How late you can leave it – again…

So, the debate about when women should get pregnant goes on… When fertility specialist Geeta Nargund called for fertility education, it soon turned into a heated discussion about whether doctors should be telling people when to get pregnant (which, if you read what she actually said, Geeta Nargund hadn’t).

Not long afterwards, Lord Winston, still one of the country’s best-known fertility experts, said that he thought that delaying motherhood was a good thing, and that there were many advantages to waiting to start a family. Now the Chair of the British Fertility Society, Adam Balen, has added his voice to the debate, pointing out that it is important that women are aware of the risks of trying to get pregnant later – you can read his remarks, and a reply from Lord Winston here. The “row” may be largely manufactured by the Daily Mail, but it continues to raise important points about the biological clock and women’s awareness of their fertility.

Whatever your views on the subject, it doesn’t alter the fact that proper fertility education can only ever be a good thing. There are all kinds of reasons why women delay having children – often more to do with circumstance than choice – but being well-informed about the lifestyle factors that can influence your fertility can be hugely beneficial whatever age you may be,

Age and fertility

I happened to come across two articles about age and fertility recently; one focusing on a male fertility specialist who was freezing sperm for men who were worried about the age-related decline in male fertility and the other quoting a fertility author and psychologist who insisted that claims about an age-related decline in female fertility were false and outdated.  They were both rather depressing, albeit for very different reasons.

There is really no need for men to be freezing their sperm at the age of 30 as the first article suggested Yes, it is true that male fertility does decline with age but not in remotely the same way that female fertility does.  The specialist quoted in the article implied that men were rushing to his clinic to freeze their sperm because they were so worried about this – rather useful PR for his sperm freezing business, but whether it’s entirely true is another matter…

The second article, denying the age-related decline in female fertility, was far more worrying as it appeared to be based partly on the fact that the author herself had given birth in her forties.   She claimed that the decline in fertility after the age of 35 was a “myth”  and “outdated” as fertility did not really drop off until women were in their forties.

I’m sure many of us would love to believe that female age-related fertility is a myth, but the fact that some women successfully get pregnant and give birth in their forties doesn’t alter what happens to our ovaries. You need only to look at the most recent IVF success rates published by the HFEA to see very clearly how age affects fertility – should you have any doubts, I’ve included them below.

 IVF SUCCESS RATES BROKEN DOWN BY AGE 

  • 32.2% for women under 35  (32.3%)
  • 27.7% for women aged 35-37  (27.2%)
  • 20.8% for women aged 38-39  (19.1%)
  • 13.6% for women aged 40-42  (12.7%)
  • 5.0% for women aged 43-44  (5.1%) 
  • 1.9% for women aged 45+  (1.5%)