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Age and fertility HolisticHer

How Age Matters For Your Fertility

It's a biological fact that as women and men age, their potential to have children decreases, although the exact time when this starts to happen can vary among individuals. Age-related infertility is becoming more common in today’s society as many couples are now waiting until their 30s to begin their families. Here's a blogpost on why age matters for men and women who want to have a family.

Female Fertility

A woman’s fertility decreases as she gets older due to both the quality and quantity of her eggs declining. 

A woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have and the number of eggs and their quality reduces over time. This is why a woman’s chance of having a baby also reduces over time, especially for women older than 35 years of age. This information can be difficult for women who, for whatever reason, are not ready in their 20s or early 30s to start a family.

A woman in her early to mid-20s has a 25 to 30% chance of getting pregnant every month. However fertility generally starts to reduce when a woman is in her early 30s, and more after the age of 35. By the age 40, the chance of getting pregnant in any monthly cycle is around 5%.

The decreasing quantity of egg-containing follicles in the ovaries is called “loss of ovarian reserve.”

Women begin to lose ovarian reserve as they age and since women are born with all of the follicles they will ever have, the pool of waiting follicles is gradually used up. Occasionally young women may have reduced ovarian reserve due to smoking, family history of premature menopause, and prior ovarian surgery. Young women may have diminished ovarian reserve even if they have no known risk factors 

Egg quality also declines as women age. At fertilization, a normal egg should have 23 chromosomes, so that when it is fertilized by a sperm also having 23 chromosomes, the resulting embryo will have the normal total of 46 chromosomes. As a woman gets older, more and more of her eggs have either too few or too many chromosomes. Most embryos with too many or too few chromosomes do not result in pregnancy at all or result in miscarriage. This results in a lower chance of pregnancy and higher chance of miscarriage in older women.

 

Because of the changes that happen in eggs and sperm as we age, including damage to genetic material, children of older parents have a slightly higher risk of birth defects and genetic abnormalities. It is estimated that the risk of having a baby with a chromosomal (or genetic) abnormality is approximately one in 400 for a woman aged 30 and one in 100 for a woman aged 40.

The risks of miscarriage and complications in pregnancy and childbirth are also higher for older women than for younger women. Older women also have a higher risk of having gestational diabetes, placenta previa, placental abruption, a still birth and a caesarean birth than younger women.

The average age for menopause is 51, but most women become unable to have a successful pregnancy sometime in their mid-40s. These percentages are true for natural conception as well as conception using fertility treatment, including in vitro fertilization (IVF). A woman’s age also affects the success rates of infertility treatments.

Infertility usually is diagnosed if a woman has not become pregnant after 1 year of unprotected intercourse. However, if she is 35 or older, the evaluation should begin after 6 months of trying unsuccessfully to conceive.

 

Male Fertility

More recent studies have found that the age of the male partner also affects the chance of pregnancy and pregnancy health.

Male fertility generally starts to reduce around age 40 to 45 years when sperm quality decreases. Increasing male age reduces the overall chances of pregnancy and increases time to pregnancy.

Sperm cells of an older man are also more likely to have genetic abnormalities than those of a younger man. After that age, men have a lower semen volume and sperm count. The sperm they do have don’t swim as well. This doesn’t mean that a man can’t father children in his 40s and beyond. But it might be a little more difficult than it was earlier in his life.

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It can be more challenging to get pregnant as you get older however it is still possible to have a healthy baby when you’re in your 30s or 40s.

Ultimately, the best time to get pregnant is when it feels right to you. In today’s society there has been a shift to waiting until one feels more confident in their career and finances, before starting a family.

If you decide to have a baby later in life it’s very likely you will do so without having problems. However, it might take longer to get pregnant and some people may need assistance. If you do choose to wait, you might want to check with your doctor or a fertility specialist to make sure you have all of the information you need.

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