Age and Fertility
When you are trying to conceive, it can be daunting to look at the charts that indicate your chances of getting pregnant in your 20s, 30s, and so on. But how do age and fertility go together to really affect a woman’s ability to have a baby?
“Your biological clock is ticking” is an unwelcome statement most women have heard at some point during their life. Unfortunately, your ticking clock is based on clear data and time will run out. However, just how much one’s chances fall as one ages can be unexpected. The undeniable truth is that age is the most significant factor that affects a woman’s fertility and chance to have a healthy baby, and it affects men too!
A woman’s best, physical reproductive years are in her 20s. During this time, she has a 25-30% chance of getting pregnant each month. Even though the 20s are prime time for a woman’s body, that isn’t always the case when it comes to being ready to have a child. In fact, an increasing number of women are choosing to wait to have children.
In fact, when the Centers for Disease Control studied birth rates in 2016, they found that “rates for older women continued to rise, resulting in a higher birth rate for women aged 30–34 than for women aged 25–29 for the first time since 1940 when the data became available.”
Even though, most women reach peak fertility between the ages of 23 and 31, your chances of conceiving in your early 30s are only slightly lower than in your late 20s.
So, while a woman’s fertility starts to decline in her early 30s, that decline doesn’t start impacting most women until it begins to speed up after age 35. That means there is a big difference in try to conceive in your early 30s compared to your late 30s.
The Dreaded Decline
It’s a pretty well-known fact that age 35 is a significant milestone for women when it comes to fertility and starting or growing your family. By age 40, the chance of getting pregnant every month drops from 25-30% in your 20s down to just 5% every month, with about 25% of women over 35 experiencing difficulties becoming pregnant.
What Aging Does to The Body’s Reproductive System
For women, the number of eggs you’re born with are all the eggs you get. That set number of eggs age with you throughout your lifetime and decrease in quality and total amount over time. A newborn baby girl is born with 1 to 2 million eggs and by puberty, that number goes down to about 250,000-500,000 eggs. By early to mid-30s, a woman has around 25,000 eggs left. Just as leading a healthy lifestyle can slow the decline of egg quality, bad habits can age eggs faster. Unfortunately, you can’t reverse the damage once it’s been done.
As men get older, it is a decline in testosterone that affects fertility. Male fertility generally starts to decline around age 40 to 45 years of age. The volume, quickness (motility), and overall quality of the sperm declines as men age. While the decline of male fertility is subtler, it still presents increased risks for the health of the child.
Chance of Conception Decreases While Risks Increase
It’s important to understand the increased complications of advanced maternal age and be as proactive in addressing and mitigating these risks the best way possible. We know aging reduces the overall chances of pregnancy and increases time to pregnancy (how many cycles it takes to conceive), but aging on both the man and woman’s parts can negatively affect your pregnancy and the baby’s health.
Genetic abnormalities increase as the age of the parents rises, leading to a higher chance of miscarriage as well as pregnancy-related complications like an increased risk for an ectopic pregnancy. The rates of gestational diabetes, and high blood pressure. Furthermore, c-sections also increase for those over 35 compared with mothers in their 20s. Additionally, complications for the baby, including preterm birth, poor fetal growth, low birth weight, and neonatal mortality increase with advanced maternal age. Most significantly for aging men, fathers aged 40 or over are at increased risk of having children with mental health and developmental disorders.
Understanding YOUR SPECIFIC Risks
While this all may sound scary, it is important to note every couple is different. Try to keep in mind that most healthy women over the age of 35 have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. A consultation with a board-certified OB/GYN or reproductive endocrinologist (REI) will help you understand your specific risk factors based on a comprehensive overview of your medical history and overall health as a couple. Your physician can also review additional steps (like lifestyle changes) or tests (like genetic testing) that can be done to increase your overall chances for a successful outcome.
Ready or Not, You Have Choices
As with all things pregnancy-related, fertility is different for each individual woman, but experts say that women age 35 and older need to get serious if they want to have children and especially if they want more than just one child.
If you aren’t ready for children as you approach that 35-year milestone, you do have options if you still want children one day. Some women choose to freeze their eggs. This option literally freezes the eggs at the age the woman is at retrieval. With egg freezing you can pursue other goals without giving up your dreams of parenthood! While there are more options available the younger a woman is, women over 35 still have choices about building a family. A consultation with a fertility expert can give you more information on options that might be the right fit.
Help If You Need It – Kindbody Cares About Making Your Dreams of Parenthood Come True
Our mission, at Kindbody, is to help our patients find their way to fertility health and treatment with the highest chance of success by providing them with innovative, scientific, cutting-edge treatment options along with an unparalleled patient experience.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment, and we can discuss options for achieving your ideal family!