If you’re trying to have a baby, you may be wondering — what does my age have to do with reproducing? In short, a lot! As you get older, your chances of getting pregnant naturally decrease. Studies have shown that fertility for all sexes starts to decline around 35. To better understand your chances of getting pregnant, let’s take a closer look at how reproductive ages affect your ability to conceive.
Understanding Reproductive Health
Before we dive in, let’s establish some basics on reproductive health. To initiate an embryo, sperm needs to fertilize an egg. However, as people age, eggs might become less available, and sperm counts might start to decrease.
It’s natural for fertility to decline as we age, though this decline hits people with older eggs harder. Each time a woman menstruates, they have fewer higher-quality eggs available. Generally, this means fertility peaks between the ages of 20-30 — but since more people have children later in life, you may be past your reproductive prime by the time you decide to get pregnant.
People with sperm have it slightly easier, as sperm can continue to be healthy enough to create a baby into their 40s and 50s. After these ages, though, sperm count may decline, making it harder to conceive naturally.
Egg Health at Different Ages
As we mentioned above, egg health can vary depending on your age. People in their 20s are generally the most fertile and have the highest number of quality eggs paired with the lowest risk of pregnancy complications. Here’s how fertility looks at every age:
• At age 25 you have about a 22% chance of getting pregnant naturally each month.
• At age 30 you have about a 20% chance of getting pregnant naturally each month.
• At age 35 you have about a 16% chance of getting pregnant naturally each month.
• At age 40 you have about a 9% chance of getting pregnant naturally each month.
What’s the Reason for This Change in Reproductive Health?
It’s likely because you’re running out of eggs. People with eggs are born with about 1 million of them, but by puberty, you could only have around 300,000 left. You’ll end up menstruating about 300 to 400 of these during your lifetime, but the rest will die off over time as they get older.
Additionally, your chances of having a baby with genetic abnormalities increase as you get older. This is because your remaining eggs can have chromosomal anomalies.
At age 45 and later, it will be tough to get pregnant with your own eggs, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of options. Plenty of treatments can help you have a healthy, happy baby.
Sperm Health From Your 20s to 50s
Men have it slightly easier when it comes to sperm health. You’ll likely have strong enough levels of semen volume and sperm count to cause pregnancy all the way into their 40s. That said, one study found that individuals 35 and older had fertility rates of 25%, compared to 52% in people younger than 35.
Why Does Sperm Fertility Decrease?
These changes in fertility could be attributed to sperm mobility. Even if you have enough sperm, weak swimmers won’t be able to fertilize an egg. One study found that people around 55 years had sperm that traveled 10% less distance than those who were 25 years old, suggesting a motility decrease of about 0.8% per year.
Seminal volume — the total amount of discharge during ejaculation — also decreases as you get older. While it stays pretty steady throughout your 20s and 30s, semen volume drops from around 2.80 mL at age 45 to 1.95 mL at ages 56, and above.
Put together, all of these changes can affect your ability to fertilize an egg — but with a little fertility assistance, they shouldn’t be dealbreakers.
These reproductive health concerns can be compounded if you’re a member of the LBGTQ+ community. If you’re trans and want to have a child, you may not want to stop taking your gender-affirming hormonal treatments long enough to increase your fertility. Experts estimate that you’ll need to discontinue hormonal therapy for at least three to six months before your ability to conceive returns — though some may experience a permanent loss of fertility. That’s why it’s best to consult a fertility doctor throughout the process so they can assess your reproductive health and provide advice along the way.
Gay and lesbian couples also have the additional obstacle of finding an egg or sperm donor or gestational carrier to help build their family. They’ll want to ensure donors are healthy and don’t have any predispositions for genetic disorders. And as a lesbian couple, if wanting to carry the embryo themselves, they should have testing to make sure they’re healthy enough for pregnancy.
Understanding Your Options
If you’re reaching an older reproductive age, don’t worry. Here at Dominion Fertility, we offer personalized fertility treatment to assist in your ability to have a child. Our stimulated cycle IVF or donor egg IVF programs can help you get a viable, fertilized egg you can carry yourself. For sperm motility issues, you might try intrauterine insemination, which places sperm directly into the uterus.
The first step in your fertility journey is meeting with a reproductive physician. Through a thorough fertility assessment, your physician will work with you to develop a treatment plan with the goal of fulfilling your dreams of parenthood.
Don’t let age put a damper on your ability to have a child. Join us at Dominion Fertility today to chat about your options for having a baby at any age.