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Chelsea Fertility NYC Blog

Fertility and Age: Understanding the Impact on Conception

by Chelsea Fertility NYCPosted in InfertilityJuly 28th, 2023

Age has a significant impact on fertility for both women and men, although it more dramatically impacts a woman’s ability to conceive. A woman's age is the most significant factor that influences the chance of conceiving and having a healthy baby. Around one in four women in their 20s and early 30s will become pregnant during a single menstrual cycle, provided both partners are healthy reproductively. It’s estimated that only one in ten women will become pregnant by the age of 40. A man's fertility (the ability to impregnate) also declines with age, but not as predictably as a woman's.

Aging and Fertility in Women

As women age, there is a decrease in fertility along with a higher risk of complications of pregnancy, including miscarriage and other issues. According to the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG) in women, the age of peak reproduction is from the late teens to the late 20s. Fertility begins to decline after age 30. In your mid-30s, the decline becomes more significant, and by 45, fertility has decreased to the point where it is nearly impossible to get pregnant without some sort of intervention.

Ovarian Reserve and Age

Ovarian reserve is a term that refers to the quality and quantity of eggs. A female is born with a fixed number of eggs. With age, a woman’s ovaries and the eggs inside the ovaries grow older as well, causing the ovarian reserve to decrease. This means that there are not as many eggs as there were during a woman’s peak fertility years. One study estimated at 30 years of age, 95% of women only have 12% of their total ovarian reserve present. The eggs that remain have a higher likelihood of having abnormal chromosomes, which is a common cause of miscarriage.

Reduced ovarian reserve can make it difficult to conceive. These changes are not noticeable, and there are no outward signs or symptoms, but this decline begins much earlier than most women anticipate.

Pregnancy Complications

A woman's age increases the risk of pregnancy complications, including:

  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Preeclampsia (a serious condition that can occur during pregnancy)
  • Chromosomal abnormalities

In addition to pregnancy complications from decreased ovarian reserve, as you age, you are at a greater risk of developing health conditions that can affect fertility, such as uterine fibroids and endometriosis.

Aging and Fertility in Men

Sperm quality decreases around age 40 to 45 years, which is when male fertility starts to decline. As males age, the overall time (i.e., the number of their partner’s menstrual cycles) it takes to conceive increases. In addition to an increase in infertility, men experience an age-related decline in sperm quality which contributes to miscarriage risk.

One study showed that, depending on various factors, semen quality peaks between the ages of 30 and 35 in men. Semen quality refers to sperm count (number of sperm), motility (how effectively the sperm moves), and morphology (the size and shape of sperm). As men get older, their sperm motility becomes less effective. Morphology also decreases – studies target true indicate that over a 20-year period, there is an average decrease of 4% to 18% in normally-shaped sperm in aging men. As a man ages, there is also a higher risk of DNA damage to their sperm; this can lead to a higher risk of genetic disorders in their offspring, such as certain birth defects.

Navigate the 40+ Fertility Journey in NYC

Although the age-related decline in fertility is more pronounced in women, both men and women should be aware of the potential impact of age on fertility if they plan to have children. If you or your partner have concerns about fertility, contact a fertility specialist at Chelsea Fertility NYC today. We can advise you of options available for fertility treatment based on our personal situation.