While life expectancy rates have increased dramatically over the past 100 years, fertility rates have remained more or less the same when it comes to women and their chances of getting pregnant in their 20s, 30s and 40s. The reality is that while the human body and advances in modern medicine weather many storms, the quality of both egg and sperm diminish as we age, and this affects your chances of getting pregnant.
Not sure that age is the issue for you? Read, Why Am I Not Getting Pregnant, for more insight into potential reasons why you’re not conceiving as planned.
Three Reasons It’s Harder to Get Pregnant as You Age
Here are three of the main reasons it’s harder to conceive and carry a healthy, full-term baby as you age.
Egg Quantity and Quality Diminish
The chances of a woman getting pregnant in her 20s and early 30s is about 75%. By age 35, we see a notable decrease in fertility rates. By age 40, chances dip to 25% or less, and by age 43 it goes down to 10% or less – and those rates are for women who don’t have a diagnosable infertility factor working against them.
Since the body tries to protect you and your baby, any sign that something is awry with the egg or an embryo causes:
- The body to prevent the egg from being fertilized altogether
- The body from preventing a fertilized egg from implanting
- Miscarriage if the fertilized embryo isn’t healthy
Regardless of age, chromosomal or genetic defects are the most common reasons for miscarriages.
NOTE: It’s important to highlight that while the statistics aren’t as drastic for men, sperm quantity and quality also decrease with age. Read, What You Need to Know About the Male Biological Clock, for more on that topic.
The older you get, the fewer eggs (ovarian reserve) you have. Menopause can take as long as 10-years, from start to finish. Thus, women approaching menopause (a phase called peri-menopause, which can begin as early as your late-30s or early-40s) may find their periods become irregular long before they cease entirely. Skipped periods means reduced ovulation, diminishing fertility rates.
Underlying Health Issues Are More Prevalent
Any underlying health issue takes a greater toll over time. Health issues almost always affect fertility rates since your body is designed to get pregnant when it’s healthy. If you have diabetes or weight management concerns, insulin resistance affects fertility rates. If undiagnosed or untreated endometriosis or fibroids are a problem, it will be harder to get pregnant. Virtually any health issue can negatively impact conception, pregnancy and/or labor and delivery.
This is one of the reasons why we encourage all individuals and couples to focus on getting their body healthy for conception. If you have an existing infertility diagnosis, a healthy body increases fertility chances when you’re ready to begin fertility treatments.
It’s also important to point out that women 35-years and older have higher rates of pregnancy and childbirth complications.
Your Immune System Is Stronger
The field of reproductive immunology is relatively new, but we’re learning fast. When a couples’ fertility tests don’t result in obvious infertility factors or potential causes, and an older woman (33-years and up) says things like, “I just don’t understand, I’m healthy as a horse and hardly ever get sick…,” there’s a chance her healthy immune system is the problem. This can cause her body to attack the sperm as an “invader” or to treat the fertilized egg and/or embryo the same way.
In a perfect world, couples would be able to start and grow their families when the woman is in her prime. When that’s not the case, observing a healthy lifestyle goes a long way in increasing pregnancy rates if they require fertility assistance later on.
Are you worried age is getting in the way of starting a family? Contact us here at the Reproductive Resource Center. We’re Kansas City’s premier fertility treatment center and we’re happy to discuss fertility preservation or fertility testing and treatment, depending on where you’re at in your fertility journey.