The single most important factor influencing your chance of conceiving is your age. Once you turn 36, your chance of conceiving naturally is halved compared to your chance at 20 years of age.
The reason for this is that the number of healthy (chromosomally normal) eggs you produce declines as you get older, especially after the age of 36. The number of eggs available to go through the maturing process may be even lower if you have a family history of premature menopause, or need to undertake chemotherapy or radiotherapy. As you get older, chromosomal errors occur more frequently in your eggs, resulting in more abnormal embryos that may not implant, or that result in early pregnancy loss.
Women can help protect their fertility from the natural ageing process by leading a healthy lifestyle. It is important to not smoke, to moderate alcohol and caffeine intake, to perform regular exercise, and maintain a healthy weight range. However, due to the aging process, there is only so much that can be done, and the most important factor is to have a baby at an early stage whenever possible. Predict your chance of falling pregnant, based on your age...
The AMH Test
An increasingly common test for assessing a woman's fertility is an AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) blood test. This provides an indication of the remaining quantity of eggs. It is important to understand that ovarian (or egg) reserve is not a measure of fertility but an important tool in assessing potential fertility. This test does not tell you anything about the quality of the eggs. Read more about the AMH test...
Risk of miscarriage increases with age
The egg has 46 chromosomes like every other body cell but it must reduce this number to 23 to match up with the 23 new chromosomes that the sperm brings.
As you get older, your egg nucleus often divides abnormally, distributing unequal amounts of genetic material – causing an increased chance of genetic abnormality. Unfortunately, this means that for older women it’s not just more difficult to fall pregnant, there is also a greater risk of miscarriage, and of giving birth to a baby with a genetic abnormality such as Down Syndrome.
Assisted conception can help
The good news is that with advances in reproductive technology, including in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and other forms of assisted conception, you can improve your chances of conceiving. Here are a few examples – visit our Fertility Services pages to find out more.
If you use in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or other assisted reproductive technology, you can increase your chances of falling pregnant. If you are aged 36 to 40, your chance of conceiving in an IVF cycle is 25% to 45%, compared with 5% to 8% in a month if you’ve been trying to conceive naturally for more than six months. Many factors may influence your individual chance of success.
Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is a method of testing embryos for specific genetic and chromosomal abnormalities before implantation. We can also select the embryo with the greatest chance of pregnancy success.
A woman’s most fertile years are when she is in her 20s and early 30s. It is now possible to store unfertilised eggs for use in the future, using egg freezing. For women who are not in a position to become pregnant, or whose fertility is at risk due to serious illness, this relatively new technique offers the potential to have a family later. However, it is of no proven benefit in older women (those over the age of 38).
Effect of age on male fertility
While the effect of age on a man's fertility is not as significant as it is with women, there is a decline in the quality of sperm after the age of 45. After this age, it does tend to take longer for men to cause a pregnancy and the chance of having a baby with a health problem does slightly increase.
Would you like to know more?
If you are in need of some expert fertility advice please call Melbourne IVF on 1800 111 483 or email us.