With Fertility, Time Is Everything

Starting or growing a family is on many individuals’ or couples’ agendas. To do so naturally would require a healthy reproductive system, a solid indicator of fertility. Many couples discover that getting pregnant is much easier as young adults. However, with age, the process appears to be much more challenging, with some even struggling with infertility. Statistics show that 12-15% of American couples struggle to conceive. These statistics also reveal that the risk increases significantly with age. Individuals or couples who are family planning should understand this constraint and take steps to increase the chances of success.


Fertility and women

The concept of age and declining fertility affects men and women differently. Studies show that most women experience peak fertility in early to mid-20s. At peak fertility, the chances of conceiving are as high as 85% after 1 year. From the early 30s, a gradual decline in fertility begins. There is still a 66% of conception per menstrual cycle. An accelerated decline happens from age 35 and beyond. Women at age 35 have a 52% chance of conceiving, which drops to 44% at age 40 plus. At age 40, there is only a 5% chance of natural conception per month.

Your ovarian reserve

A woman's ovaries release about an egg every menstrual cycle. This egg is fertilized by sperm in the fallopian tube. The developing embryo heads to the uterus for implantation, completing the conception process. Women are born with a set number of eggs. An unfertilized egg is released during the menstruation process. With age, women will experience a diminished ovarian reserve. Not only does the quantity of eggs decline, but also the quality of each egg released. At advanced reproductive ages, women are more likely to struggle to get pregnant and suffer miscarriages and birth defects.

Other factors to consider

A diminished ovarian reserve is not the only challenge women face. Health challenges can come up at different stages of life, impacting hormone production and reproductive health. For instance, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a common hormonal imbalance, can disrupt ovulation and conception. Endometriosis, an overgrowth of the uterine lining in other parts of the body, can cause blockages, reducing fertility. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), sexually transmitted infections (STIs), fibroids, and autoimmune diseases are just some of the issues women can face. While these aren't time-bound, the risk of these conditions increases with age.

Fertility and men with age

Age does not only impact women, as the clock should also guide men. Science acknowledges that male fertility declines much later than female fertility. Many middle-aged men can conceive as a solitary sperm is required to fertilize an egg. At the same time, men may experience decreases in sperm quantity and quality with age. From age 40, men may begin to produce lower sperm counts, decreasing the possibility of conceiving. Low sperm quality is more important and can happen at younger ages. Poor sperm motility or morphology reduces conception rates, causes miscarriages, and increases the rates of congenital disabilities.

With male fertility, lifestyle matters

Men are also at risk of developing decreased fertility due to multiple external factors. Lifestyle decisions are the primary driver of infertility with age. Obesity, smoking, drug, and alcohol use all damage sperm production and quality. These issues and habits are more detrimental to the body with age. Certain occupational hazards, such as exposure to plastics and toxins, all impact sperm health. Men are also more likely to struggle with erectile dysfunction (ED) and low testosterone levels from age 35, which can lead to fertility challenges.

Get pregnant when you're older

The clock is also ticking as men and women have reshaped the concept of family planning. Many women are interested in growing careers and businesses. Others are more inclined to travel and take on other endeavors and are not quite ready for pregnancy. Men also share this sentiment, with many choosing to start families later. The rates of fertility decrease significantly, but there are steps to get pregnant. Women and men should prioritize a healthy diet, regular exercise, and avoiding poor lifestyle choices. Seeking treatment for pre-existing conditions and advice from a fertility specialist are also essential. The medical team can run tests to determine an individual or couple's current fertility status. In many cases, fertility treatment, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), may be necessary.

Manage the fertility clock

With age, many parts and functions of the body decline or have a reduced performance. These changes are no different with fertility. Women, in particular, experience a consistent decline due to the ovarian reserve. Men, while having a longer timeframe, could struggle with fertility at almost any stage of life. Anyone looking to conceive must discuss the pros and cons of earlier versus later family planning. Fertility health is generally better at earlier ages. From age 35 and beyond, pregnancy rates naturally decline, impacting both men and women. Discussing these fears and challenges with a medical professional can help with starting or growing a family before time runs out.