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Age and Infertility

Introduction: Understanding the complex relationship between age and fertility is crucial in this process. As women age, their fertility gradually declines, with a significant decrease occurring in their mid-thirties. This decline in fertility has led to an increase in couples experiencing challenges with conception as more people are choosing to delay marriage and children. In this article, we will explore the impact of age on fertility, the connection between age and fertility, as well as other factors that affect fertility. Additionally, we will delve into the treatments available for infertility, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), and the specific considerations for women undergoing pregnancy after the age of 40. Moreover, we will highlight the influence of age on male fertility and the importance of overall health for both partners in optimizing the chances of a successful pregnancy.

The Impact of Age on Female Fertility

If a woman ever says that she feels as if her biological clock is ticking, she may have a point. It turns out that a woman’s fertility starts to gradually decline in her mid-thirties. These days, more and more people wait to get married and have children. That could lead to an increase in the number of couples who experience trouble getting pregnant.

Graph showing the decline of fertility with age

Graph showing the decline of fertility with age from https://www.britishfertilitysociety.org.uk/fei/at-what-age-does-fertility-begin-to-decrease/

Age and Fertility

Before jumping to conclusions, it should be said that there are lots of women out there who conceive without any major problems. Yet it’s always something to be aware of; her magic window for getting pregnant is in her early twenties. This age group experiences the lowest number of miscarriages. A woman is at her most fertile around age 18 but this is pretty early for the majority of ladies today. In fact, the average age of first-time moms has been on a steady increase for the past few decades. In 2018, that age was 28. Compare that to the 1970s, when the average age was about 21.

Challenges in Conception

If people go by these statistics alone, they might assume that women today will have exponentially more trouble conceiving. However, it’s important to take into consideration other factors besides age. While it’s true that fertility drops in a woman’s thirties, she is still very likely to get pregnant in her early to mid-thirties if she’s trying. By age 38, infertility becomes a very real threat.

It’s not just an inability to conceive that thirty-something-year-olds need to think about. Women who get pregnant in their late 30s or 40s have a higher chance of having a baby with birth defects. Their likelihood of miscarrying also rises and can become too high for some couples to take the risk. The added stress of knowing these things can also hurt the chances of getting pregnant. While it’s totally okay to wait, holding out for too long can do irreparable damage.

Understanding the Biological Changes

As a lady gets older, she produces fewer eggs and even the ones that she does pass tend to be of lesser quality. A girl is born with all of the eggs that she will ever have. She passes one from her ovaries to her womb every month, starting at puberty. This typically happens every month until menopause hits, usually in her fifties. Some women experience menopause in their forties or even thirties. Anyway, those eggs are sitting there with one getting released each month. Over time, the eggs that stay in the ovaries are getting older and older. That’s why as a woman ages, she is less likely to conceive.

Factors Affecting Fertility

Of course, age isn’t the only deciding factor that a couple should think about. Lifestyle habits can play a huge role in how long it takes to conceive if they can at all. Things such as smoking and excessive drinking can hurt chances, as can carrying extra weight. Obese women have a harder time getting pregnant than women who are at a healthy weight. Sexually transmitted diseases will also play a part, which is why safe sex is so important.

Whether a woman has been trying to conceive for a while or is just starting to consider it, seeking professional advice is always a good idea. Understanding the biological and lifestyle factors involved can make all the difference.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) as an Option

If a couple is having trouble conceiving, they aren’t necessarily stuck in that situation. One option is in vitro fertilization, or IVF. Even so, IVF isn’t for everyone and some clinics may turn down a couple if they are past a certain age. Just as with a natural pregnancy, IVF can be less likely to succeed if a woman is older. A variety of tests can help doctors come to a conclusion about a couple’s chances with IVF. They look at several different factors and run a few exams to make a solid decision. In some cases, IVF may be the best solution but in other cases, it might not be suitable.

In the UK, IVF treatments may be available to a couple at little to no cost. In general, women under the age of 40 should be entitled to three free cycles of IVF treatment if they meet certain parameters. This includes evidence that IVF is their only option; they have failed to conceive after two years of trying; and they haven’t gotten pregnant with artificial insemination.

For women aged 40 to 42, one free cycle of IVF may be available if they haven’t had success with artificial insemination; they’ve tried getting pregnant for two years without success; they’ve never undergone IVF before; and they tested negative for low egg count. It is possible that women may have to pass other qualifications. This could include being childless, a non-smoker, at a healthy weight, and under a pre-determined age.

Considering Men’s Fertility

Don’t forget about the other half of the relationship. Infertility isn’t solely a women’s problem. Men become less fertile with age, primarily due to lower sex drive, decreased level of male hormones, and diminished quality of sperm. If both the man and the woman are over the age of 40, they may find it particularly difficult to get pregnant and that can be incredibly stressful. Again, an IVF specialist will take into consideration the ages and health conditions of both the man and the woman.

Pregnancy After Age 40

If a couple is able to get pregnant after age 40 or so, hospitals and doctors pay special attention to each trimester. A number of specialists may be assigned to the woman and they will keep tabs on her health as the baby grows. One in five pregnancies after age 40 ends in a miscarriage so medical professionals will usually be very involved in an older woman’s pregnancy. Pre-natal and post-natal appointments will also be crucial for the mother.

Maintaining a Healthy Pregnancy

In order to ensure the highest chances of a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and baby, women can be careful to maintain a healthy weight; refrain from smoking, using drugs, and drinking heavily; stay active; and eat a nutrient-dense diet. They should limit their caffeine intake and get enough folic acid. There may be a few more things to consider but it’s well worth it when a healthy baby is in the arms of his or her mother.

Happy couple at home at Christmas

Happy couple at home at Christmas

Conclusion: We have witnessed the emotional and physical challenges that come with the IVF journey. It’s a process that may present unexpected hurdles and require resilience. Each case is unique and requires personalized care and understanding, which is what we strive to provide at First Fertility.

FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does age affect fertility?

Yes, significantly for both men and women. Women’s fertility declines in their late 20s to early 30s, with a sharper drop after 35. Men’s fertility also declines but usually later in life.

2. Why does female fertility decline with age?

Women are born with all their eggs, and as they age, the quality and quantity decrease.

3. What are the risks of getting pregnant after 40?

Higher chances of miscarriage and birth defects are more likely. Doctors will closely monitor pregnancies after 40.

4. What are some other factors affecting fertility?

Lifestyle choices like smoking, weight, and stress can all play a role.

5. When should I see a fertility specialist?

Couples under 35 trying for over a year or over 35 trying for more than 6 months with no success should seek help.

  • Published on : Thursday April 25, 2019
  • Last updated : Saturday June 29, 2024
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About the author

Michelle Tan is an IVF Consultant with 12 years of experience in fertility consulting. Having personally undergone IVF and surrogacy, she brings firsthand insight and empathy to her work. Based in Singapore, Michelle frequently travels to clinics in Bangkok, Phnom Penh, and Bishkek, sharing her expertise and supporting patients on their fertility journeys.