You want to have babies, just not right now. Your ticking biological clock is making you nervous, though.
You know that fertility declines with age, but what does that mean for you? How long is too long to wait?
Let’s talk about what your chances of getting pregnant are by age.
The global average childbearing age has gone up over the last several decades. Wage disparities, economic and gender inequalities, and COVID-19 have made many women think harder about when to have kids.
Women in industrialized countries have more choices than they used to, and in most of these countries, the average childbearing age is now around 30.
Planning when to have a baby is a very personal choice. Whether you’re focusing on work, improving your finances, or you’re just not ready, it’s okay to not want kids right now. Every person’s fertility journey is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to timing pregnancy.
Fertility does decline with age, but that doesn’t mean you need to rush into something that isn’t right for you.
But what do we mean when we say fertility declines with age? We’re generally talking about your odds of getting pregnant within a year if you’re having regular sex without birth control. These odds are expressed in a percentage of one hundred. The higher the number, the better your chances of getting pregnant.
Odds of getting pregnant by age chart
Notice that if you’re under 40, your chances of getting pregnant in a year are greater than 50%. So if you’re in your 20s and worried about your fertility, try not to feel rushed because of your age. Even women in their 40s can and do conceive successfully.
Getting pregnant after 30
Many women are waiting to get pregnant until after they turn 30, and your odds of getting pregnant are still good. These odds decrease over the course of your 30s. Women’s fertility starts to decline at about 32, and takes a more steep drop after 37.
There are also more age-related risks associated with getting pregnant after 35. Doctors sometimes call this Advanced Maternal Age, or AMA. Women who get pregnant after 35 may experience more complications like high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and cesarean sections.
Yet there are definite pros to waiting until your 30s to have kids. Women who wait until after 35 tend to be more financially stable than women in their 20s. They tend to prepare and plan more for childbirth, which could make the transition into motherhood easier.
If you’re over 30 or 35 and trying to get pregnant, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by information about complications. Many women at this age feel anxious and rushed as they try to get pregnant and have a baby. It’s still possible to get pregnant successfully after 30. If you’re worried about your risks, speak with your doctor.
Getting pregnant after 40
Trying to get pregnant after 40 is possible, but it may be more difficult. This is because your reproductive system ages just like every other system in the body.
At 40, your ovaries and eggs may not function the same as they did when you were in your 20s.
If you’re trying to conceive after 40, you may experience a longer period of trying to conceive.
For some women, this will affect the number of children they can have. If you are hoping to have more than one child, it may be best to start trying before 40.
This will give you enough time to seek advanced fertility treatments if you have a hard time conceiving.
Women above 40 are more likely to have complications around childbirth. 27% of pregnancies after 40 end in a miscarriage, compared to 16% for women 30 or younger.
Women over 40 may be at a higher risk for preterm delivery, gestational diabetes, and high blood pressure during pregnancy.
There are also more fetal risks for women who get pregnant after 40. Babies born to older women are more likely to be born prematurely, or with a low birth weight. They’re also at a higher risk for genetic abnormalities like Down syndrome.
Yet we understand these risks better today than we used to. We have more control and treatments for pregnancy risk factors.
We also have more options for women who need advanced fertility treatments, like in vitro fertilization and embryonic gene testing.
If you’re above 40 and trying to conceive, speak with your fertility doctor about mitigating your risks to have a healthy baby.
Getting pregnant by age 50
Women’s fertility steeply falls in their late 40s and 50s. The menopause transition prevents many women from getting pregnant after they turn 50, and it’s rare for this to happen without help. Using frozen eggs and IVF treatments can help women over 50 conceive.
The average age of perimenopause is between 50 and 52. Women who wait to get pregnant until their 50s will likely experience difficulty conceiving. At this age, your egg reserves are low, and your fertility cycle may not be as regular as it once was. Even with fertility treatment, it may not be possible to get pregnant if you’re starting the transition into menopause.
Still, some women do successfully conceive after 50, and it’s becoming more common. 2018 data from the Office of National Statistics in the United Kingdom showed that births to women over 50 quadrupled in the last 20 years. More options in advanced fertility medicine are allowing women to conceive later.
But why does age have such an impact on women’s fertility? Aren’t men able to have kids their whole lives? Let’s get into why conceiving gets harder as we age.
Age and fertility
There are a lot of reasons why fertility falls as we age, for both men and women.
Age and male fertility
When couples have problems conceiving, it’s easy to look at the age of the woman. But men’s age also affects how fertile they are, and whether a successful pregnancy can happen.
Menopause stops women’s fertility cycle, ending their reproductive years. Men don’t have this switch. But their fertility does decrease with time, even though they still produce semen.
Research has shown that age negatively affects sperm concentration, motility, and viability. Men who are trying to conceive after 40 may have difficulty because of this.
Since couples are often close to the same age, older couples may have problems conceiving because of their combined decrease in fertility. Using donated sperm or frozen eggs may help couples have children if both partners are over 45.
Age and female fertility
Women have the most follicles they’ll ever have before they’re even born. These follicles decrease over time. Some are used to create eggs for ovulation, some are reabsorbed into the body in a process called atresia.
The amount of viable follicles a woman has may impact her ability to have a healthy pregnancy. As her number of oocytes decreases, so does her ability to conceive and successfully carry a baby to term. Check out this chart on how many eggs a women has at different points in her life cycle:
But time doesn’t just affect the amount of eggs you have, it also affects the quality of the eggs and how your reproductive system functions. Here are some of the organs and systems that change as we approach perimenopause:
- The ovaries produce less estrogen, which is critical for female fertility. Dropping estrogen causes a rise in Follicle-Stimulating Hormone, which prevents ovulation.
- The uterus loses muscle, which can lead to prolapse. This doesn’t directly prevent pregnancy, but it can lead to complications.
- The fallopian tubes shorten, losing epithelium and mucosa that allow fertilization to happen.
- The vagina shortens and loses elasticity. Vaginal secretions are reduced, and the lining of the vagina thins. These changes can make sex less enjoyable, and can limit sperm movement.
These changes in women’s reproductive systems mean that as they get older, having a baby gets more difficult. With age, your cycles may become irregular and it can become difficult to track your ovulation day.
With Inito, you can take the guesswork out of tracking your fertile window. Not only can you accurately track your follicular phase with Inito, you can confirm that ovulation actually happened. Because it tracks LH and progesterone (PdG), Inito gives you a complete picture of ovulation.
If you’re trying to get pregnant later in life, don’t wait to get help from a professional. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists now recommends that women over 35 seek treatment if they’ve been trying to get pregnant for six months or more. Women over 40 should get evaluated by a fertility specialist if they are interested in conceiving.
Summing up how age affects fertility
- Women’s odds of pregnancy decline with age, starting at around 32 years. But your odds of conceiving are still greater than 50% throughout your 30s.
- Getting pregnant in your 30s is associated with more risks, but it’s becoming more common.
- It may be more difficult to get pregnant after 40, and you’re more at risk for complications. Still, it’s possible for many women.
- Getting pregnant after 50 is rare, but possible. Women who get pregnant in their 50s are at risk for birth complications, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and genetic abnormalities.
- Age affects both men’s and women’s fertility. Men’s sperm quality falls over time, which can affect their ability to conceive.