How a female’s age impacts her fertility and chances of becoming a mother
We’re not going to beat around the bush. It’s important for you to understand that a female’s age directly affects her fertility. However, it is evident that postponing motherhood until an older age is becoming increasingly frequent in our society.
At our fertility clinic in Spain, the average age of the patients we generally treat has risen and is around 37-38 years old, while the number of women who want to become mothers over the age of 40 has also grown.
A female’s age is the main prognostic factor from a fertility standpoint. In other words, age is the factor which has the greatest impact on a female’s likelihood to get pregnant each month. To give you a clearer picture, the chances a woman has of getting pregnant each month remain relatively stable at around 23% until she turns 30, and this percentage begins to decline drastically once a woman turns 37. Starting at this age, the number of infertile women begins to rise.
Why does female fertility decline with age?
The decline in female fertility as a woman ages has a very simple explanation. Females are born with a fixed number of eggs, or oocytes, in their ovaries. These eggs start to go through the natural process of cell death as soon as the female is born.
When she is born, a female has one or two million eggs in her ovaries. When her periods begin (menarche), this number has already fallen to about 400,000 or 450,000, of which about one thousand eggs will be “used up” every month in order for one egg to be released during ovulation.
In other words, the female will have about 400 ovulatory cycles during her reproductive years. When she is young (between 20 to 30 years of age), fertility or the chances of fertilisation are “good” (30% approximately, for each menstrual cycle), and the risks are low (for example, the rate of miscarriage is between 10 and 15%). This is due to the fact that ovarian reserve is good both in terms of quantity and quality of the eggs.
How does female fertility decline with age?
Like we said at the beginning, a female’s chances of getting pregnant gradually decrease as she gets older, especially after the age of 37 and drastically after the age of 40. Additionally, the risks such as spontaneous miscarriage are considerably more likely.
At URE Centro Gutenberg we believe that understanding this reality is important not only for women, but also for their partners. This is a matter which affects our society at large and which should be taken into consideration when making a diagnosis aimed at assisted reproduction treatment.
On the other hand, it is also very important to provide complete information/explanations during routine gynaecological check-ups. Many women request information about their chances of getting pregnant at a specific age, though females normally tend to plan for maternity between the ages of 30 and 32 years of age. All of the reasons that lead a woman to delay motherhood are valid, but we are very clear when it comes to informing patients about the moment when ovarian physiology is no longer optimal so that they can face infertility without creating false hope.
Similarly, it is essential that patients are made aware of the success rates of egg freezing, using the technique of vitrification, at one age or another. Vitrification of oocytes allows a woman to freeze eggs which will be inseminated in the future, whether for pathologic or voluntary reasons. As we’ve already discussed, egg quality at 40 years of age is not the same as it is at 25, so the sooner a patient can vitrify her eggs, the better the prognosis will be once she’s decided she’s ready to become a mother.
Advanced age is a factor that’s present in a very high percentage of couples dealing with infertility. It may be the only factor, or it may be accompanied by other factors such as bad habits which notably aggravate the difficulty of finding a solution. These are problems that could have been avoided if the couple had tried to get pregnant at a younger age.
Do you have any doubts about this matter? Are you still unclear on anything relating to this important subject? If you are, contact us! We’ll be happy to help you!