The role of age in fertility

women under 35The decision to start a family is a very personal one and it is different for every person. There are many things to consider. Are you ready financially? Are you prepared emotionally? Are you in the right place in your life?

Let’s talk statistics: the average age of first-time motherhood in the UK is 31; however, the average age of a woman seeking assistance in conceiving a child is about 37, which is quite old when it comes to childbearing. The reason is often that many modern women are very career-oriented, so they don’t start thinking about having a child until later in life.

The problem is, many individuals do not realise just how dramatically fecundity declines as they age. In fact, the biggest predictor of outcome for females is their age, but the age of the father does count as well. For example, after the age of 45, there is a drop in fecundity for both men and women.

Here’s a look at the role of age in fertility.

The mother’s age

Average age of having babyThe fact of the matter is, the older a woman gets, the less likely she is to conceive – and even with fertility treatments, advanced age can be a challenge. Typically, around the age of 35, many women may see a drop in their fertility. Women under that age – and those that have been pregnant before – tend to have the best chance of conception. However, it is around the age of 40 that fertility drops even more dramatically.

So, how does fertility change as a woman ages?

Obviously, fertility varies from woman to woman, so there is no reliable prediction of when your fertility will begin to decline; however, women often lose the ability to conceive years before seeing the first signs of menopause. The decline in fertility is gradual and is directly related to the number and quality of eggs in the ovaries.

Non-ovarian factors also play a role in the loss of fertility. As a woman ages she is more likely to have experienced medical issues that could inhibit conception – endometriosis, fibroids, polyps, cancer and tubal diseases, for example.

The father’s age

Men over 45It is known that men can remain fertile for much longer than women, though there will be a decline as the man ages. The father’s age and how it affects fertility is not as well defined as that of the mother, but some research suggests that around the age of 40-45, there is a drop in the number and quality of the sperm. With older fathers, there is an increased risk of genetic disorders in their offspring.

Therefore, if you’ve made the decision to start a family, age is an important consideration. The older the parents the longer it may take to conceive. However, there is another important factor to consider: having a multiple pregnancy.

When an older woman conceives there is an increased chance of her having non-identical twins. This is usually due to an increased amount of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) in the body, which causes the ovaries to release more than one egg at a time. The idea of two babies may be a welcome thought for some mothers, but it needs to be understood that carrying a multiple pregnancy – and caring for the subsequent babies – is more demanding of your time, body, and finances.