Getting Pregnant After Age 35: Concerns about Conceiving in our Mid-to-Late 30s (& beyond)
Today, more and more couples are electing to have a baby (or start having babies) later in life. It would take an army of sociologists to chart out all the reasons for this phenomenon, but suffice it to say that the world we live in today is quite different than the world of our parents or grandparents – when getting pregnant in your 30s was nearly unheard of.
In the 1970s, the average age of a new mother was around 24 or 25. Now, the average age for getting pregnant is about 30 – and climbing… And it’s also increasingly di rigueur to TTC (try-to-conceive) in your late 30s and early 40s.
So as the speed of life accelerates, postponing baby-making appears to be one of resultant phenomenon. Some people identify the simple fact that, today, more and more women are focusing on careers or education than in previous generations. Other people suggest that for this generation, our “30s is the new 20s”.
At any rate, the fact is, a growing percentage of women are trying-to-conceive later in life – in their mid-to-late 30s and into their 40s. Most couples will succeed in conceiving (though it may take a bit more time and effort at this age); other couples may face some infertility hurdles and turn to fertility treatments (either herbal or clinical) for support. It’s not unexpected that, as we age, our fertility declines. This goes for men as well as women!
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Whatever the situation, one fact remains: the older you are, the better your chances of encountering various fertility obstacles, challenges, or delays… The point of this article is not to urge couples to conceive younger, but to simply clarify that getting pregnant might not be as fast or easy as for a 25 year old. A doctor will be your best resource for preconception support if you are trying for a baby in your mid-30s plus.
Let’s look at just a few basic facts to frame our expectations about conceiving a baby in our 30s. After that, we’ll look at some of the challenges, as well as some of the solutions and strategies for increasing the odds of conceiving after 35.
- First, TTC couples (any age) have only a 20% chance of achieving a pregnancy each menstrual cycle. However, active fertility charting and ovulation testing will increase those odds substantially!
- When a woman is TTC in her 30’s, the monthly chance of conception drops to less than 15%.
- The monthly odds of conceiving decrease as a woman ages due to various physiological issues like hormonal balance and associated ovulatory/menstrual cycle irregularities – as well as aging ovaries (or decreased ovarian reserve). This means it might take longer (more cycle of active trying) to get that positive pregnancy test.
- Today, 15% of trying to conceive couples may experience some kind of difficulty or delay in conceiving a baby…
What to Do About This? As you age, staying fit and staying healthy become increasingly important. That means focusing on sound diet and proper weight to optimize your reproductive advantage. Just as important, chart fertility to discover when you ovulate during your cycle. Predicting ovulation will vastly maximize your odds of a pregnancy – and bbt charting can also alert women in their 30s if their ovulatory cycles are displaying signs of irregularity.
Fertility Challenges and Infertility Obstacles
As we age, the vigorous and balanced interplay of reproductive hormones begins to decline – and with this so declines our fertility. Ultimately, a woman’s “ovarian reserve” begins to run low, her eggs age, her hormones do not ebb and flow with the same balance and stability. Ovarian reserve refers to the amount of healthy eggs available in a woman’s ovaries, as well as the quality of those eggs – and the hormonal capacity to stimulate egg maturation. Thus, menstrual cycles may become irregular or perhaps less predictable and there may be occasions when ovulation does not take place. Balance between reproductive hormones is crucial for regular ovulation. Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) tests can be used at home to help you assess your ovarian reserve.
The presence of cervical mucus (or CM) is also an important aspect of fertility – and as we age, the presence and/or quality of cervical mucus may decline as a coefficient of hormonal imbalances. Fertile cervical mucus is supported by the estrogens, so any kind of reproductive hormonal deficiency with estrogen may interrupt both ovulatory regulatory, as well as the production of cervical fluids that support conceiving. (Products like FertileCM can be used to increase the quantity and quality of your cervical mucus.)
How do I optimize my chances of conceiving after age 35?
The first thing to remember is that even for someone in their 20s, there is no guarantee that you will conceive right off the starting line. As indicated above, there is only a 20% chance of conceiving per given menstrual cycle. So, if you are TTC and age 35-plus, simply recognizing that overnight success might not happen is a healthy way to frame things. In other words…
Calibrate your expectations and realize that it might (or might not) take up to a year a more before you get that first positive preg test…
Next, consider the options for tactically increasing the odds of pregnancy….
- If your TTC horizons are calibrated, then you know what to expect. The more you know, the less the stress. And reducing stress or anxiety is the second step for boosting your pregnancy chances. The less you worry, the better your mind and body work together.
- Along with mental well-being, physical well-being is just as important. Being overweight or underweight can adversely effect hormonal balance and cycle regularity. A smart diet (and exercise) are essential. Prenatal vitamins are vital. Yoga or fertility acupuncture are increasingly popular.
- Chart your BBTs! Any doctor or fertility expert will tell you that fertility charting and monitoring your monthly cycle will maximize your opportunities for a pregnancy per given cycle. If you know when you ovulate (by bbt charting or using ovulation tests) and can time intercourse for your most fertile days. Particularly after age 35, guesswork is likely not going to be sufficient! Start an ovulation calendar today…
- If you have any kind of cycle irregularity or simply wish to ensure cycle balance, herbal fertility supplements like FertilAid are available that are designed to naturally regulate and normalize the monthly cycle.
Over 35? Then first off, arrange a preconception doctor’s visit. Talking with your doctor about medical history, health status, conceiving tips, and preconception expectations can clarify unanswered questions and point you in the right direction – as well as decrease stress about facing the unknown.
In case you do not conceive within 6 months or so, your doctor will likely advise a return visit to ensure there are no interfering fertility issues.