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A woman with her fertility doctor.

How does age affect a woman’s fertility?

Age plays a major role in a woman’s ability to conceive. But if you decide to postpone pregnancy until later in life, don’t panic. Though fertility tends to decrease when women hit their mid-30s, it happens gradually, not overnight.

“Women are born with all of the eggs they will have in their lifetime,” says Tia Guster, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist at Piedmont. “As they age, there is a continual loss in the number and quality of eggs. But that doesn’t mean women who are older than 35 won’t have successful pregnancies. Healthy women in their 20s, 30s and 40s usually do well with pregnancy.”

Pregnancy by age

Women in their 20s have a 20 to 25 percent chance of getting pregnant each month. They also have a lower risk of complications like miscarriages and chromosomal abnormalities that cause birth defects.

Women in their 30s have a 15 to 20 percent chance of getting pregnant each month, though fertility begins to decline after a woman turns 35. The risk of miscarriage in women 35 and older also increases.

Women in their 40s have less than a 5 percent chance of getting pregnant each month. At this age, it may be harder to conceive and stay pregnant. And there are far more obstetrical (miscarriage and chromosomal abnormalities) and age-related health risks to the mother and baby.

“As we age, our risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and other co-morbidities increases,” Dr. Guster says. “This is why pregnancy health concerns increase with age.”

How to plan a healthy pregnancy

Adopting a healthy lifestyle is an important part of becoming pregnant at any age, Dr. Guster says. She recommends the following tips for women who are trying to achieve a healthy pregnancy:

  • Get your weight under control. “A woman’s weight can affect fertility, because obesity or being underweight can affect the hormones in the body that help with conception,” Dr. Guster says.
  • Make lifestyle changes. Eat healthy foods and exercise. Try to improve your blood pressure. If you have diabetes, try to get it under control.
  • Ask for help. If you are having trouble getting pregnant, ask for help from either your OB/GYN or a reproductive endocrinologist
  • Consider fertility options. Do not be afraid to research new fertility technology such as egg freezing if you may be someone who will choose to prolong pregnancy.

To find an obstetrician or gynecologist near you, check out our “Find a doc” page.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

 

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