As a woman gets older, she produces fewer healthy eggs. This decrease in egg production gets faster with each year.
That’s why the major cause of fertility problems in women is their age. Once you turn 36, your chance of conceiving naturally is about half of what it was when you were 20. By the time you are 41, this chance falls to just 4%.
So, if you are over 35 and having trouble conceiving naturally, it’s important to seek medical advice within 6 months. If you are under 35, we generally advise you to wait 12 months, but it’s important to be proactive so see a specialist sooner rather than later. In addition, if you have any known conditions such as a history of STD's or male factor issues, then don't delay in seeking specialist help.
Your first step is to discuss these issues with your GP, as they can help you with ways to maximise your chances of conceiving naturally and begin any fertility investigation. They can then refer you to a fertility specialist of your choice if required.
Age also increases the risk of miscarriage
As you get older, your cells start to divide abnormally and may distribute unequal amounts of genetic material – causing an increased chance of genetic abnormality. Unfortunately, this means that for older women it’s not just more difficult to become pregnant, there is also a greater risk of miscarriage, and of giving birth to a child with a genetic abnormality, such as Down syndrome.
Lifestyle factors affecting fertility
While there is nothing that women can do slow the ageing process down, you can improve the chances of conceiving by improving certain lifestyle factors that affect fertility. Quitting smoking, being in the correct weight range (neither overweight or underweight), and reducing caffeine and alcohol intake can play a role in improving your likelihood of getting pregnant.
A man's age & fertility
The effect of a man's age on fertility is not nearly as dramatic as the effect of a woman's age. Men produce sperm throughout their lifetime, while women are born with all the eggs they'll ever have.