2 November 2015

Falling pregnant through the ages

For years we have been exposed to a plethora of weird and wonderful tips to help us fall pregnant, based on the female fertility clock. However, on many occasions these pearls of wisdom fail to fulfil their promises, often leaving couples frustrated and confused as to why they are unable to conceive.

Most fertility experts would say that there’s no ‘right time’ to start a family – but there are plenty of pros and cons to trying for a baby at different ages.

Here, internationally renowned Dr. Ferrando of IVI Fertility Clinic discusses the various strengths and challenges of falling pregnant which couples within each age group should consider:

In Your 20s

Dr Ferrando says: “Your 20’s are your most fertile years, because your periods are regular and, almost always, ovulatory. Not only is there a high chance of falling pregnant, but pregnancy is often physically easier for women in their 20s because there’s a lower risk of health complications like high blood pressure and diabetes. Generally speaking, at this age you are also at your optimal fitness level, making the delivery of a baby and post-delivery weight loss a lot more manageable.

From a medical perspective, your 20s are definitely the best decade for conceiving and carrying a baby however, this doesn’t mean to say that 20s is the best time for everyone to fall pregnant – as there are other lifestyle factors that need to be taken into consideration. For example, are you and your partner both emotionally ready for a baby? Are you prepared to pause your career for a pregnancy? Are you financially stable enough to start a family? A lot of people in their 20s are still carving their path in life, so it’s important to consider whether that is the right time for you to embark on parenthood.”

In Your 30s

Dr Ferrando says: “As you grow older and move into your 30s, your ovaries age along with the rest of your body and the quality of your eggs gradually starts to deteriorate. Although there is no ‘magic number’ at which female fertility starts to decline, many experts predict that this process begins once you hit 30. As this is a gradual process, your chances of falling pregnant in your early 30s are only slightly lower than in your late 20s, but once you reach 35 your chance will start to decrease fairly rapidly.

For those who require assisted fertility treatment, the chances of falling pregnant are also higher in your early 30s. At IVI Fertility we have found that treatments, such as artificial insemination and IVF, are more successful in women aged between 30 and 35 compared to those over the age of 35.

Body clock aside, there are actually several lifestyle advantages to becoming a mum in your 30s compared to your 20s. The most obvious is that you’re more likely to be secure in your career and in your relationship, which will provide a firm foundation for your new family. On top of that, new mums in their 30s tend to have a lot of stamina and resilience due to their life experience, both qualities that come in handy for parenting young children.

For those who do decide to postpone motherhood for social reasons, or other circumstances which thwart having a child, egg-vitrification – more commonly known as ‘egg-freezing’ – is fast becoming a popular option. At IVI, we suggest the best age to freeze your eggs is in your 30´s as the younger the eggs are, the higher the pregnancy success rates.”

In Your 40s

Dr Ferrando says: “Because of the new generation of career-driven women, more and more couples are making the decision to try for a baby in their 40s. Although some women are lucky enough to conceive naturally at this age, there is no denying that the chances of falling pregnant are a lot lower – especially after you reach your mid-forties.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for 40-plus women. In fact, there’s never been a better time for this age range to try to conceive given the range of fertility options that are available – such as egg donation which is one of the most frequently offered treatments for women of this age group at the IVI clinics. Donated eggs, always taken from a younger female, can offer a much greater chance of a woman conceiving in their 40s when accompanied by IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), where an egg is removed from the woman’s ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory.

However, similarly to falling pregnant naturally, the chances of falling pregnant through IVF decreases the older you get, which is why we are finding increasing numbers of 40+ women opting for egg donation treatment; in order to give themselves the best possible chance of conceiving.

Whatever your age, the best measures you can take to try to protect your fertility and prolong your chances of conceiving is maintaining a healthy weight, leading a non-stressful lifestyle, drinking sensibly and avoiding smoking.”

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