as the inability to fall pregnant or carry a pregnancy until birth after 12 months or more of unprotected sex. About 10% of people are infertile. This means that 1 in 10 people will not be able to conceive a child naturally. There are many causes of infertility some of them can be treated. As a woman gets older, her fertility declines. After menopause a woman is no longer fertile.
- King R.C. et al. (2006). A Dictionary of genetics. 7th ed, Oxford University Press. p. 234
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- Leridon, Henri (1 July 2004). "Can assisted reproduction technology compensate for the natural decline in fertility with age? A model assessment". Human Reproduction. 19 (7): 1548–1553. doi:10.1093/humrep/deh304 – via academic.oup.com.
- "Spanish woman 'is oldest mother'". BBC News. 30 December 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-30.
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- Male fertility supplement website
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