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Age and Fertility: More Doctors Are Asking

Age and Fertility: More Doctors Are AskingA recent story in the Wall Street Journal turned a spotlight on conversations doctors are having with women patients in their 30s. Increasingly, doctors are taking the initiative to be realistic with women about the impact of age on fertility. If patients have not yet had children, more and more physicians are delicately broaching the subject. It can serve as a wake-up call for someone who fully intends to have children, but is waiting for the right time.

Of course, asking women about their plans for children can be a touchy subject. In terms of overall health, most women in their 30s still think of themselves as young, and indeed they are. However, in terms of fertility, a woman’s body experiences a substantial decline in fertility as she nears 40. As far as her reproductive health, 40 is not the new 30.

At age 30, a woman has a 20% chance each month of getting pregnant. By the time a woman reaches aged 38 her chance of getting pregnant each month has dropped to 5%. Because of a whole host of factors, such as career pressures and lifestyle choices, a growing number of women are waiting until after 35 to get pregnant. Also, the tremendous advances in fertility treatments and the media coverage of success stories have led some women to believe they can beat their biological clock.

While it is a delicate subject for some, and no one wants to feel rushed into a major life decision, many doctors, including AOA physicians, feel it is important that women take the time to consciously create a reproductive plan. Assess your overall situation thoughtfully:

  • What is your family medical history?
  • If you want to have children, how many do you want and how far apart would you want them to be spaced?
  • Research how age impacts fertility and factor that into your plan.
  • Recognize that although great advances have been made in fertility treatments, there is no guarantee of success; also, the treatments are expensive and are often not covered by insurance.

Doctors are also discussing fertility with single women. Since it is the age of the eggs that matters, not the age of the uterus, a woman who is not ready to have children can opt to freeze her eggs. While the procedure can cost over $10,000, improvements in egg-freezing technology led the American Society for Reproductive Medicine to lift the experimental label from the procedure as of last year.

The bottom line is that if you are in your 30s and have not yet had children, it is important to create a thoughtful reproductive plan and use it as a baseline to discuss your options at your annual AOA doctor visit.

Learn more about how age affects fertility: