How It Affects Fertility
Women’s fertility declines after about age 27. By the time a woman is in her mid 30s, she has lost many of her viable eggs through menstruation and natural attrition. A 2002 European study concluded that the odds of getting pregnant were twice as high for women under 27 as compared to women over 35. Aging causes ovulation patterns to change, the number of viable eggs to decrease, and the likelihood of other medical and gynecological conditions (such as endometriosis or high blood pressure) to increase, which may hamper conception and/or pregnancy. Experts agree that the optimal biological age for a woman to become pregnant is in her 20s.
Contrary to what many people believe, age affects men’s fertility, too. Sperm counts decline steadily as men age. And even though men can technically father children well into old age, the risk of having a child with chromosomal abnormalities, especially Down syndrome, rises after age 35 for men, just as it does for women.
After age 40, more than one-third of recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. If you’re younger than 35, most ob/gyns won’t refer you to a specialist for fertility treatment until you’ve been trying to get pregnant for at least a year. If you’re over 35, though, consider seeing a fertility specialist even earlier. Approximately one in 1,400 babies born from women in their 20s have Down syndrome; the risk increases to about one in 100 babies born with Down syndrome from women in their 40s.
High tech medical intervention (in vitro fertilization, or egg freezing for example) can help, but after age 40 many women need to use donor eggs to become pregnant, meaning the child will not be biologically theirs.
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