Fertility declines with age.
Many women and men, especially these days, are waiting to conceive. They may be waiting for the right time in their relationship or career, or they may have a checklist of things they want to accomplish before starting a family.
A woman's fertility works on something similar to a sliding scale. Women are most fertile in their late teens and 20s. Fertility gradually declines with age and begins to significantly decline from around 37 years of age.
Women are born with a finite number of follicles which declines until menopause. During the normal menstrual cycle, a single follicle will rupture and release an egg. It took 13 cycles for that single follicle to develop and grow to the preovulatory stage and it competed with approximately 1,000 other follicles. The other follicles die in process known as atresia. As you age, your ovarian reserve (number of follicles remaining in each ovary) reduces until menopause.
For men, fertility also declines with age, decreasing more so over 40. It can take five times as long for a women to get pregnant in the male partner is aged over 45.
Ideally, in terms of fertility, the best time to try to get pregnant is in your 20s, but this does not work for everyone. These days, many women get pregnant in their 40s. It's certainly possible, but it usually requires a little more planning and effort.
Fertility in your 20s
If you're in your 20s now, it is a good time to try to conceive. You are still in the most fertile time of your life. That is not to say that women in their 20s cannot have trouble getting pregnant, but statistically speaking, it will be easier than waiting until your early 30s. About 86% of healthy, fertile women in their early 20s will conceive within one year of trying. Health risks that often come along with pregnancy are also reduced in this time. For example, a woman in her 20s has only a 5% to 10% chance of miscarriage and only a one in 1,200 chance of having a baby born with Down's Syndrome.
Fertility in your 30s
About 63% of women in their early 30s will conceive after a year of trying, and once you conceive, the risks are higher than for women in their 20s. The rate of miscarriage for a woman in her 30s is about 20%. If you are trying to get pregnant in your 30s, it is especially important to reduce or eliminate other fertility-impacting factors, such as being over weight or under weight or smoking. It is also important to note that there are increased risks to the health of a baby born to a woman over 35 years of age. At 35, a woman's risk of miscarriage is 25% and the risk of having a baby born with Down's Syndrome becomes about one in 350.
Fertility over 40
In the early 40s, many women are still able to conceive, but the chances of getting pregnant are greatly reduced. Only 36% of women in their early 40s will conceive within one year of trying. Even with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), the most successful fertility treatment available, the success rate is only about 10% per try at this age. Given that fertility does decline rapidly at this age, most experts recommend that a woman seek fertility counseling after trying to conceive for only three months. By the age of 40, the miscarriage rate is 33% and the risk of having a baby with a genetic abnormality becomes one in 38.
Although many women are incapable of conceiving by the age of 45, it is still possible. However, women over 45 have less than a one per cent chance of conceiving using their own eggs. Please also see our article, Getting Pregnant In Your 40s.
How to get pregnant when older
1. Keep track of your cycle
In order to become pregnant, you must ovulate and sperm must be present to fertilize the egg. This means that you should know when you are about to ovulate and have sex during your fertile window (see below).
It's the same advice anyone would give to a 20-year-old who is trying to conceive, but tracking your cycle becomes more important in your 40s. Especially if early menopause runs in your family. Menopause: What To Expect, Symptoms and Treatments
You should keep close track of your cycle to be sure that you are still able to get pregnant. Use Ovulation Calculator to track your cycles and learn when you're most fertile. Click "Join" above to begin.
2. Stop any bad habits that may be impacting your fertility
If you have been smoking and/or drinking alcohol for most of your adult life, these habits may be working against you now. It is never too late to quit, but you must know that these are damaging habits that can reduce your chances of getting pregnant at a time when your chances are already declining.
3. Have sex during your fertile window
Plan to have sex as often as feasible within your fertile window, which starts five days before ovulation (six days including ovulation day). Your most fertile days are the two days leading up to ovulation day.
The only exception to this rule is if you know you are dealing with male factor infertility such as low sperm count. In this case, your doctor may recommend having sex less frequently.
4. Practice a healthy lifestyle with diet and exercise
To be sure your body is healthy enough to conceive, do your best to exercise regularly and eat a well-balanced diet rich in fiber and folic acid, which means eating a lot of vegetables.
Also, be sure to drink a lot of water, try for eight 8-ounce glasses per day. Staying hydrated will help thin out your cervical mucus, which will make it easier for sperm to reach the egg.
5. Take a supplement
You should be taking a prenatal vitamin for at least three months before conception.
When to see a fertility doctor
If you're under 35 and haven't become pregnant after one year of timed intercourse (unprotected sex during your fertile window), it's time to consult a fertility doctor. If you're 35 or older, it's best to see a specialist after about six months of trying to conceive.