There are a variety of factors involved in fertility and getting pregnant and one aspect that can play a part is your age. As you get older the ability to conceive does begin to decline, but this certainly doesn’t mean it’s not possible to achieve a successful pregnancy when you’re older.
More people than ever before are waiting to start a family until they’re older. Many choose to do so for career or financial reasons, and others as they don’t find their special someone until they’re a bit older. Whatever the reasons, it’s become much more of a norm to have a baby in your 30s or 40s, but it is important to realise that getting pregnant may take a bit more time than in your 20s.
This is because fertility declines with age. In fact, it falls more sharply for women as they age than men. Women are at their most fertile time between the ages of 20 and 24 years old, and then it declines as they reach the age of 30 and beyond. Men, on the other hand, remain fertile for a longer period; although their fertility ability does decline with age too, it’s not quite as dramatic as the fall in women’s fertility.
To put this into context, statistics suggest women aged 35 are half as fertile as when they were 25 years old. Similarly, at the age of 40, you’re half as fertile again as 10 years previously. Once you’re trying for a baby, the amount of time it takes to conceive inevitably depends on a range of individual factors, but age does play a part too.
Statistics suggest 92% of couples conceive within two years if they have regular sex every two to three days. But 6% of women aged 35 years and 23% of those aged 38 years old aren’t able to conceive, even after trying regularly for three years.
There are a number of factors involved in the decline of fertility, with some of the key issues being:
Having fewer viable eggs left in your ovary. This is a natural part of growing older, but is increased if early onset menopause occurs, as the egg reserve will then deplete sooner.
The lining of the womb, the endometrium, becomes thinner and may start to be less hospitable to a fertilised egg.
A change in vaginal mucus – it becomes less fluid as you get older and less welcoming to sperm.
Changes in your menstrual cycles as you get nearer to the menopause. It’s common to develop irregular periods or for them to get shorter and this affects fertility. In addition, having certain health conditions, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis or the sexually transmitted infection, Chlamydia, can all play a part in affecting your fertility. Add these on to the natural decline that occurs with age, and you may find it harder to achieve pregnancy.
All this may sound depressing for a prospective older mum-to-be, but don’t give up! Plenty of women give birth successfully in their 30s, late 30s and 40s – take Cherie Blair or Madonna, for example. As with any age, pregnancy may be quick and easy for one woman and a bit harder for another, but until you give it a go, you won’t know.