You’re hoping to make a baby and wondering about your chances at “advanced maternal age” (the medical term for women pregnant at 35 or later). Age is one of the key factors that predict your ability to conceive. Your fertility starts to decline at age 30 and keeps on dropping steadily until you hit menopause.
That said, it’s not only possible to deliver a healthy baby after age 35, it’s quite common. Here’s a look at the odds facing “older” mothers.
By the Numbers
You’re at your peak fertility in your 20s. Healthy women that age who are trying to conceive have about a 1 in 4 chance of getting pregnant during a single menstrual cycle. In other words, 25 out of 100 women will succeed per month.
By age 40, an average healthy woman has only a 5% chance of getting pregnant per cycle.
At the same time, the likelihood of miscarriage climbs with your age. A typical 40-year-old has about a 40% chance of losing the pregnancy. That compares to less than 15% for someone in their 20s.
By the time you’re over 45, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says getting pregnant naturally is “unlikely for most women.”
Reasons for Fertility Drop
As you age, so do your eggs. And you have fewer of them, too. You’re born with all the eggs you’ll ever have in your life, about 1 million. By the time you hit puberty, you may have about 300,000 left. At 37, you’re down to just 25,000 -- or 2.5% of your starting count. That matters because the fewer eggs in your ovaries, the lower your odds for conception.
Even if you do get pregnant, your older eggs are more likely to have abnormal chromosomes, which may raise your chance of miscarrying your baby. Also, women after 35 are more likely to have problems like endometriosis and uterine fibroids that make it harder for you to get pregnant.
The quality of your partner’s sperm also matters. As men age, their sperm tend to swim slower and begin to lose their shape. But sperm quality doesn’t drop steeply until after men enter their 60s.
Some older women trying to conceive may need more than just more time and help from Mother Nature. If so, several types of reproductive medicine may make pregnancy possible.
If you’re under 35, your doctor may recommend fertility treatments if you’ve tried without success to get pregnant for more than a year. That window shortens to 6 months if you’re 35 or older. And if you have any medical issues that could hurt your chances of conceiving, your doctor may advise that you get fertility help right away. They may suggest:
- Drugs that stimulate egg production
- In vitro fertilization (IVF)
If you know you’d like to have a baby someday but aren’t ready now, one option is to freeze your fertilized egg for IVF later. The quality of your embryos likely will be highest when taken closest to your most fertile years. A clinic will test your eggs for viability, or the chance that they’ll produce a healthy pregnancy.
Another option is to use an egg or embryo donor. A clinic will use a healthy egg from a younger woman and fertilize it with your partner’s sperm or donated sperm, and implant it in your uterus, so you can carry and deliver the baby.