The average woman is born with 1 to 2 million eggs and these are all eggs she’s going to have in a lifetime. As a woman ages, her eggs age with her, diminishing in quantity and quality. By the time a woman gets her first period, this number of eggs reduces to about 300,000. Of all the existing eggs, not all are 100% viable for pregnancy. Age is a critical factor for female fertility. This is because as a woman grows older, her number of eggs drastically reduces. The first period is known as the menarche, which predominantly occurs around 12-13, although it may happen earlier or later, depending on each girl. Then after puberty, fertility increases, a woman’s fertility peak in the early and the mid-20s, after which it starts to decline slowly with advanced maternal age causing an increased risk of female infertility.
The early 20s (20 to 24)
The average woman’s fertility peak is at the age of 24. When a woman is in her early 20s, 90 percent of her eggs are chromosomally normal and healthy, which increases her chances of conceiving a healthy baby.
The mid-late 20s (25 to 29)
From age 25 to 34, the chances drop from 90 per cent to 86 per cent chance of conceiving after trying for a year. Here, chances of miscarrying are about 10 percent. This is no cause for alarm, as these are merely the average numbers and these rules don’t apply to every female.
The early 30s (30 to 34)
The success rate in the early 30s is still as high as 86 percent for couples that try for a full year. The challenge, however, is the increase in chances of miscarrying which increases to about 20 percent.
The mid to late 30s (35 to 39)
At 35, most women have a 15 to 20 percent chance of getting pregnant in a given month. That could mean a 78 percent chance of conceiving within the year. Nevertheless, 35 seems to be the age where fertility decreases, mostly due to the reduced quality of the eggs. There’s a little more risk of miscarriage or complications like Down syndrome pregnancy or an abnormal pregnancy. Here, timing is of the essence and women are advised to consult a specialist if they haven’t been able to conceive after 9 months of trying.
The early 40s (40 to 44)
With advancing age, egg quality and quantity continues to spiral downwards. By the time a woman is in her 40s, 90 percent of a woman’s eggs are chromosomally abnormal. The uterine lining thins and blood supply to it decreases with age, making it more difficult for the egg to implant. This is also the time women begin to approach menopause;3 which may shorten their menstrual cycles and ovulation occurs earlier in the cycle. The onset of menopause is generally between ages 40 and 60. If you’re trying to get pregnant, talk to a specialist right away. An ovulation predictor kit may also help with the timing of sex, if conception is taking more than three months.
45 and over
At 45, a woman’s likelihood of getting pregnant is no more than 3 or 4 percent. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but assisted reproductive technologies and treatments are almost always necessary. The few eggs left may have chromosomal abnormalities.
Regardless of any age, if a woman’s trying to conceive, figuring out exactly when they’re ovulating is the most important step. Ovulation typically occurs 14 days before your subsequent period. Plan to have intercourse in the five days prior to that day and for two days after. Age is not something we can control. But if you want a baby or another baby, and you’re in a relationship, you can have a conversation with your partner sooner rather than later.
In recent years, a lot more women are putting off getting married and having kids in their 20s. Such that, more women are having babies in their 30s. However, from a purely biological perspective, it’s best to try to start a family before you’re 35 years old. It is equally crucial to note that though men can remain fertile into their 50s and beyond, male fertility declines with age as well.
The Good News
If you’re trying for a baby and you’re over 35. You have a higher chance of having multiple pregnancies. The older women become, the more likely it is for them to conceive non-identical twins. This is because, the body has to produce twice as much follicle stimulating hormone- the hormone responsible for ovulation- in order to ovulate. This over-production of FSH can result in more than one follicle ripening and release an egg(s). Thus, causing more than one egg to be fertilized and more than one baby.
Why does fertility decline so rapidly?
Ovulation problems and blockages to the fallopian tubes as a result of infection are the two most common causes of female infertility.
Ovulation problems come as a result of having a fewer good quality eggs left, making conception more difficult.
Blockages in the fallopian tubes may be caused by an infection or certain health conditions. For instance, an untreated chlamydia infection can develop into pelvic inflammatory disease, blocking the fallopian tubes. This could prevent fertilization or increase the risks of an ectopic pregnancy.
Other health conditions that can affect fertility include:
- Endometriosis can cause fallopian tubes to thicken with scar tissue. Endometriosis worsens with age. The damage inflicted on the fallopian tubes can lead to an ectopic pregnancy.
- Fibroid is more common in women over 30 and are a major cause of infertility.
- Being overweight can make it more difficult to become pregnant. Losing weight may also help you conceive if you have the ovulatory disorder, PCOS.
What will help me get pregnant?
Age aside, there are some steps you can take to improve your chances of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy.
If you have any of the following conditions, you may want to see you’re a specialist as sooner as possible. These conditions include: