Women over 40 getting pregnant- how age affects fertility
Last week, Dr. David Fenig talked about advanced maternal age and how fertility decreases after age 35, and again after age 40. It’s a fact that the spontaneous pregnancy rates for women over 40 are much lower than women under the age of 35. Today, so many women are putting off having children to pursue career and education, yet are many times unaware how age affects fertility. The fact is, when it comes to child bearing, women really are limited by age.
Consider this chart which shows how the likelihood of a woman getting pregnant decreases from about an 86% chance between the ages of 20 and 24 years to about 35% between the ages of 40 and 44 years. This likelihood decreases even further by age 45 to a mere 5% chance of getting pregnant spontaneously. The chart also demonstrates how infertility rates rise significantly as a woman reaches age 40. The likelihood of infertility is about 15% between the ages of 35 and 39 and then rises sharply to 32% at age 40.
It’s important for women to understand that as they age, so do their eggs. Many women believe that if they are getting a regular period, that means they are ovulating (true) and there’s no problem with fertility or conceiving (not always true). However, older woman can have problems with eggs being fertilized, or fertilized healthily. In fact, for women over the age of 35, and especially over age 40, the risks of congenital birth defects also increase significantly.
It’s important to note that for couples trying to conceive naturally, we typically give women over the age of 35 only about six months of actively trying to get pregnant – which means monitoring ovulation monthly and having regular intercourse – before we recommend that both partners have a thorough work up to evaluate fertility.
Fortunately, there are a number of fertility options that we can offer older women who are having trouble getting pregnant naturally including assisted reproductive technologies like Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). But, it’s important to note that even these fertility treatments are not as effective after age 38 and into the early 40’s because of the woman’s aging eggs. It’s so important to be seen by a fertility specialist as early as possible.
Additionally, for couples who come to the Vasectomy Reversal Center of America considering a vasectomy reversal, we make sure to educate them about the chances of conceiving naturally when the woman is over the age of 35. Because it can take six to 12 months for the man’s sperm count to reach an optimal stage for natural conception following a vasectomy reversal, women of advanced age often don’t have the luxury of time.
For women trying to conceive after age 35 or even age 40, education and understanding the effects that age has on fertility is truly important. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about getting pregnant after 40 and to discuss the best options for you when it comes to conceiving a child…please feel free to leave your comments here.