Understanding Fertility As You Age
Research and Innovations Waiting longer to have children can lead to more difficult labour for women aged 30 and up, but there are a variety of options available to those who are having children later in life.
Canada has seen a societal shift towards advanced maternal age. Statistics Canada reports that in 2011, women between the ages of 35 and 39 had 15% more babies, than those aged 20-24.
“The average age of women we see here are 36-37,” says Dr. Michael Virro, from the Markham Fertility Centre in Toronto. “Patients are generally trying to secure career and education before having children,” he adds.
As women age, fertility naturally decreases and the potential for complications increases, which presents a need for women to understand the effects of their age on fertility as well as the options available for having children after 30.
Age & Fertility
While it might be a good idea to secure job and finances before having children, Dr. Marjorie Dixon, from First Steps Fertility says that waiting presents a challenge in egg quality: the higher your age, the worse is the egg quality. “Women are born with a certain number of eggs that depletes as you age,” comments Dixon.
The situation is a little different for men because where women are using the same eggs that are produced from birth, men produce sperm every 90 days, so the challenge is in fertilizing the egg before it gets too old.
Misconceptions about fertility in older women
There is a misconception that infertility is mostly a female problem but men also experience challenges as they age, like poor sperm quality, low sperm count or erectile dysfunction.
People also tend to believe that age is the biggest factor in being able to have children later on in life, however, studies show that 77% of women can still get pregnant by age 35 and 53% by age 40.
Judith Daniluk, professor of counselling psychology at the University of British Columbia, also points the finger at Hollywood when it comes to getting pregnant later in life. Daniluk commented in another report saying that: “the celebrity culture reinforces the idea that anyone can have a baby at any age,” which is not entirely true.
Assisted reproductive options
For those who prefer to have children after 35, Dr. Virro shares a number of options including: In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), sperm freezing or using a sperm donor and egg freezing or using an egg donor less than age 30.
Dr. Dixon also suggests using a gestational carrier or surrogate who may be in better shape to carry a baby to term. Adoption is also popular among men and women who are ready to raise children.
Preparing for pregnancy after 30
If there are men and women who know that they will have children after 35, having the best health and diet are not the biggest factors, but Dr. Dixon agrees that it does help to maintain a healthy lifestyle: don’t smoke or drink too much alcohol, get enough exercise and use supplements like Vitamin D, Coenzyme Q10 and Omega which are all good for the ovaries.
“The best way to prepare, is to be informed about the limitations of your reproductive life span so you can make decisions accordingly,” adds Dr. Dixon.
By: Sandra Gabriel