For individuals and couples there can be many reasons why life gets in the way of starting a family. Not having a partner, career, finances, housing, travel, not feeling ready, whatever the reason, many find that it’s just not the right time to have a baby. When trying to get pregnant later in life, it can be a lot more difficult.
It’s a biological fact that as women and men age, their potential to have children decreases, although the exact time when this starts to happen can vary among individuals. Across a population, women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of having a child than people who are older. This is true for natural pregnancies and for pregnancies conceived through assisted reproductive treatments such as IVF (in-vitro fertilisation).
Age and eggs
A woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have. As she ages her eggs age with her and their number and quality reduces over time. This is why her chance of having a baby also reduces over time, especially for women older than 35 years of age.
Age and sperm
Men younger than 40 have a better chance of fathering a child than those older than 40. The quality of the sperm men produce seems to decline as they get older. Most men make millions of new sperm every day, but men older than 40 have fewer healthy sperm than younger men. The amount of semen (the fluid that contains sperm) and sperm motility (ability to move towards an egg) decrease continually between the ages of 20 and 80.
Talking to a doctor
If you want to have a baby (now or sometime in the future), understanding how age affects your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby is really important. Talking to your local doctor or visiting a fertility clinic about your plans for having children may help you understand how you can protect your chances of having a baby.
See a fertility specialist if:
- You’re age 35 or younger and you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a year.
- You’re over age 35 and you’ve been trying for more than 6 months.
- You’re over age 40 and you’d like to start a family.