Are you interested in your options for pregnancy after 35? The first thing to know is that you’re not alone. The mean age of motherhood is currently rising in the US – according to the National Center for Health Statistics more women in their early 30s and 40s are having children than ever before.
While it is more common, having children at an older age is not the same as in your 20s. In this blog we’ll cover how women’s (and men’s) fertility changes with age, how risk factors around fertility and pregnancy change after 30, and how women in their 30s and 40s can boost their fertility.
How Does a Woman’s Fertility Vary With Age?
In their official report on age-related fertility, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reports that while women are born with 1-2 million eggs, only around 400 will be released over your lifetime. From age 32 – and increasing rapidly after age 37 – hormonal balances shift, gradually reducing many women’s fertility rates. Eggs have an increased chance of chromosomal abnormalities and other inherent issues that impact the rate of your pregnancy.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) data also supports this finding. The percentage of IVF cycles resulting in live births was:
41.5% in women younger than 35 years old
31.9% in women aged 35–37 years
22.1% in women aged 38–40 years
2.4% in women aged 41–42 years
5% in women aged 43–44 years
1 % for women older than 44 years.
This data supports the recommendation of the ACOG for women over 35 to speak with a medical professional about their options after 6 months of trying to conceive with no result. There are ways to help. If you’d like to learn more about your options, visit our website to connect with one of our healthcare professionals to find the best treatment option for you.
Is There an Age Limit to Male Fertility?
Male infertility impacts conception in 40 to 50% of couples. Much like female infertility, the chances of issues arising also increases with age.
A University of Colorado study determined key fertility factors affected by the age of your male partner:
Quantity: A lower sperm concentration lowers the chance of one successfully reaching the egg. This will ultimately decrease with age, although the exact time at which it does varies from person to person.
Movement: Usually called motility in this context. Sperm need to be able to swim to the egg. If under 40% of sperm are moving correctly, it drastically limits the ability to conceive. This decreases linearly with age at a rate just under 1% per year.
Shape: Healthy sperm have oval heads and long tails – perfect for swimming. The closer to that shape, the better they are at getting to the egg. The percentage of sperm with the ideal shape also decreases linearly with age at a rate just under 1% per year.
DNA Fragmentation: DNA fragmentation in sperm increases over time. Although the debate around its exact influence in infertility is ongoing, it is often flagged as an issue in unexplained infertility.
Environment: Environmental factors, such as exposures to certain toxins and chemicals, may also play a part.
There is no exact age limit on male fertility. However, healthy sperm production tends to decrease sharply after the age of 50.
What Are the Risk Factors of Conceiving After 30?
Your body changes as you grow older. Knowing what risk factors may naturally emerge will help you and your doctor understand what to look for when seeking to conceive. Specifically, The Mayo Clinic highlights:
Twins (or more) may be Likely: Hormonal changes increase the chance for simultaneous release of multiple eggs. IVF can also play a role.
Possibility of Developing Gestational Diabetes: This is a condition where your blood sugar levels become high during pregnancy, and is more prevalent as women get older. Fortunately, it can be mitigated through diet and physical activity.
Increased Risk of High Blood Pressure: Pregnancy-related high blood pressures is more common in older women. Carefully working with your doctor to monitor your blood pressure and your baby’s development and taking proactive steps to address this possibility is crucial.
Potential for Pregnancy-Related Complications: Older mothers have a higher risk of pregnancy-related complications. Babies are more likely to be premature, require a C-section, or have a low birth weight. These could result in an early birth, which is associated with a broad spectrum of medical problems (an overview can be found here). Complications could also necessitate a C-section delivery, for example in the case of placenta previa (the placenta blocking the cervix).
Chromosome Abnormalities are More Likely: Several chromosome problems, including Down syndrome, are more prevalent among babies born to older mothers.
Pregnancy Loss is More Likely: For reasons that tie into previously listed issues, the chance of miscarrying and stillbirth are higher in older mothers. Miscarriage is often tied to chromosome problems, which increase with age. High blood pressures and diabetes also play a role.
How to Boost your Fertility in your 30s
A comprehensive fertility plan involves more than just medical treatments and programs. There are several steps you can begin taking right now.
While many medical factors around pregnancy shift as you grow older, the healthy habits that boost fertility do not. While we know the recommendations for healthy living extend to diet, exercise, and sleep, your lifestyle choices also impact your cycle and chances of getting pregnant. Interested in learning more about the steps you can take to help increase your fertility? Our previous blogs – Fact or Fiction? Investigating 7 Common Fertility & Pregnancy Myths and Holistic Ways to Increase Your Fertility – outline actionable measures you can do to help increase your fertility.
We’re Here to Help
There is a tremendous amount that goes into the science and practice of fertility, and everyone’s journey is different. If you have more questions, schedule a consultation or for more information about commonly asked questions see our video resources.