Tick-Tock: Do We Really have a Biological Clock?

It’s not unusual for women and men to wait until after college, graduate school, or even until they are settled into a career to begin having children these days. Women often think that if they are healthy and still having regular periods age doesn’t matter, but unfortunately, biology disagrees.

The facts:

  • The average woman’s fertility peaks at age 24.
  • At age 30 a woman’s chance of getting pregnant naturally is about 20% per cycle.
  • By age 40 a woman’s chance of getting pregnant naturally drops to about 5%.

Age matters for women and men. Biology is not quite so unkind to the male of our species, but many fertility experts agree that the role of the male in infertility has been overlooked. While there are men who have fathered children into their 60s, 70s, and even 80s, male fertility does begin to decline significantly for men at after age 35, according to a 2013 report from the journal Human Reproduction.

For women, fertility declines with age for several reasons which include:

  • Decline of egg quantity. There are fewer eggs in the ovaries. Women are born with all the eggs they are ever going to have — approximately 2 million in their ovaries. About 11,000 of them die every month prior to puberty, leaving a woman with approximately 300-400,000 as a teenager. From that point on, approximately 1,000 eggs die each month.
  • Decline of egg quality. As a woman ages, the eggs remaining in the ovaries are more likely to develop abnormalities in their chromosomes. These abnormalities lessen the chances of getting pregnant and increase the risk for miscarriage. In fact, at least one half of all miscarriages are due to abnormal chromosomes.
  • Increased risk of other disorders. As age increases, there is a greater risk of other disorders that may have an adverse impact on fertility, such as fibroids, damage to the Fallopian tubes and endometriosis.

If you are trying to get pregnant, talk to Dr. Strebel or Dr. Grolle about what might work best for you.

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