Thursday, 13 March 2014

Are you too old to get pregnant?

Gradient in the age and fertility graph of a woman takes steep rise during mid-20s and steady decline with approaching late-30s. Before a woman actually starts considering idea of getting pregnant, it sometimes is too late. A woman’s fertility clock starts ticking at its strongest pace, when she hits puberty and it gradually declines much earlier than thought. Although, the male fertility declines leisurely, but for couples with huge age difference face trouble when a partner five years older or more as sperm quality declines with age.

The most fertile time of a woman is between the ages of 19 to 26-years, as the chances of conceiving two days before ovulation are 50 per cent higher. With time, women become 10 per cent less fertile at 27 and the fertility rate starts sharply declining in the mid-30s. Sometimes, a late decision leaves a vast barren ground of infertility before the couples. However, most of the women were seen giving birth to a healthy baby at 35 without real complications in conceiving but after 35 the proportion of women experiencing infertility or miscarriage increases as the rate of fertility drops by nearly 40 per cent between the age of 27 and 34.

After 35, the fertility rate starts depending on the ages of both the partners. If the age difference is less, then two out of five women conceive with 30 per cent chances but couples with larger age difference experience infertility issues as the chances of conceiving remains less than 20 per cent. It is not that women stop conceiving, it just takes longer time and more complications. By the age of 40 only two in five of those who wish to have a baby will be able to do so.

On the other hand, male fertility starts declining at the age of 35. Many men remain fertile into their 50s and beyond, the proportion of men with sperm disorders increases with age. The decline in male fertility is more gradual for men than women. The decline in male fertility can affect the health of the children they may go on to have. Men can remain fertile for much longer than women. Even though male fertility also declines with age, it tends to happen gradually for men.

The reason behind decline of fertility in women is considered as ovulation problem and blockages to the fallopian tubes. When a woman hits 30s, she is left with less number of quality eggs that makes her ovarian reserve decline. And with the approach of menopause that comes usually around 40s, women are left with meager number of eggs. In fact, the chances of conceiving non-identical twins are seen mostly in older women. This is because the struggles to produce more Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) to make women ovulate at the older age. The hormone is called follicle. Body produces FSH to fight the fewer viable eggs left in your ovaries. But the over-production of FSH can result in more than one follicle ripening and releasing an egg and multiply pregnancies.

However, with advancement of technologies, the couple need not worry. The upward trend of IVF has preserved the excitement of couples wanting have babies at any age. It is suggested to see a doctor after the age after regular failed attempts of getting pregnant.

Dr Neeraj Pahlajani

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