Fertility is the ability to conceive or get pregnant. At birth, a woman has all the eggs she will have in her lifetime. As she ages, her eggs age, too. This can be a problem for women who choose to delay childbearing.
In human reproduction, a mother contributes 23 chromosomes from her egg and a father contributes 23 chromosomes from his sperm. When egg and sperm meet, an embryo is created with 23 pairs of chromosomes. These chromosomes carry all the genetic coding that an embryo will need to develop into a healthy human being.
An older egg does not function as well as a young egg. Sometimes an older egg will contribute too many or too few chromosomes resulting in an abnormal embryo. These abnormal embryos may never implant into the uterus. Some will implant but result in miscarriage. A very few abnormal embryos will become babies who are born with mental and/or physical deficiencies. The most common and well-known chromosomal abnormality is Trisomy 21, also referred to as Down’s Syndrome.
A woman’s ability to conceive a child decreases at age 35 and continues to decline as she ages. Even though a woman may feel young and vital at 35, her ovaries are not. She may be thin, athletic, smart, and successful, but her ovaries do not care. There is no Botox for the ovaries.
Before the age of 35, about 1 in every 3 eggs ovulated will be chromosomally normal. After age 35, this number drops to 1 in 5 eggs. By the age of 40, it takes 10 eggs (or ten months of ovulation) to get one normal egg. At age 42, only 1 in 24 eggs will be chromosomally normal.
If you are a woman who wants a family, it is important for you to know how rapidly your fertility can decline after the age of 35. You cannot stop aging, but you can be proactive about your fertility:
- Avoid Toxins. Stop smoking and limit or eliminate alcohol. Eat a diet full of whole fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains. Avoid processed foods and saturated fats.
- Exercise, But Not Too Much. Moderate exercise can help maintain a normal body weight, which in turn supports normal ovulation. Obesity can cause irregular ovulation, which reduces a woman’s chance of becoming pregnancy. If you exercise too much, though, you may not ovulate either. Strive for 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week.
- Don’t Wait Too Long. If you are trying to conceive and have not been successful in 6-12 months, it may be time to see a Reproductive Endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in fertility issues.
- Freeze Your Eggs. If you know you want children someday but are not yet ready, you may consider freezing your eggs. This procedure involves using injectable medications to stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple eggs. The eggs are surgically removed and frozen. Frozen eggs can be stored indefinitely until you are ready to use them, and they never age.
If you want to make some changes in your health to increase your ability to conceive, but don’t know where to begin, let’s talk. Click here to schedule a free consultation.