Age is an important factor for a woman trying to conceive. There are unique challenges to keep in mind when trying to conceive in your 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Egg quantity and egg quality are directly affected as a woman ages. Did you know that a woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have, somewhere in the 1 million range? By the time a woman has her first period, she will have only 300,000 eggs left. Each month, once menses begins, a batch of eggs begins to develop and grow inside fluid-filled sacs on the ovaries called follicles. The eggs grow through a nuclear and cytoplasmic process inside these follicles. Nutrient hormones, growth factors and antioxidant hormones play important roles in egg maturation and ultimately in egg quality. Typically only one egg reaches full maturity and is released during ovulation each month while the rest of that batch of eggs dies.
What does this mean for you and how can you meet the challenges to become pregnant at the age you desire?
During your 30’s, you are likely to conceive and bear children with little difficulty. 90 percent of your eggs at this age are chromosomally healthy. Consuming a nutritious diet and getting regular exercise plus limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption can help support your fertility. For those with no known infertility issues, give yourself 12 months of trying to conceive before seeking a consultation with a fertility specialist. If you have a known condition that may affect your fertility such as Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or Endometriosis or if you have irregular periods, seek help sooner. If you find yourself feeling abundantly concerned at any point, don’t hesitate to seek help.
Thyroid issues can lead to overproduction (hyperthyroidism) or underproduction (hypothyroidism) of thyroid hormones, which can each negatively affect fertility—both getting pregnant and being able to carry a fetus to term. Consulting with your physician to regulate thyroid hormones can assist in achieving pregnancy.
After age 35 the decline in fertility is much steeper. Conversely, there is a rise in the risk of miscarriage. Consuming a healthy diet, getting consistent exercise, giving yourself ample sleep and taking supplements are all potential ways of boosting egg quality and increasing your chances of conception.
Don’t wait too long to seek help if you are having trouble getting pregnant. Time, or as we often refer to it, the biological clock, is a more crucial component after you reach your mid 30’s and therefore it is recommended to see a fertility specialist after 6 months of trying without success.
You might benefit from infertility treatments such as intrauterine insemination, in vitro fertilization (IVF), or even freezing healthy eggs for pregnancy later. Preimplantation Genetic Testing, or PGT, is an option for patients in their 30s (and 40s) to screen cells from embryos for genetic diseases and chromosomal abnormalities prior to transferring them. PGT tests can detect embryos having an abnormal number of chromosomes or spot structural rearrangements that could otherwise inhibit a successful conception and pregnancy. This testing helps lower the risk of miscarriage and helps achieve higher pregnancy success rates.
This is the age where egg quantity and quality are heavily impacted. There is also an increase in uterine lining issues from the thinning of the uterine lining and blood supply, making it harder for an egg to implant. You might also see your menstrual cycle diminishing as you get closer to menopause, with ovulation coming earlier in your cycle, affecting conception.
After age 40 you have less than a 5% chance of conceiving naturally as up to 90 percent of your eggs at this point are likely chromosomally abnormal. Again, PGT can help by lowering the risk of miscarriage and increasing the likelihood of conception. If you have low ovarian reserves, egg donation can often give you the chance to conceive and carry a pregnancy to birth. For many women in their late 40’s, using eggs donated by a younger woman can result in a successful pregnancy.
If you have unsuccessfully been trying to conceive, our Utah Fertility Center physicians and team are here to help. We have helped many families achieve their pregnancy goals, and are happy to meet with you to help you achieve yours. Please give us a call at 801-785-5100 if you are ready to start your pregnancy journey.