Does my age matter?

We know it can be worrisome as your biological clock is ticking and having a child is something you want, but perhaps not now. 

Fertility, the ability to conceive a child, naturally declines with the women’s age. Waiting to start a family is possible but it can make it a little harder. Women are most fertile before the age of 30 and an older woman may have an increased risk for pregnancy complications.

There are many other factors when it comes to starting a family, such as your desire and readiness to be a parent. You can still carry and deliver a healthy baby even after your 20s. Thanks to the availability of contraception and reproductive technologies today, you have some control over when you want, and can, begin a family.

Let’s see how your fertility health looks like at each decade of your life.

WHY DO WOMEN IN THEIR 20S HAVE THE BEST CHANCES OF GETTING PREGNANT?

This is the time when you have the highest number of good quality eggs and your pregnancy risks are at its lowest.

By the time you hit age 25, your odds of conceiving after 3 months of trying, are just under 20%.

WHAT CHANGES IN OUR 30s?

For women, they are born with all the eggs they’ll ever have in their lifetime, which is about 1 million of them. This number gradually drops over time.

At about age 32, fertility gradually begins to decline. 

At about age 35, this decline usually accelerates. At this point, your chances for having a baby after 3 months of trying are 12% and the risks for genetic abnormalities and miscarriage increases. You may also face more complications during pregnancy or delivery.

By age 37, it is estimated that you’ll have 25,000 eggs left. 

This differs from a woman to another and these changes do not mean that you cannot conceive in your 30s.

With all the risk factors in mind, your doctor might recommend additional screening and testing during your pregnancy.

CAN I STILL HAVE A BABY IN MY 40s?

After 40, your ability to conceive naturally declines even further and faster and your chances for having a baby after 3 months of trying is less than 7%.

The key factor to this, is the quantity but mainly the quality of your eggs. Egg quality when in your 40s tends to have more chromosome issues and there is a higher chance of having a baby with a birth defect. Medical conditions, like diabetes and high blood pressure, are also more common in women older than 35, which can lead to pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.

The risks that increase significantly during this time includes:

  • Preterm birth
  • Cesarean delivery
  • Birth defects
  • Low birth weight
  • Still birth

So, not all women in their 40s can have a healthy pregnancy and baby.

So, yes! It is possible to conceive a child in your 40s, but your pregnancy will be considered as high risk and will require more regular observations to be on a constant lookout for potential complications.

WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?

If you have been trying to conceive for more than 6 months and you are over the age of 35, do reach out to a fertility specialist on potential fertility issues. There are several options for trying to conceive and your doctor or fertility specialist can help determine the issues and possibilities for you.

 It is important you seek help from fertility specialists who are more knowledgeable in the treatment of infertility. If you choose a doctor who is not able to determine your infertility condition accurately and if you are above 38 years old, you may lose valuable time in your challenge to overcome infertility.  

Some examples of treatment options are:

  • Assisted reproductive technologies (ART), where help is required in the fertilisation of the woman’s eggs, but they cannot make up for all age-related decline in your fertility. The common ART procedure is in vitro fertilisation (IVF) 
  • Using a healthy donor egg. The egg is fertilised with your husband’s sperm and then transferred to your uterus. There is genetic contribution from only one of the parties.

No matter the treatment, the chances for a successful pregnancy decreases and risk increases as you get older.

WHAT ABOUT FREEZING MY EGGS?

If you are considering having a baby in the future but you are not ready in your 20s, you can opt to freeze your eggs. 

The process will look something like this:

  • First, you will take hormonal medication to stimulate egg production. 
  • The eggs will then be collected and frozen and stored.
  • When you wish to use them, the eggs will be taken out from storage and injected with your husband’s sperm.
  • The embryos developed from the insemination will be implanted in your uterus.

Currently, egg freezing is not permitted in Singapore, except for women facing the prospect of losing their eggs  because of chemotherapy treatment for cancer.

The journey to parenthood in your 30s and 40s will still have several challenges, even with eggs taken from your 20s. Although it does not guarantee a pregnancy, freezing your eggs will give you the option for available healthy eggs when you are ready.

WHAT ABOUT MEN?

Men’s fertility declines as he ages, but this happens later than women, usually starting around age 40.

After 40, men typically have lower semen volume and sperm count. This decreased sperm quality  and ability to swim, as well as an increased chance of contributing sperm with a higher probability of chromosomal abnormalities compared to those of a younger man may contribute to male infertility.

With age, a man may take longer to conceive with his partner and it will also influence his partner’s risks of miscarriage no matter how old his partner is. It may be more challenging in his 40s than before, but It is definitely still possible for a man to father a child later in his life.

WHY WOULD I DECIDE TO HAVE CHILDREN LATER IN LIFE?

To some, there are other benefits to having children later in life. 

It gives you time to explore your career and relationship and may present other benefits to both you and your baby.

A 2016 study found that older mothers tend to be more patient and their children have fewer social, emotional and behavioural problems in primary school. A child of an older mother is usually better educated and healthier compared to a child of younger mothers.

Another 2016 study has also discovered that for women having children later, their chances of living to 90 years old were much higher.

While there are many variables and there is no concrete proof any of these effects are a direct result of having children later in life, the research suggests that there may be some benefits to waiting.

HOW DO I KNOW WHEN TO GET HELP?

It may be hard to know when it is crucial to see a fertility specialist, but here are some typical signs:

  • You are under 35 years old and you have been trying for a year 
  • You are over the age of 35 and you have been trying for 6 months
  • multiple miscarriages

If you or your partner have a  genetic familial condition or a known genetic disease, you should also check in with your specialist.

MY AGE MATTERS BUT WHAT I DO NOW MATTERS TOO

As time ticks along, it can create obstacles and challenges to get pregnant but do know that it is still possible, in your 30s and 40s, to conceive and deliver and healthy baby.

You should do what feels right and not get pregnant before you are ready. Perhaps you would like to build your career and finances before you embark on your family journey.  However, you must be prepared to face the frustrations of trying to get pregnant later in life, if you have an existing fertility condition or have no clue if you have any conditions.

If you would like to delay having a child in life, it will still be a good idea to check in with your fertility specialist early to make well informed decisions today.