How Does Age Affect Fertility?

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By Dr. Tripti Raheja, Gynaecology

There is no perfect time to plan a family. For some women, the 20s are when they want to settle down while for others, it isn’t until they hit their thirties that they can think of putting their career aside and start planning a family. However, as women grow older, conceiving a child does become more difficult. Age is one of the most important factors that influences fertility and chances of conception.

This decline begins once a woman reaches her thirtieth birthday. Past her thirty fifth birthday, this decline is said to become sharper. A decline in fertility not only makes it difficult to conceive but also increases the risk of complications with pregnancy such as gestational diabetes, placenta abruption and miscarriage. Babies conceived by women in this age group also have a higher chance of being born with birth defects or suffering from genetic abnormalities.

The reasoning behind the relationship between fertility and age is a simple one. Women are said to be the most fertile between 20 to 25 years of age. As a woman’s age increases, the quality of her eggs decreases. Along with this, her ovulation also becomes sporadic and hence the number of viable eggs available to conceive a baby, decreases. In some cases, a woman can also go through an early menopause and stop ovulating before she reaches her fortieth birthday. The risk of blocked fallopian tubes also increases as a woman ages. Blocked fallopian tubes also make it very difficult for a woman to conceive. Fallopian tube blockages can also be due to the scarring of tubal walls due to prolonged endometriosis.

Certain STDs can also affect fertility. If a woman has been exposed to an STD like Chlamydia when she was younger and did not get it treated, it could trigger pelvic inflammatory disease. This makes fertilization difficult and increases the chances of an ectopic pregnancy. Post the age of 30, fibroids also become a concern for a women’s sexual health. Fibroids triggered by polycystic ovarian disorder combined with being overweight can also affect fertility.

The good news is that infertility can be managed and treated to allow women of all ages to conceive a child. Women who are not in a position to plan a family until later can now freeze their eggs when they are needed. Hormone therapy can also help women conceive. In other cases, in vitro fertilization and other forms of assisted reproduction can increase chances of a healthy pregnancy.