Fertility By Age

ben bunting BA(Hons) PgCert Sport & Exercise Nutriton  Written by Ben Bunting: BA(Hons), PGCert.

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One of the most important and emotional things that you will do at some point in your life is to conceive a child and start your family.

What you may not be aware of is that age can play a big part in your chances of conceiving. It’s not impossible for you to have a child later on in your life, but the odds may be harder. [1]

It will also depend on not just your age, but that of your partner or donor too.

There is a lot to consider for how to start your family and when the best time to do it is. This article will cover everything you need to know regarding fertility by age to help inform and guide you in your plans. It will include:

  • How ovulation and the menstrual cycle works for females
  • How sperm works for males and what you need to know
  • What to expect with fertility at ages 18-24?
  • What to expect with fertility at ages 25-30?
  • What to expect with fertility at ages 31-35?
  • What to expect with fertility at ages 35-40?
  • What to expect with fertility at ages 41-45+?
  • Common causes of male infertility
  • Common causes of female infertility
  • Other causes of fertility
  • Conclusion

At the end of this article, you will have gained information on these topics that will help you understand fertility and infertility alike.

How Ovulation And The Menstrual Cycle Works For Females

fertility by age

When women are going through their reproductive years, they will go through regular menstrual periods each month. This is essentially where eggs mature inside of follicles, which are fluid-filled like spheres. When the cycle begins, otherwise known as a period, a hormone will be produced inside the pituitary gland, which will help to stimulate a group of follicles to grow quickly over both ovaries. [2]

When one of these follicles reach maturity, it will release an egg, whereas the others will stop growing and degenerate. If an egg becomes inseminated by sperm, then it will implant itself along the lining of the uterus, leading to pregnancy.

After a woman passes the age of 16, her cycle will become more established and regular, usually from a 26-35 days schedule. When women get older, the cycles may become shorter, where eventually periods may be skipped until they cease completely. Menopause is when a woman has not had a menstrual cycle for a full year. [3]

This is perfectly normal and a part of life. Fertility will decline due to normal age-related factors. But it would help if you were wary of external factors that could cause infertility. It’s possible that steroids could cause infertility if mismanaged, so you should speak to your doctor if you’re worried.

How Sperm Works For Males

Generally speaking, men who are younger than 40 have a better chance of conceiving a child with a woman than they would if they were aged over 40. That’s because they will have fewer healthy sperm being produced.

Semen, which is the fluid that contains sperm, will decrease between the ages of 20 and 80. Sperm’s mobility to move towards eggs once inseminated also decreases during the same time period. Most males will produce up to millions of new sperm every day, but the quality will slowly decrease as reported by a study published in 2003. [4]

sperm quality by age

Source: Eskenazi, B (2003).

There are ways to help naturally enhance male fertility with nutrients that are clinically proven and safe. Infertility is affecting 15% of those who are in their reproductive age, so it’s more common than you would think. The nutrients, found within a healthy diet combined with exercise, will help to combat the deficiencies that lead to infertility. [5]

Age and Fertility 

Let's take a look at the timeline that affects the way in which our bodies can procreate. 

fertility by age

What To Expect From Ages 18-24?

Physically speaking, this is the most likely your body will be prepared for a pregnancy. That’s because the female body will have the strongest ovarian follicles it’ll ever have and will be prepared for maturing the eggs for ovulation. This means that the early eggs you produce in this time period are more likely to be of higher quality. [6]

This means that the risk of birth defects and chromosomal problems is lowered down compared to other ages. It’s also less likely that you will have any fertility issues around this age unless anything runs in your family or if you just happen to fall into a category. [7]

That’s not to say that having children around this age is risk-free, as risk is always around. Your fecundity rate will be higher and lower throughout your life, but it will be at its strongest around this age group. It is now coming apparant that women and couples, in general, are choosing not to have families at this age instead of pursuing a career until their 30s. [8]

What To Expect From Ages 25-30?

As each year passes, the chance of naturally conceiving a child will lower. However, in your late 20s, the chance to get pregnant is still pretty high, as it was from 18-24. Approximately 1 in 5 of those under 30 who are considered healthy will be able to reach pregnancy within the first three months of trying. [9]

The statistic of this is around 40-60% chance of success in the time period without trying anything else. It’s when you reach 30 that you start to see the chance percentage lower. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, as the female body will still produce a steady supply of eggs for when it’s time. It does also affect the male too, although they should still have sperm being produced at high quantities and qualities in this age bracket. [10]

It’s possible that even at this age that you or your partner will need guidance in order to become successfully pregnant. This could be with a doctor, or it could be with an advisor of a different capacity. 

What To Expect From Ages 31-35?

When a woman reaches her early 30s, they will still have a high chance of having a baby. That’s because there are still plenty of high-quality eggs on offer. However, this is the age that starts to see the odds decrease. A woman’s fecundity rate will start to decrease until you reach 32 steadily, and when you reach 37, it will drop dramatically.

To put this into a figure, a woman in her 30s is about half as fertile as she would have been in her 20 as reported by the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. [11]

Although, as touched upon earlier, many couples are now starting their families in their 30s regardless in order to focus on other areas of their life.

Once again, males will typically have enough sperm throughout their 30s, but in some cases, you may need a boost to become more fertile if you are looking to start your family. Fortunately, there is a range of different fertility solutions to get you started on your journey and help you out naturally.

What To Expect From Ages 35-40?

Up to the late 30s and reaching 40, the chances of a female being able to conceive without carefully planning drops by at least half than that of a female in their early 20s as already reported.

Within the 20s age group, over half of couples will be able to conceive naturally without any enhancements within the first year of trying. In contrast, the National Health Service of the United Kingdom reports almost 90% will be able to conceive naturally within two years once they get in to their late 30s. [12]

However, it is worth noting that being unable to conceive after 12 months of regular, unprotected sex is considered 'infertile', and a disease. [13]

The issue within this age group comes from the risks involved with your eggs. Chromosomal issues with eggs are much higher, with the risk increasing each additional year that you try to conceive. Additionally, there are fewer eggs available and are generally just less healthy. This means there is more chance of abnormal pregnancies or miscarriages. [14]

Sadly, the fall in fertility rates for women happens to coincide with the age group of people that are actively trying to get pregnant. This may be where you need to look into fertility solutions, whereas the chances for males have also started to decrease around this time period according to a study that states male fertility peaks at between the ages of 30 and 35. [15]

What To Expect From Ages 41-45+?

It’s tougher for a couple to conceive within this age bracket for bother parties. For women, in particular, it’s harder as the body could be entering menopause. This means the ovaries have exhausted their follicles and are close to the end of their supply. As each menstruating cycle comes long, more will disappear. By the time you reach your early 50s, it is likely that there will be almost no follicles remaining. [16]

It also means that babies that are born from a mother in this age range could have a number of birth defects and other pregnancy complications. This could be a miscarriage or chromosomal abnormalities, as well as other issues. [17]

For the mother themselves, it could also increase their own risk. This could lead to diabetes, hypertension and preeclampsia. [18]

For males, they will still be able to make sperm during this age range; it just may be less than they would have in their 20s. A study published in the the Human Reproduction journal found that sperm volume, morphology and viability were diminished in older men compared to their younger peers. [19]

Causes Of Male Infertility

cause male infertility

As touched upon earlier, a man’s decrease in sperm characteristics usually come about later in his life. A 1995 study found that men aged 35 or over were 52% less fertile than men who were younger than 35 years. [20]

The changes in fertility and sexual functioning may not be as noticeable as they would be for women; they do still happen as men get older. But scientifically speaking, and despite the changes, there is no maximum age at which a male will not be able to impregnate a fertile woman. This is how older men in their 60s or 70s are able to conceive children with younger partners.

However, as men age and get older, approaching 40+, their testicles start to get smaller and softer. This then leads to the shape of the sperm and its movement declining. It’s also possible that their sperm could carry more gene defects within, which could cause birth complications. [21] However, there are a number of other causes that can also affect fertility. 

With Fertiligy, you can get our product that has a unique formula to help naturally enhance male fertility and vitality to help you with conceiving a child. The nutrients being naturally sourced mean that they are vegan friendly and manufactured in accordance with FDA guidelines.

Fertiligy includes an extensive profile of clinically proven nutrients that consitsts of vitamins, minerals, amino acid compounds and medicinal plant extracts. Depending on your needs and requirements, you will be able to order up to a four-month supply of products to help you increase your chances.

Men who have gotten older may also develop several different medical illnesses that could directly affect their sexual and reproductive functions. This won’t be the case for all older men, but it becomes more common as they age, but they may be able to starve off these effects by looking after their health over the years. [22]

For men, other symptoms may become apparant such as those who have problems with their erections or libido; they will need to establish the cause and address the issue. There are several health reasons as to why a man may have these problems, from lower levels of testosterone to mental health reasons.[23]  Fertiligy includes nutrients such as fenugreek and zinc to naturally help stimulate testosterone to improve libido and erections.

Causes Of Female Infertility

fertility by age

For women, there are more common ways for them to lose their fertility and become infertile. The decrease in the quantity of follicles that contain eggs within the ovary is known as a loss of ovarian reserve. [24]

Many women start to lose this ovarian reserve shortly before they become infertile or stop having regular periods on their menstrual cycles. Women are typically born with all the follicles that they will ever have naturally in their lifetime. This means that the amount of waiting follicles can build up and eventually be used up. 

When the ovarian reserve declines, it can become possible that the follicles will become less sensitive to FSH stimulation, which could mean you need to find more ways to stimulate for the egg to become mature and eventually ovulate. Diminished ovarian reserve is typically age-related, which occurs when eggs start to naturally be lost, with the current crop of eggs being decreased in quality. [25]

Although, younger women may find that they have reduced ovarian reserves, which can be caused by smoking or if they have a genetic predisposition to premature menopause. It could also be the case that they’ve had ovarian surgery at some point in their life, and it’s now having some sort of problem. It’s also possible that young women could have diminished numbers of eggs left even if they don’t have any risk factors that they are aware of. [26]

You can have medical tests for an ovarian reserve to find out the strength and integrity of the eggs and the ovary. This will help give an explanation as to what has happened to a woman and what they need to do in order to get help. It could be that you need to seek different treatments, or you need some sort of surgery in order to correct an issue.

In summary, women who have a poor reserve of ovarian resources will have a lower chance of becoming pregnant than women who have a normal ovarian reserve for the same age bracket. 

Other Causes Of Infertility

fertility by age

There are also other reasons as to how infertility could be caused within both men and women, which you should be aware of. There are different symptoms to look out for infertility for males, which you can then diagnose and find reasons for, from genetics to prevention methods.

Men who drink alcohol could become infertile, as heavy drinking can lower the testosterone and follicle-stimulating hormones. This could then lower the sperm count of a male, with the testes even shrinking causing impotence and infertility. Male fertility could also be affected by a change in the gonadotropin release that can alter sperm production.

Women who have any sort of previous medical disorder, such as diabetes or anything blood-related, should consider speaking to their doctor or care provider before attempting to get pregnant. As it’s possible that a woman could be risking their health and life if they go ahead with it at the wrong time. [27]

For these women, they could go under special monitoring and testing throughout the pregnancy in order to find and resolve any issues that could arise. This will become riskier for older women above the age of 25, where their children could have the risk of chromosomal problems.

Conclusion

To conclude, for men, in general, they are still able to produce some quantities of sperm when they get older, but the quality of them themselves may start dropping up until they turn 80. For men who are looking to conceive over 35 should look into fertility products to give themselves the best chance possible.

For women, their reproductive age is considerably shorter, giving them a smaller window to get pregnant. In most cases, they will start to enter menopause in their 40s to 50s, which will mean they no longer have any eggs capable of being fertile.

There will always be risks involved with giving birth and having children, but they can be lessened with careful consideration, fertility products and consultations with your doctor. It is possible to receive egg donations if a woman is having problems with their fertility. Some women choose to delay their pregnancy until their late 30s, allowing them to freeze their embryos after IVF or retrieving and freezing eggs for later use when they are ready.

fertility by age

References:

[1] www.acog.org. (n.d.). Having a Baby After Age 35: How Aging Affects Fertility and Pregnancy. [online] Available at: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/having-a-baby-after-age-35-how-aging-affects-fertility-and-pregnancy.

[2] Ovulation | physiology | Britannica. (2019). In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/science/ovulation.

[3] NIHAging (2017). What Is Menopause? [online] National Institute on Aging. Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-menopause.

‌[4] Eskenazi, B. (2003). The association of age and semen quality in healthy men. Human Reproduction, 18(2), pp.447–454. Available at: https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/18/2/447/639258

[5] Sharma, R., Biedenharn, K.R., Fedor, J.M. and Agarwal, A. (2013). Lifestyle factors and reproductive health: taking control of your fertility. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, [online] 11(1), p.66. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3717046/.

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[8] Mills, M., Rindfuss, R.R., McDonald, P. and te Velde, E. (2011). Why do people postpone parenthood? Reasons and social policy incentives. Human Reproduction Update, [online] 17(6), pp.848–860. Available at: https://academic.oup.com/humupd/article/17/6/848/871500.

[9] Sozou, P.D. and Hartshorne, G.M. (2012). Time to Pregnancy: A Computational Method for Using the Duration of Non-Conception for Predicting Conception. PLoS ONE, 7(10), p.e46544. Available at: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0046544#pone-0046544-t003

[10] http://www.nichd.nih.gov/. (2018). How common is infertility? [online] Available at: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/infertility/conditioninfo/common.

[11] Practice Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in collaboration with the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. (2013). Optimizing natural fertility: A committee opinion. Fertility and Sterility, 100(3), 631–637. Available at: https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(13)00790-5/fulltext

[12] nhs.uk. (2020). How long does it usually take to get pregnant? [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/trying-for-a-baby/how-long-it-takes-to-get-pregnant/.‌

[13] Definitions of infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss: a committee opinion. (2013). Fertility and Sterility, [online] 99(1), p.63. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001502821202242X [Accessed 25 Oct. 2019].

‌[14] www.cdc.gov. (2021). Infertility | Reproductive Health | CDC. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/Infertility/#e [Accessed 6 Aug. 2021].

‌[15] Levitas, E., Lunenfeld, E., Weisz, N., Friger, M. and Potashnik, G. (2007). Relationship between age and semen parameters in men with normal sperm concentration: analysis of 6022 semen samples. Andrologia, [online] 39(2), pp.45–50. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17430422/ [Accessed 3 Jun. 2021].

[16] te Velde, E.R. (2002). The variability of female reproductive ageing. Human Reproduction Update, 8(2), pp.141–154. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12099629/

‌[17] Kushner, D.H. (1979). Fertility in women after age forty-five. International Journal of Fertility, [online] 24(4), pp.289–290. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/45103/ [Accessed 6 Aug. 2021].

[18] Kort, D.H., Gosselin, J., Choi, J.M., Thornton, M.H., Cleary-Goldman, J. and Sauer, M.V. (2012). Pregnancy after age 50: defining risks for mother and child. American Journal of Perinatology, [online] 29(4), pp.245–250. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21809262/.

‌[19] Oup.com. (2021). Validate User. [online] Available at: https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/19/8/1811/2356317 [Accessed 6 Aug. 2021].

‌[20] Harris, I.D., Fronczak, C., Roth, L. and Meacham, R.B. (2011). Fertility and the aging male. Reviews in urology, [online] 13(4), pp.e184-90. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3253726/.

‌[21] Phillips, N., Taylor, L. and Bachmann, G. (2019). Maternal, infant and childhood risks associated with advanced paternal age: The need for comprehensive counseling for men. Maturitas, 125, pp.81–84. Available at: https://www.maturitas.org/article/S0378-5122(19)30134-3/fulltext

[22] Medlineplus.gov. (2017). Aging changes in the male reproductive system: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. [online] Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/004017.htm.

[23] nhs.uk. (2017). Loss of libido (reduced sex drive). [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/loss-of-libido/.

[24] Jirge, P. (2016). Poor ovarian reserve. Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences, [online] 9(2), p.63. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4915288/.

[25] Parry, J.P. and Koch, C.A. (2000). Ovarian Reserve Testing. [online] PubMed. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279058/.

[26] Rasool, S. and Shah, D. (2017). Fertility with early reduction of ovarian reserve: the last straw that breaks the Camel’s back. Fertility Research and Practice, 3(1). Available at: https://fertilityresearchandpractice.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40738-017-0041-1

[27] Editor (2019). Diabetes is associated with lower rates of fertility. There are a number of reasons which can play a part including, obesity, being underweight, having diabetic complications, having PCOS and having an autoimmune disease. [online] Diabetes. Available at: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/pregnancy-complications/infertility-in-women.html.