Most people have heard about the decline in women’s fertility after a certain age. Depending on who you ask, you may be told you’re too old to have a baby anywhere from age 30 to age 50 - women in this age group who do get pregnant are said to be of "advanced maternal age." Fortunately for anyone that has decided to delay their family building until later in life, advances in reproductive technology and medicine, as well as more proactive family planning, has increased the window that a woman can safely carry a pregnancy. Whatever you are planning - and whatever age you are now - it is important to understand the relationship between fertility and age.
Decline in Quantity and Quality
Since the first successful IVF birth in the 1970s, there are more elements of biology and fertility that can be influenced or controlled than ever before. That doesn’t change the fact that both eggs and sperm are affected by age.
Egg quality and quantity begin to decline in a woman’s mid to late 30s. According to WebMD a “woman’s ability to get pregnant begins to decrease slightly at age 27, and then decreases significantly after the age of 37.”
Not as much is known about the effects of age on the quality of sperm, but some “studies have shown that when paternal age is over 40, there might be a small increase in the risks of adverse pregnancy outcomes or risks to children's health.”
The combination of these factors can make conceiving and carrying a pregnancy to full term more challenging the older you get, but some proactive planning can expand your timeline for becoming a parent.
Keep Your Options Open
While conceiving naturally gets more challenging with age, there are some proactive steps families can take to give themselves the best chance of having a child later in life. There have been important advances in egg retrieval and freezing technology, which means that women can preserve their younger eggs (or embryos) to be used later in life. Recently Janet Jackson and Senator Tammy Duckworth both gave birth over 50, and the oldest verified pregnancy was carried by a 66-year-old woman.
So how old is too old to have a baby? The answer is: it depends. Every family is different, but with medical support and monitoring, it is possible to have a healthy pregnancy and baby much later in life than ever before.
If you’re planning for the future - or are just interested in learning more about your options - contact one of our fertility experts today for a free 30-minute consultation. We can work together to make your dream family a reality!