The Impact of Age on Fertility

woman age 40

The Impact of Age on Fertility

There is no doubt that advanced age has a negative impact on fertility. And, the reality is that while women are more youthful, vibrant and healthy at “advanced” ages (35-years and older) than ever before, fertility rates haven’t caught up.

Don’t let Hollywood’s celebrity pregnancy buzz be your guide when it comes to celebrating motherhood in the late-40s and early 50s, because most of these pregnancies required expensive, repeat rounds of ART, whether celebrities admit it or not.

Chances of Having an Infertility Diagnosis Increase with Age

While some of the leading medical causes of infertility are endometriosis, PCOS and other endocrine-related conditions, there is no doubt that “advanced maternal age” is one of the leading causes of female infertility in the United States.

The ability for women to obtain graduate-level educations, professional certifications and successful, satisfying careers are causing more and more women to “wait” before trying to conceive (TTC), a decision that can have negative consequences if you don’t plan carefully.

Fertility (and miscarriage) rates by decade

The chances of a healthy woman (without any infertility factors at work) getting pregnant within one year of trying are:

  • 75% in your 20s
  • 50 to 60% in your 30s
  • 50% and less in your 40s

While fertility rates go down with age, miscarriage rates go up. Only about 15% of women in their 20s will experience a miscarriage, but as many as 50% of women in their early-40s will miscarry and, after a woman turns 45, only about 20% of pregnancies are viable. Then of course, rates of chromosomal and/or genetic abnormalities also increase with age, so of those viable pregnancies, there are higher-rates of babies born with defects or genetic disorders.

Egg and Sperm Quality Decrease with Age

The bottom line is that both egg and sperm quality decrease with age. Women are born with a finite number of eggs and, in addition to diminishing ovarian reserves over time, egg quality also diminishes with age, making it less possible to conceive a viable, healthy pregnancy and baby after you turn 35, and particularly after age 37.

Contrary to previous, popular belief – paternal age also matters. Research findings show that beginning at age 40, but particularly after age 45, male sperm production is also compromised, yielding lower sperm numbers and higher-rates of poor sperm motility and morphology. Men over the age of 45- are also more likely to conceive children with birth defects, even with much younger partners.

Your immune system is working overtime

As we age, our immune systems become more and more finely tuned. Thus, fertility experts specializing in immunological infertility factors see that older women have higher rates of infertility related to immune system reactivity (i.e. your body recognizes the sperm, the fertilized egg and/or the newly implanted fetus as an “invader” and attacks it).

Are you 35-years or older and finding it difficult to get pregnant? Experts recommend seeking the help of a fertility specialist if you’re 35-years or older and have tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant for 6-months to increase your chances of fertility success.

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