More couples are delaying their family than ever before and the average age of having a first child is now 31 years. However, fertility reduces with age, especially after 35 years and many women are finding it harder to get pregnant.
The woman’s age is the main reason why couples cannot conceive naturally. Assisted reproduction techniques such as IVF (in vitro fertilisation) can help but are less effective in older women. By 40 years, there is only a 20% chance of pregnancy with IVF and by 45 years this is down to only 1–2%.
Furthermore, pregnancies in older women have higher risks of miscarriage, prematurity and abnormalities in the foetus.
The main cause of reduced fertility with age is the decline in the number and quality of the eggs in the ovaries. Each woman is born with a fixed supply of eggs and the number falls over time, especially after the age of 30. The rate of decline varies from woman to woman.
< How fertile are you?
The best advice to young women is to start a family sooner rather than later. Fertility is at its peak up to about the age of 30.
If you are considering a delay in childbearing for career, financial or personal reasons, you can have your fertility assessed with a simple AMH blood test. AMH (anti-Mullerian hormone) is a guide to the number of eggs still available and is a measure of your future fertility. A low level is a clear message to move the timetable forwards.
The test can also be useful for women who are having difficulty conceiving or who have a family history of early menopause.
AMH can be combined with ultrasound to assess the condition of the ovaries further.
- Please note this information was correct at time of publication.
- For up to date information, speak to your doctor.