By Rebecca Lee
A baby girl is born with 1 to 2 million eggs at birth. A woman’s fertility rate decreases as she ages. She is left with about 10,000 eggs when she reaches 40. As the prime age for conceiving is from 22 to 26, women who try for a baby at a later age should be aware of fertility challenges such as lower chances of conception, pregnancy complications and increased miscarriage rate. Read on to find out more about the fertility issues faced by women in different age groups and ways to boost your fertility.
Puberty to Age 20
Teens usually have no problems with fertility. However, if they intend to have a child, they should pay special attention to prenatal care, which is critical in the first few months of pregnancy. According to WebMD1, pregnant teens have a higher risk of getting high blood pressure – called pregnancy-induced hypertension – than pregnant women in their 20s or 30s. They also have a higher risk of preeclampsia, a medical condition which combines high blood pressure with excess protein in the urine, bringing about swelling of a mother's hands and face, and organ damage.” Other medical risks include premature birth, low birth-weight babies and postpartum depression.
20 to 38
According to the Southern California Center for Reproductive Medicine, the fertility rate per month for a woman in her twenties is about 20 – 25%. Women aged 22 – 26 enjoy the highest fertility rate, which decreases to 15% in the late thirties.
Women in their twenties have a larger percentage of genetically normal eggs and should seek help if they are unsuccessful in conceiving after 12 months of actively trying. At this age, the miscarriage rate is generally about 5-10%, with the incidence of a genetic abnormality like Down’s Syndrome at about 1/1200.
As women approach their thirties, their fertility rate declines, and should they fail to conceive after 9 months of trying, they should seek help.
Their fertility rate at this time is about 15% per month. They should also start taking pre-natal vitamins before trying to become pregnant to decrease the probability of certain birth defects. Women can also try taking Omega 3 fatty acid supplements during pregnancy.
According to Henri Leridon, PhD, an epidemiologist at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research, among women trying to get pregnant naturally at age 35, 66% will conceive with a live birth within one year, and 84% within four years. The Southern California Center for Reproductive Medicine states that the pregnancy risk for women over 35 increases, with a miscarriage rate of about 25% and 1/350 chance that the child will be born with a genetic abnormality. At 35, a woman's fertility rate is generally about 10%, and thus is advised to seek help after 6 months of trying for a baby.
38 to 42
Leidon says that at age 40, 44% of women attempting to conceive naturally will conceive with a live birth within one year, and 64% within four years. As women over 40 have a fertility rate of about 5% per month and about 10% with In-Vitro Fertilisation, they should start seeking help after three months of trying for a baby. Women above the age of 40 tend to face a lot more obstacles when trying to get pregnant as 90% of their eggs may be genetically abnormal. They also face a miscarriage rate of about 33% and an incidence of a genetic abnormality at about 1/38. Women above 40 may choose to use an egg donor who is in her early twenties instead, which raises the fertility rate to about 80%.
42 to 50
When a woman reaches 50, the chances of her being able to give birth are very low. According to Carcio and Rosenthal2 , the chances are generally 0%, although recent advances in assisted reproductive technology may be able to improve the odds slightly. This can be done with in-vitro fertilisation, although there are increased medical risks for older mothers. Comparing a 50-year-old mother-to-be to one aged 20 to 29, the former will experience three times the risk of having babies with low birth-weight, premature birth, and double the risk of fetal mortality.
Ways to Increase Fertility
When trying for a baby, you can increase your chances by changing your lifestyle habits. These include diet, alcohol and caffeine intake, and smoking.
Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of several nutrition books, advises women to drink enough fluids like fresh juices and water, eat more fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates as well as phtoestrogens like lentils, chickpeas and soya products. She recommends buying organic foods where possible and eating foods that are rich in good oils like fish, nuts, seeds and oils. She advises women trying for a baby to avoid additives, preservatives and chemicals, foods with saturated fat as well as sugary foods.
According to Glenville, drinking any alcohol could reduce your fertility by half. A study by Glenville showed that women who drank less than 5 units of alcohol a week (or 5 glasses of wine) were twice as likely to conceive within six months than those who drank more. According to her, women should eliminate alcohol from their diet for at least three months to ensure the highest possibility of conceiving.
Other factors that can affect conception include caffeine intake and smoking. Glenville suggests reducing all caffeine-containing food and drinks for about three months. Smoking has also been linked with increasing infertility, possibly even bringing on early menopause, a barrier for older women attempting to conceive.
2 Management of the Infertile Woman by Helen A Carcio and The Fertility Sourcebook by M Sara Rosenthal, as seen on www.epigee.org/health/infertility.html