Age and fertility
Your career and the pursuit of financial stability are reasons that many women these days delay starting their own family but advanced age does bring its own unique concerns to the issue of parenthood.
You and your eggs
Most women reach puberty with around 300,000 eggs in their ovaries. For each egg that matures and is released each menstrual cycle, there are at least 500 eggs that do not mature and are absorbed back into your body.
By the time menopause is reached, usually around age 50-55, only around 10,000 eggs remain. As you age, your eggs also age, making them less capable of being fertilised.
Women are most fertile between the ages of 20 and 24. After this, fertility gradually decreases with age, with a gradual decline into the 30s and a sharper decrease after the age of 35. Conception rates for normal healthy couples are usually around 20-25 percent per menstrual cycle. Once you reach the age of 35, your fertility begins to decline. By age 40, it is estimated that your conception rate is in the range of 8-10 percent per month and at age 43, the pregnancy rate is thought to be as low as 1-3 percent per month.
As an older mother, you need to be aware that the risk of genetic abnormalities grows as you age. In a 20 year old woman, the risk of chromosomal abnormality is 1/500. At age 45, this increases to 1/20.
Age-related fertility problems can include:
- pelvic infection
- tubal damage
- ovulation problems
Age can also have a bearing on sexual function, with libido and frequency of sexual intercourse often decreasing with age.
If you are concerned about the effect your age might have on your own fertility, or the health of a baby, speak to your doctor for more advice.
Find more related articles and links
- Understand your fertility
- Learn the best ways to prepare to conceive
- Understand what genetic testing is
- Discover the signs of ovulation
- Read commonly misunderstood fertility myths
- Find all articles on getting pregnant
This article was written by Claire Halliday for Kidspot, New Zealand's parenting resource for during your pregnancy. Sources include The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and The Women's and Children's Hospital, Adelaide.
Last revised: Tuesday, 22 April 2014
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.