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All you need to know about age-related fertility declines

October 27, 2020

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There are many factors that affect your chances of conceiving a baby, but most people are unaware of how significant the effect that age can have on your fertility. Here we’ll tell you everything you need to know about age-related fertility declines, and how you might improve your chances of conception.

How does age affect fertility?

Women are most fertile between the late teens and late 20s. Unfortunately, by the time you reach 30, your fertility starts to decline. Once you’re in your mid-30s, this decline becomes rapid. By 45, becoming pregnant naturally is highly unlikely.

Most couples will get pregnant within a year if they don’t use contraception and have regular sex. NHS guidelines indicate that 92% of women aged 19 to 26 will conceive after one year, but only 82% of 35 to 39-year olds will. The effect of age on men’s fertility is less clear.

Women become less fertile as they age because the number of their eggs decreases. In addition, the remaining eggs in older women are more likely to have abnormal chromosomes.

age-related fertility declines

What are the risks involved if you become pregnant?

Pregnant women in their late 30s or 40s face a higher risk of complications – some affecting the mother’s health, and others the health of the foetus.

If you’re over 40 and hoping to become pregnant, be warned that you have an increased risk of preeclampsia. You’re also more prone to certain health problems, like high blood pressure.

The overall risk of your baby being born with a chromosome abnormality is small. However, as you age, the risk of your baby having missing, damaged, or even extra chromosomes is increased. The risk of having a baby with Down syndrome, for example, is 1 in 1480 aged 20, but 1 in 35 if you’re aged 45.

Making a reproductive life plan

As a woman, it’s important to think about whether you might like children at some point and, if so, when you might have them. This is called a reproductive life plan and can be developed with the help of a fertility doctor. If you’re worried about the effect of ageing on your reproductive system, or if you’re planning to conceive later in life, you might want to consider freezing your eggs, for example.

You also might want to consider AMH testing. The Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) is an important sex hormone for men and women but becomes particularly handy when used to predict future fertility in women. AMH testing estimates the number of ovarian follicles a woman has and how long she can realistically wait before trying to get pregnant. 

This article from Mylo explains the process in more detail, highlighting the important role of AMH in adult women, the role of AMH in the gender development of a baby, what exactly AMH blood tests are, how AMH results for fertility are interpreted, what AMH testing cannot predict, and what to do if you have low AMH levels.

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