Why Your Age Is a Big Deal When You’re Trying to Get Pregnant
Guess what? 60% of NZ women over-estimate the age at which fertility declines. Learn all about how age affects your chances of having a baby in this article from Fertility NZ
5 min read
Many of us underestimate the importance of our age when it comes to trying for a baby, even though there’s substantial evidence which shows that fertility declines as the number of candles on our birthday cake increases.
Simply put: it is harder to get pregnant as we get older.
In most women, fertility is highest until about 30 years of age and then declines, with especially sharp declines from 35 years. Male fertility probably declines from around 50 years.
As increasing numbers of people choose to delay having a baby, we are going to see more age-related fertility problems. A study of New Zealand university students has revealed unrealistic beliefs about the impact of age on fertility, with respondents predicting that fertility declined with age much later than it occurs in reality.
Women over 35 years of age are nearly twice as likely to experience unexplained infertility. For older people, it is very helpful to undergo a preconception health programme prior to conceiving to enhance their chances of a healthy pregnancy and child.
Is this you? Don’t wait to seek help.
Plan your last child…not your first
If you want to have children now or in the future, think about how many you want. Then consider this along with the estimated chance of conceiving at various ages, particularly for your ‘last’ desired child.
Recently published data shows the chance of having one, two or three children starting at various ages, with and without recourse to IVF (if needed). Check out the chart here [Links to the table on this page https://www.fertilityweek.org.nz/fertility-topics/age] or a quick summary is below.
For a 90% chance of reaching the desired family size, the maximum age of the woman when you start trying is:
1 child: natural conception age 32, Assisted Reproductive Technology age 35
2 children: natural conception age 27, ART age 31
3 children: natural conception age 23, ART age 28
Stats show 4.2% of men and 3.2% of women aged 45-54 years wished or still wish to have children, but have not had any.
Find out your mum’s age at menopause
Your mother’s age at menopause can help improve the prediction of your likely age at menopause. This is important because your ability to conceive virtually stops about 5-7 years before menopause, so knowing the age that you may reach menopause gives you a bit of extra information. Note, though, that the quality of your eggs declines for up to two decades before menopause.
If your mum was younger than 50 at menopause, you may be advised to take an Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) blood test or consider trying to conceive earlier.
An AMH test is a measure of your ovarian reserve (how many eggs you have left). Although it is not a precise predictor of when you will reach menopause, or how likely you are to conceive, it gives an indication of your ovarian reserve compared with the average woman of the same age. AMH results should be considered in conjunction with other factors including time of trying to conceive.
How is your man’s fertility affected by age?
As your man gets older, the volume of his sperm will decline along with the sperm motility and their size. However, age is not thought to affect a man’s fertility too much until after he is 50. Some research suggests that women who become pregnant by older men have a slightly higher risk of miscarriage.
A father’s increasing age has also been associated with a higher risk of autism, schizophrenia and new (not inherited) genetic abnormalities in children, just so you know.