Everyone knows that fertility changes with age. Yet all too often, the information surrounding this topic is mishandled, to the point that many couples experience confusion and anxiety when thinking about this matter. If this describes you, take a deep breath – and take a few moments to explore the facts behind age related infertility in women.
Fertility As We Age: A Timeline Of Aging’s Infertility Factors
It’s well documented that a woman’s fertility peaks in her 20s. It’s in her 30s – especially after the age of 35 – that her age may begin to affect her fertility. According to The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a healthy, fertile 30-year-old woman has a 20% chance of getting pregnant each month. And by the time she turns 40, chances are less than 5% each month.
Age-related fertility issues occur for a number of reasons. One reason has to do with ovulation. As she ages, a woman will begin to experience shorter and more infrequent periods – a sign that she is not ovulating on a regular basis any longer. And without ovulation, a woman has no chance of getting pregnant each month. Eventually, a woman’s periods will stop altogether – and after she does not bleed for one full a year, a woman is said to be in menopause.
It’s commonly understood that women who are experiencing menopause cannot get pregnant. In reality, however, women might stop being fertile 5 to 10 years before they even begin menopause. With the average woman experiencing menopause at the age of 51, it’s a good bet that most women – might be unable to successfully get pregnant sometime in their late-40s.
Not only do women experience difficulties ovulating over time – the eggs released during ovulation begin to decline in quality as well. This decline occurs for a couple of different reasons:
- A natural degenerative process known as atresia affects all women, whether they are pregnant, they are using birth control, they have normal monthly cycles, or they are already undergoing fertility treatments.
- In addition to dealing with atresia, older women’s eggs are more likely to suffer from aneuploidy – meaning that the eggs in a woman’s ovaries are likely to have too many or too few chromosomes. Chromosomal irregularities are also a natural occurrence that affect all women as they age. They might result in conditions such as Down syndrome – or even cause a woman to miscarry.
What You Can Do To Address And Manage Age Related Infertility
Unfortunately, more and more women today are having trouble getting pregnant due to age-related fertility issues. It’s not uncommon for the modern woman to wait until her 30s to begin trying to build a family – at which point her fertility may be declining for age-related reasons.
So what’s a girl to do? We recommend using the following tips and strategies to increase your chances of pregnancy if you’re afraid that you’ll be facing age-related fertility issues someday:
- Don’t smoke. Experts report that women who smoke tend to experience menopause about a year earlier than non-smokers. Ditching the habit may help boost your natural fertility for a little longer.
- Don’t fret too early. All too often, women in their 20s find themselves fretting about their fertility – long before age-related fertility issues typically begin to manifest! Worrying about this issue will do nothing good, and could even cause stress related health issues.
- Don’t wait too long to take action. While you don’t need to fret during your 20s, you also don’t need to do nothing, especially as you near your 30s. Thanks to 21st century medicine, many women are able to successfully freeze and preserve healthy eggs during their “fertile” years for later use. You can also undergo an AMH test to track your eggs’ health and put your mind at ease, if you’re really stressed about when your biological clock may wind down.
- Work with your doctor regularly if you want to have a family. Regular doctor’s visits – even during your 20s – are extremely important for women who want to start families. By staying on top of her health, a woman can ensure that issues that could affect her fertility – such as STDs or STIs, high blood pressure, diabetes or other similar chronic conditions – are addressed sooner rather than later.
- Don’t wait (too long) to visit a fertility expert once you’re trying to conceive. Women over the age of 35 should visit a fertility expert after 6 months of trying unsuccessfully to conceive, and women who are younger should speak with an expert after one year of trying. A fertility expert will be able to order or carry out the physical exams, blood tests, and so forth that are necessary to diagnose your overall reproductive health. And once testing is complete, your doctor will also be able to prescribe an appropriate treatment – as well as suggest any lifestyle changes – that could help you overcome any fertility issues you are dealing with.
While age-related fertility issues cannot be avoided, they also don’t need to be a source of panic or anxiety for hopeful future mothers. By understanding the timeline of age-related infertility, younger women can take steps to help prepare to address or avoid this issue – and women over the age of 35 can seek out the testing and treatment they may need. Ultimately, by learning about this issue and the options available to address it, women and their partners can realistically prepare to address it, and will be equipped to make the best decisions they can.