The impact of age on fertility

Focusing on a 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 challenges to the issue of parenthood.

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.

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.

If you are able to conceive, 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.

Other problems, including miscarriage, pelvic infection, tubal damage, endometriosis, fibroids and ovulation problems also increase with age. 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.

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