In a time when so many women are waiting until later in life to begin their families, it has never been more important to understand how thoroughly your age is linked to your fertility. Whether you are just thinking of starting a family or have been on this journey for quite some time, there are some important facts that you should know.
While male fertility remains largely unchanged by age, women experience a drastic decline beginning in their 30s, especially after the age of 35. While at the height of her fertility, a healthy woman has a 20% chance of conceiving each month. By the time she is 40, this number will decrease to only 5%. Unfortunately, many women are unaware of this decline in fertility until it is already underway. There are often questions of how or why this shift occurs so drastically, and there are two primary answers:
1. Egg Quantity
As a woman ages, the number of remaining eggs falls. In fact, every month from 20 weeks gestation in utero, throughout the course of her life, thousands of a woman’s eggs will die daily. Unlike men, who continue to produce new sperm throughout their lives, women are born with all of the eggs that they will ever possess. As this loss of “ovarian reserve” occurs, the follicles become more resistant to follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), requiring more stimulation for ovulation to occur. Eventually, the follicles will be unable to ovulate consistently. Irregular cycles will result.
2. Egg Quality
Unfortunately, as the ovarian reserve is depleted, the remaining eggs are generally lower in quality, most notably by her mid-to-late 30s. These eggs often do not contain the appropriate number of chromosomes (23), having either too few or too many. For this reason, the risk of miscarriage or having a child with Down syndrome increases.
When considering these two factors along with other elements that may occur such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), it becomes very clear as to why women experience so much more difficulty becoming pregnant and avoiding miscarriage as they age.
While the road to a successful pregnancy may be more difficult for a woman beyond her early 30s, there are still helpful steps that can be taken and treatment options that may be considered. If you are 35 or older and have been trying to conceive for at least 6 months, you should schedule an appointment with a fertility specialist. They will be able to perform specific tests, allowing them to make the appropriate diagnoses and develop a treatment plan.
FertilityAnswers offers a skilled staff, laboratories, and specialized units to make the evaluation and treatment of infertility a smooth process. Furthermore, we are acutely aware of the physical, financial and emotional strain that comes with infertility. If you are ready to see a fertility specialist, or if you simply want to learn more about our practice, please contact us at 888/467-BABY (2229) or by completing the form below. We are ready to help.