How Age Affects Your Fertility

woman over age 30

How Age Affects Your Fertility

Your age is one of the most critical fertility factors. Regardless of advances in fertility research and treatments, maternal age directly impacts a woman’s chances of getting pregnant – whether at home with timed intercourse or with support from a fertility center.

5 Ways Maternal Age Impacts Fertility

While it’s true that sperm quantity/quality is also affected by the aging process, maternal age is more important when it comes to a couple’s overall ability to get conceive a healthy baby.

Here are five ways a woman’s age negatively impacts fertility rates:

1. Diminishing egg quality

Unlike sperm, regenerated regularly, women are born with all the eggs they’ll ever have. As a woman gets older, it becomes progressively more likely that the egg that you ovulate each month is chromosomally abnormal or that the egg leads to abnormal chromosomes in the embryo (like extra or missing chromosomes).  This means that the likelihood is lower than an egg from an older woman fertilizes, or turns into an embryo.  Furthermore, if this egg does fertilize and implant in the uterus, the chances of having a chromosomally abnormal embryo which could lead to a miscarriage or a baby with a chromosome abnormality increases.  This higher risk of a genetically abnormal egg is what is meant when people refer to egg “quality”.  There are no lifestyle changes that you can make (diet, exercise, supplements) to change egg quality – it is entirely dependent on your age.

This age-related diminishing of egg quality is one of the reasons egg freezing is more popular than ever. Women in their early 30s who want to delay childbearing until their later 30s or 40s can now freeze their eggs and increase their fertility chances when they’re ready to pursue IVF.

2. Reduction in egg quantity

Similarly, the older you are, the fewer eggs you have available.  According to the ASRM Age & Fertility Booklet, “At birth, there are about one million follicles. By puberty, that number will have dropped to about 300,000. Of the follicles remaining at puberty, only about 300 will be ovulated during the reproductive years. The majority of follicles are not used up by ovulation, but through…atresia.”

3. Reduced fertility success rates

The combination of diminished egg quality and quantity results in a drastic reduction in fertility rates in direct proportion to a woman’s age. Again, data from ASRM has determined that your age predicts the chances of getting pregnant each month you try:

  • Each month that she tries, a healthy, fertile 30-year-old woman has a 20% chance of getting pregnant.
  • By age 40, a woman’s chance is less than 5% per cycle.
  • The average age for menopause is 51, but most women become unable to have a successful pregnancy sometime in their mid-40s

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse in women between the ages of 20 and 34.  In women aged 35 and older, this time is shortened to six months.  As a woman becomes older, not only her natural fertility declines with age, but the chances of success of all of the different infertility treatment options (medicines like Clomid, injectable gonadotropins, even IVF) decline.  Especially if you are age 35 or older, it is recommended that you seek a consult with a Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility specialist sooner rather than later due to the lower chances of pregnancy with infertility medicines as time passes.

4. Exacerbated health conditions/side effects

The longer you live with a particular medical condition the more of a toll it takes on your body. This is also true for reproductive conditions like endometriosis, which may result in accumulated scarring of reproductive organs over the years. Other medical conditions knowns to affect fertility rates are:

  • STDs and other infections affecting the pelvis or reproductive organs
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other autoimmune disorders

If you know or suspect you have any of the above health concerns, speak with your doctor about your fertility goals to ensure treatment management supports future conception. Also, we recommend seeking support from a fertility specialist sooner rather than later when you’re TTC.

5. Increased risk of miscarriage, congenital disabilities, or high-risk pregnancy

Finally, women 35-years old and older are more likely to experience miscarriage, a high-risk pregnancy, or giving birth to a baby with chromosomal/genetic defects. The majority of the time, these risks are associated with the decline in egg quality mentioned above. The only way to decrease these risks in a woman of any age is to do IVF with genetic testing (preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidy [abnormal chromosomes] = PGT-A) on your embryos to determine which ones are normal, and then do an embryo transfer of a chromosomally normal embryo into your uterus.

Virginia Fertility Has Higher-Than-Average Success Rates

The team at Virginia Fertility & IVF is proud of our higher-than-average IVF success rates for women 38 years old and older. Are you having a hard time getting pregnant? Or, are you worried your advanced maternal age may compromise your baby’s health and wellbeing? Contact us to schedule an appointment.  Likewise, if you are worried about your future fertility and are considering freezing your eggs for use in the future, one of our infertility experts is happy to have a conversation with you about the options and how you can preserve your current fertility.

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