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Before our fertility journey even began, my husband and I knew that In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) was in our future.
Knowing this, we had the opportunity to plan. We understood that getting pregnant might not be simple, and so we could make an educated decision about when to start the process.
While our struggles might not have been fun, the silver lining was knowing what we were dealing with from the beginning.
For most other hopeful parents, however, you don’t know how things will turn out until you give it a try.
You might postpone trying to have a baby because you don’t feel ready or you’re trying to accomplish certain milestones, like furthering your education or career. Or maybe you already have a child but want to wait awhile before you try for another.
In situations like these, when the time finally comes to start a family, things might not happen as quickly as you’d hoped and fertility by age becomes more important.
The longer you wait to have a child, the higher the chances will be that your fertility declines and you could struggle to conceive or maintain a pregnancy.
While you should never rush into getting pregnant just to beat your biological clock, it’s critical to understand the relationship between age and fertility.
Before you make any concrete decisions about your life plan, though, make sure you have the facts you need to make an educated decision.
Age and Fertility: A Hopeful Parent’s Battle with Time
As long as I live, I will never forget how I felt sitting in the waiting room of our fertility clinic.
I would subtly glance around the room and look at the other patients, who were all quietly waiting in an office to hopefully achieve their dream of becoming parents.
There was a sense of tension in the air, mixed with a breath of careful optimism.
I would overhear their fertility stories, and my heart would break for the struggles they’d already endured.
I counted us lucky; my husband and I knew this was our reality from the beginning. We skipped the uncertainty that comes from negative pregnancy tests month after month. We never experienced the heartache that comes with recurrent miscarriage.
While many of the other patients were struggling with fertility-related conditions like poor egg quality or low ovarian reserve, others had simply waited so long to try that natural conception was more difficult.
They’d been focused on other things instead of starting a family. And why shouldn’t they have been? In a society with growing opportunities for women, why shouldn’t you take on the job or options you’ve dreamt of? There is absolutely no shame in waiting until the time is right for you!
Some others were simply not ready to take the leap of having a baby.
Maybe they’d never expected to have children and came to the conclusion later in life. Perhaps they were driven to see the world before they settled into the role of parents.
None of these reasons for delaying pregnancy should be considered shameful, especially when reproductive medicine and fertility treatments make it much more likely to have a healthy baby later in life.
It’s imperative to decide based on what’s right for you and not what your body (or society!) demands you to do.
Just know as you make the decision to wait that there can be a cost to postponing pregnancy.
Fertility by age is an ever-changing variable. What might have been possible in your 20s is more likely in your 40s, thanks to the wonders of modern medicine. But that doesn’t mean the process is easy.
How Does Time Affect Our Ability to Conceive?
Women are in a quiet race against the number of eggs they have available for conception.
Did you know that a woman is born with all of the eggs she’ll ever have? Approximately 1 million eggs, to be exact.
While this might seem like a fair number of eggs to work with, they quickly diminish over time. By the time women hit puberty, around 300,000 eggs remain.
In addition to increased chances of infertility and miscarriage, several other risks when women conceive later in life. These include:
- Genetic abnormalities, e.g., Down Syndrome
- Preterm labor
- Gestational diabetes
- Challenging births
- Birth defects
It’s not just women who are at risk of developing problems with their fertility as they get older. Studies have shown that men over 40 have a lower chance of conceiving due to low sperm count, sperm motility, and a decrease in semen.
When to Get Pregnant – Is There a “Best” Age to Have a Baby?
Let me start by stating that I’m not a fan of the question, “What is the best age to have a baby for a woman?”
Our parenting community believes in making the best decisions for your family. This is not always a clear-cut problem to solve. What’s “best” shouldn’t just involve your body’s reproductive age and chance of pregnancy.
Deciding when to get pregnant should include looking several factors. These include, finding the right partner (if you choose to parent with someone), finances, life and family goals, education, career, and your dreams.
Scientifically speaking, the “best” age for a woman to get pregnant is in her early-to-mid 20s. Strictly from a biological standpoint, your body has the highest chance of conceiving each month during this period.
With that in mind, however, take a moment to consider your life in your early 20s.
I, for one, had no idea what I was doing.
Sure, I’d finished college and was engaged, but I hadn’t landed on a career, bought a house, or spent some time enjoying adulthood–all things that were important to me before kids.
Just because you’re physically ready for a baby doesn’t mean you’re mentally or emotionally “there.”
Don’t rush into starting a family just because you think it’s physically the right time.
And if it makes you feel any better about choosing to wait, you’ll be happy to hear that the average age of first-time moms is now 29.9 years old, and many women conceive much, much later.
At What Age Does a Woman Stop Being Fertile?
When it comes to figuring out when to get pregnant, many women might wonder how much time they have left before conception is no longer an option.
While I’m firmly in the camp that nothing is impossible, it is worth noting that getting pregnant naturally after the age of 45 is unlikely.
And if you want to know where you stand in terms of fertility, no matter your age, there are ways to find out! You can ask your doctor for fertility testing, but there are also at-home options if you don’t yet meat the criteria for testing with your medical care provider.
We love Modern Fertility, a comprehensive fertility test you can take at home to learn whether you want to consider options like freezing your eggs so you can wait longer.
The results of a test from Modern Fertility can also help you advocate for yourself with your doctor if you didn’t previously qualify for fertility treatment, but the results of the test show that you do, in fact, need to see a reproductive specialist.
Is Age a Common Factor in Secondary Infertility?
Absolutely. Whether you started having children later in life, or you waited several years before deciding to have another, the dilemma of wondering if your life choices are at odds with the best age to have a baby can undoubtedly lead to secondary infertility.
In fact, it’s one of the most common reasons moms might struggle to conceive another child.
Is Getting Pregnant After 35 Naturally Still an Option?
The short answer is “yes.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be easy.
By the time a woman hits 35, her reproductive abilities can swiftly decline. Every year after that, the likelihood of her getting pregnant without medical intervention, such as IVF or surrogacy, will continue to diminish.
Here’s a breakdown of what fertility by age looks like for the average woman:
1. Fertility by Age 20
- Women between the ages of 20 – 24 have a 86% chance of getting pregnant within a year of trying to conceive.
- The women in this age group only have a 3% chance of experiencing infertility.
2. Fertility by Age 25
- Women between the ages of 25 – 29 have a 78% chance of getting pregnant within a year of trying to conceive.
- The women in this age group have a 5% chance of experiencing infertility.
3. Fertility by Age 30
- Women between the ages of 30 – 34 have a 63% chance of getting pregnant within a year of trying to conceive.
- The women in this age group have an 8% chance of experiencing infertility.
4. Fertility by Age 35
- Women between the ages of 35 – 39 have a 52% chance of getting pregnant within a year of trying to conceive.
- The women in this age group have a 15% chance of experiencing infertility.
5. Fertility by Age 40
- Women between the ages of 40 – 44 have a 36% chance of getting pregnant within a year of trying to conceive.
- The women in this age group have a 32% chance of experiencing infertility.
6. Fertility by Age 45
- Women between the ages of 45 – 49 have a 5% chance of getting pregnant within a year of trying to conceive.
- The women in this age group have a 69% chance of experiencing infertility.
7. Fertility by Age 50
- Women over the age of 50 have less than a 1% chance of getting pregnant within a year of trying to conceive.
- The women in this age group have more than a 99% chance of experiencing infertility.
Check Out an Age and Fertility Calculator for More Information
Are you looking for a simple way to figure out the relationship between your age and fertility?
Plus, if you want to increase your chances of conceiving naturally, tracking ovulation can be a game changer. And if you’re worried that your biological clock is ticking, it may be helpful to skip methods like ovulation tracker apps and ovulation test strips and go straight to fertility tracking using a fertility monitor like the Ava bracelet.
Fertility By Age 40 – Searching for Alternative Solutions
The numbers are clear; there’s a concrete connection between age and fertility. But again, this is NO reason to rush into becoming a mother.
If you’ve passed the age of 40 and discovered no obvious issues during infertility testing, your chances of starting a family is not a lost cause.
Thanks to the miracle that is modern science, hopeful parents have more options than ever before for conceiving a baby past their prime reproductive years.
If these types of solutions aren’t a good option for your or your partner, never forget how many babies are waiting to be fostered or adopted worldwide.
Don’t Be Afraid to Press Snooze on Your Biological Clock
When you don’t feel ready to start a family or get pregnant with another little one, the ticking of your biological clock can seem like continual white noise in the background.
It’s never a bad idea to turn the volume down if that’s what you want to do.
While there’s certainly a connection between age and fertility, it’s not worth giving up your goals or lifestyle if you’re not ready to do so. In fact, rushing to get pregnant before you’re ready can be a bad idea.
No matter how much time goes by, remember that options still exist for conceiving after age 35 and after 40. While having a child may or may not happen the way you imagined it would, you can still be a parent if that’s something you’re open to in the long run.
Were you concerned about age and infertility? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
Kristen Bergeron is a freelance writer from Florida. In addition to writing, she is a wife, mother of two beautiful girls, Hadley and Scarlett, and a part-time photographer. After overcoming infertility and having two successful IVF cycles, she’s made it a personal goal to help educate men and women on the realities of fertility struggles. She is passionate about supporting fellow women who are trying to navigate the complicated world of conception, pregnancy, and learning to be the best mothers we can be.