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How Age Impacts Your Fertility


More and more women are waiting until later in life to have a baby, well into their 30s and 40s, rather than beginning in their 20s. Women can successfully have children right through their 30s (and beyond), but with each passing year their fertility level drops a little.

Although most women over 35 will deliver a safe and healthy baby, the possibility of complications during pregnancy or delivery is raised. Sometimes the biggest hurdle to be faced is actually getting pregnant in the first place.

At What Age Are Women Most Fertile?

Between the ages of 18 and 24, a woman is at peak fertility. After she turns 35, her fertility starts to decline quite dramatically. 94% of 35 year olds will get pregnant after trying for three years, but the number drops to 77% between the ages of 35 and 38.

Age And Fertility -- Why They're Linked

A woman is born with as many eggs as she will ever have. By the times she reaches adolescence and begins to menstruate, the total number of eggs will have decreased from around 2 million to around 300,000 or 400,000. From then on the number will continue to decline, which is why age and fertility are closely linked. Every month, when she gets her period, only one or two of the eggs she releases will be 'viable' (likely to be fertilized). As a woman ages, she has fewer and fewer of these viable eggs, making the chances of getting pregnant slimmer. She will also begin to have shorter or more unpredictable periods, and the lining of her uterus will begin to thin, which makes it harder for a fertilized egg to attach and grow into a healthy pregnancy. Women 35 or over who are trying to get pregnant and having difficulty should seek counsel from their healthcare provider.

If I'm Over 35 And Pregnant -- Is My Baby In Danger?

No! At least, not any more so than babies with mothers in their twenties. The risk of major complications exists no matter the mother's age, but there are some risks specifically related to your age that you should consider:

  • Women of advanced maternal age are more likely to develop gestational diabetes (though this can be managed by diet, and disappears once you deliver your baby).
  • They have a higher risk of their baby being born with Down Syndrome -- a 1 in 100 chance after the ages of 40, versus a 1 in 2000 chance for a woman in her twenties. You'll be offered a genetic test to screen for the condition, and counseling if the test is positive.
  • Higher chance of stillbirth or miscarriage, but it is important to remember that even so, stillbirths are exceptionally rare.
  • The likelihood of there having to be medical intervention in your labor -- for example an induction, cesarean section, or the use of forceps or vacuum extraction -- is raised.
  • Babies whose mothers are 35 or older are more likely to be born prematurely and/or with a low birth weight.
  • There is an increased chance of developing pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure that can become life threatening for both mother and baby, if not monitored correctly.
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