It's a fact that in today's society, age related infertility is becoming much more common because women are waiting until their 30s and 40s to have children. Although many women are healthier in later life, this does not offset the natural age-related decline in fertility because the number of eggs in her ovaries decline with age. And, this decline may take place much sooner than most women would expect. In fact, most women have lost their ability to have children 5-10 years before menopause.
As the chart below shows, women are most fertile in their 20s. By age 30 or earlier, a woman's ability to get pregnant month over month decreases with a faster decline after age 35. By the age of 45, the natural fertility rate per month is only about 1%.
A woman's age is the single most important factor determining her chance of pregnancy and a healthy birth because the quality and quantity of her eggs decreases over time, and the likelihood of miscarriage and birth defects increase as well.
Ovarian reserve, the number and quality of eggs a woman has available when she tries to conceive, is the major factor linking age and infertility. Fertility screening is used to determine the viability of a woman's ovarian reserve.
If a woman has healthy pregnancies in her 20s or early 30s, it does not mean that if she tries to have another child in her later 30s or 40s she will be successful. She may have secondary infertility.
Recurring miscarriages and birth defects such as Down Syndrome are most often associated with less viable eggs. The chances of these conditions occurring is directly related to the age of a woman's eggs.
For this reason, woman and couples may want to consider egg or embryo freezing. With advanced technology known as "vitrification", younger eggs can be frozen for future use. The younger the eggs, the greater the chance of healthy pregnancies.
According to a study of 1,000 women between the ages of 25-35 conducted by EMD Serono,
With 1 in 6 couples challenged by infertility, the assumption that it's easy to get pregnant is far from the truth for many people. “Age is the dominant factor when it comes to fertility,” explains Dr. Isaac Glatstein.
Dr Isaac Glatstein, Associate Medical Director at IVF New England, is a fertility doctor in Massachusetts. A Board Certified Reproductive Endocrinologist, he provides fertility screening and infertility treatment at IVF New England fertility clinics in Braintree and Lexington, Massachusetts.
Watch How to Make a Baby, a two episode online talk show following the stories of couples who were surprised by infertility and how they met the challenges to have the babies they always dreamed about.