Trying to Conceive After the Age of 35
Tick, tick, tick. Is that your biological clock ticking? Are you over the age of 35 and trying to conceive a baby?
Some things that were very easy in our 20’s – losing those last 10 pounds, pulling an all-nighter and being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for work at 9 AM, conceiving a baby – suddenly become difficult as we get older.
Why is it more challenging to conceive after 35, and even more so at or after the age of 40?
Women are born with as many eggs as we will ever have. As we age, we may have cycles where an egg is not released. These begin around the age of 35 and grow more frequent over time. The quality of existing eggs also declines, creating additional challenges. The chance of miscarriage in a woman over 35 is 20% to 35%.
Other factors that can lead to decreased fertility in “older” women are:
- Decreased cervical fluid which helps transport sperm through the cervix
- Increased chance of surgery, which created scar tissue around the cervix or fallopian tubes
- Endometriosis (which is a leading cause of infertility in women of any childbearing age)
- Heart disease, diabetes and other health problems that become more prevalent with age
It’s important to note that fertility declines gradually as we get older. It’s not like a switch flips on our 35th birthday and suddenly our odds of conceiving drop. For instance, all other factors being equal, a healthy 35-year-old woman has a better chance of conceiving than a healthy 40-year-old. This may sound depressing, but it’s actually good news. If you are over 35 and deciding on when to start trying for a child, the time is now! In fact, the March of Dimes Web site reports that 1 in 5 women has her first child over the age of 35. Women are waiting longer to begin their families, and this offers many benefits.
Women over 35 are:
- More financially stable, in general
- More established in their careers, so a break for maternity leave may not be as much of a setback
- Have done a lot more, so won’t feel as if they are “missing out” or “giving anything up” to have kids
Whether you are minutes away from menopause or years, there are things you can do to increase your odds of conception.
Be patient – While most couples conceive within 6 months, it can take a healthy couple over the age of 35 as long as one or two years to conceive. If you’ve been trying for six months with no luck, however, you may want to visit a fertility specialist for an assessment.
Have a preconception doctor’s visit – While this typically isn’t necessary in a woman under 35, a general health assessment from a professional can get you on the right track with a healthy diet and exercise program and the knowledge that there are no obvious obstacles to fertility.
Be healthy – Make sure your weight and BMI are within the healthy range, and give up bad habits such as smoking and drinking. A healthy diet can lead to an easier pregnancy for anyone, and especially for women over 35.
Track your fertility – Use any number of available methods to track your fertility so that you will know when – and if – you are ovulating. Be vigilant about having intercourse prior to and during your time of ovulation to increase your odds of conceiving during any cycle.
Take prenatal vitamins – Again, this is good advice for any woman trying to conceive, but can especially increase the odds of a rapid conception and a healthy pregnancy for a woman over 35. It is especially important to get enough folic acid, which decreases the risks of certain genetic disorders. For more tips on prenatal nutrition and exercise, read the article “Nutrition and Trying to Conceive.”
Also be aware that a pregnancy over the age of 35 carries increased risks of:
- Down’s syndrome and other genetic disorders
- premature delivery
- Delivery by c-section
However, tests and screening can provide peace of mind that your baby is healthy, while a healthy lifestyle and positive outlook increases the odds that your pregnancy will go smoothly.
Author: Dawn Allcot
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