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Age & Fertility

Timing can be a tricky subject when planning to start a family. In our younger years, we can feel unprepared and hold off on having children until the moment is right and we feel that we can provide a secure, loving environment for a family.

However, waiting can also have us wondering about our fertility. Reports say that fertility declines with age, yet we hear stories of couples in their fifties welcoming healthy babies and see celebrities starting families later in life. With these conflicting stories, it’s difficult to know what to do.

To help men and women to better understand the facts and empower them to make the best decision for themselves, here is a simple guide to age and fertility.

As you may already be aware, unfortunately, fertility is ageist. When both women and men grow older, their chances of conceiving naturally drop.

For women, fertility peaks as they reach their mid-twenties and from 30 onwards it begins to decline at a rate of around 3% a year. After 35, the decline accelerates even more. Women are born with a certain number of eggs and one is released each month at ovulation. However, as women grow older the eggs being released are less capable of being fertilised.

In regards to men’s fertility, there seems to be a myth that age doesn’t affect their fertility at all, but this is not the case. Although it is true that some men can conceive into their 70s and the drop may not be as swift as with women, age does still have an impact. The decline for men usually occurs after 48 years of age as there is a reduction in sperm genetic integrity and motility decreases, therefore making it difficult to fertilise an egg.

Will it take longer to conceive?

As we age, it’s important to realise that it might also take a little bit more time to become pregnant too.

At the age of 30, a healthy woman has around a 16% chance of conceiving in a month, and that drops to around 5% to 10% by the age of 40. However, remember that these are averages and fertility is individual to the person involved.

For men under the age of 25, the average time it takes to conceive is four-and-a-half months.

How can I improve my chances?

Although the statistics may seem a little daunting, it is still possible for couples in their late thirties and forties to have a baby naturally and so they shouldn’t be afraid of trying.

However, if planning or in the process of trying, there are some steps to focus on to maximise fertility:

  • Minimise stress
  • Quit smoking
  • Cut down on alcohol intake
  • Do moderate exercise
  • Maintain a healthy weight with a BMI below 30 for the female partner
  • Limit your caffeine intake
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle and adopt a balanced dietary intake

Additionally, if a couple is in the process of trying to get pregnant, they should know when it’s time to seek help. With couples over 35, it’s suggested to get a check-up with your doctor after trying for at least six months. Both partners’ fertility can be tested and both can learn about options in regards to potential diagnostics and/or treatment options if an issue arises.

Overall, it’s important to know the chances of conceiving when thinking of starting a family at an older age. Remember that if you have waited, you still have the choice to have a family. Don’t be afraid, ashamed or pressured to try too early or feel guilty for trying at a later age. Simply talk to your partner and decide when is the right time for you.

This blog was written in partnership with Mr Declan Keane, founder and Senior Clinical Embryologist at ReproMed.