Does age matter for fertility?
How does our age affect our fertility?
Age is a crucial factor affecting male and female fertility. The modern world presents us a huge number of opportunities, including the aspects of education, occupation, social and love life, and for this reason, the social pressure of getting married and having a child at a certain age has dropped, so we tend to postpone the creation of family for a better time – when we settle our careers, lives, financial issues, etc. Often we decide for having a baby at the age of 30, 40 or 50, and here come the difficulties. Ageing is an unpreventable natural process, and the modern pace of life with all the stress and adverse environmental impact contribute a lot to speeding it up, meaning that it affects fertility as well. So let’s try to find out what is the best age for having a baby.
Women: Chances of getting pregnant by age
The concept of best ages to get pregnant is not a prejudice or a myth, it’s pretty real and scientifically reasoned. With age the chances of getting pregnant for a woman sufficiently decrease. For example, at the age of twenty, they are around 25%, meaning that at the average it would require about 3-4 months to conceive a child. After 35, the odds fall dramatically from 20% to 5% at the age of 40, and after 45, there is a 2% probability of getting pregnant. So if you consider the fertility rates by age, you’ll see that after 45, you will need at least 20 months of constant attempts to conceive a child naturally; however, success is still highly unlikely.
Female fertility age chart
In this chart showing the chances of getting pregnant by age, you can notice that the most fertile age for a woman is 20-35. This women fertility age gap is ideal for conception in all aspects: the physical ability of the body to carry a child, egg quality and incidence of genetic deviations in a fetus.
In addition, the number of miscarriages increases with age. For example, at the age of 20, the chances of miscarrying a fetus are 10%, while, at the age of 45, they are as high as 90%. What is more, the age of the male partner also affects the possibility of having a miscarriage. It is believed that the woman whose partner is over 45 years old present a considerably higher probability of miscarrying. So this analysis of fertility by age shows that the best age for having a baby for a woman is by 20-35.
Age also contributes a lot to the risk of complications during pregnancy and labour. After the age of 35, women are more prone to stillbirth, caesarian section or other issues like placenta praevia (it is a condition when the placenta is not properly attached in the cervical opening area). So the women after 35 should be more carefully monitored by a doctor to make sure that she does not present any pregnancy complications.
How does your age affect your future child?
It has already been mentioned that with age the quality of eggs declines. But what does the notion of “quality” really mean? High-quality eggs are the ones that present high chances of conceiving a healthy child without any deferrals. What eggs are believed to be poor-quality eggs? Those are the ones with a high risk of different deviations. The children of older parents are more likely to suffer from a wide spectrum of diseases: from chromosomal abnormalities to autism disorder. Despite it may sound really scary most of the children are born healthy. The estimated risk of having an offspring affected by a chromosomal abnormality in women of the age of 30 is around 1 in 400 cases, while in women after 40 it increases to 1 in 100. The statistical data is pretty convincing, that is why women after 35 who refer to the IVF procedure are recommended to take genetic diagnosing tests and screenings to select a healthy and strong embryo with high potential for implantation.
The quality of eggs is not the only factor that influences your future child, so does the male sperm, which also is affected by the changes caused by ageing.
What about men and their fertility?
There is a common prejudice that men are equally fertile on all the stages of their life, no matter whether they are 20 or 60. We often hear that a man can conceive a child even when he is 80 or 90 because they don’t have to deal with menopause. But it’s not quite true. Unlike women, indeed, don’t lose their fertility entirely, but it does decline with age, but it is less obvious and noticeable than it is with female reproductive abilities.
The thing is that, with age, men do not stop producing sperm, but its quality suffers from age-related changes and thus impacts their fertilizing ability and the health condition of their possible children. The age of men plays a key role in the incidence of some particular genetic diseases, including Achondroplasia, autism, bipolar disease, epilepsy, spontaneous schizophrenia, etc. The older is the father, the higher is the risk of giving birth to an affected child.
So when does sperm start deteriorating? The quality of sperm starts declining after the age of 35, like in women, meaning that the fertility in both sexes starts reducing at the same age. So obviously the best age to have kids for both men and women is by their mid-thirties.
What can you do to preserve your fertility?
It’s a tricky question. You can’t make the time stop, but you can take some steps to eliminate the way it affects you and your health, in particular, your fertility. So that is why you should try to stay as healthy as it is even possible. So what does it mean? Making smart choices concerning your lifestyle, including health, diet and physical activity.
What can you do to maintain your fertility as high as possible?
- Take care of your weight. Couples with healthy weight have better chances of conceiving a child naturally. Extra weight may also cause some issues with hormone levels, which affect menstrual cycles, as well as the quality of eggs and sperm.
- Balance your diet. Food is closely related to the fertility rate; what is more, some products may increase your fertility and some may severely dent it. For example, the Mediterranean diet is known for improving your general health and fertility by providing the key fertility vitamins, while consumption of fast carbs (like sweets, pastry, potato, etc.) dramatically raise the sugar level in blood and thus causes a hormonal misbalance affecting your fertility.
- Physical activity is essential. Being in good shape will boost your fertility and positively contribute to your general health.
- Give up on bad habits. Smoking and alcohol consumption does affect your fertility. Alcohol intake, for example, is associated with poor sperm quality, count, motility, and fertilization rate. Greater alcohol consumption is associated with a longer time, necessary for conception and reduced IVF success rates.
What can we do about all that?
We say that we can’t stop the time. Or can we? With modern technologies, it is possible to stop the time for a moment when it comes to your fertility. IVF is believed to be a good solution for people who have to face the burden of infertility, for the price of this procedure is relatively affordable, and it seems to be pretty convenient. But, in fact, with time even this back-up option becomes less effective because younger men and women have better-quality reproductive cells. For example, the chances of live birth after three IVF treatment cycles (using their own eggs) in women under 30 is 52%, while in patients aged 35-40 – 34%, and after 40, it is only 10%.
Another trending option is to use cryoconservation technologies. Since your fertility decreases with your age, you may want to freeze your biological material to use it later in life, when you settle your life for having a child. Nowadays many clinics offer this type of services and related consultations, and they are becoming cheaper every year. So you can freeze your eggs when you are in the best age to have kids and use them when you are ready.
All in all, you need to be thoughtful while planning your family. If you do want to postpone your pregnancy for later, you may want to choose one of the options described above. And if you are after thirty and at this point, you have faced some issues related to conception, you may schedule a consultation in an IVF clinic to get a professional opinion, help, and advice.