One question many women ask when they’re thinking about starting a family is “How late can I leave it?”. Many of us are simply not ready to try to conceive when we’re at our most fertile in our twenties, but leaving it until our thirties or forties can lead to worries that maybe we’re going to encounter problems along the way.
Now, researchers have come up with a computer model which suggests when you should start trying to have children based on the size of family you’d like (yes, I know – just one would make most fertility patients very happy…). Anyway, according to this model if you want to have three children, you should start trying by 23 to have a 90% chance of success, or by the age of 32 if you’d like just one child. They factor in IVF separately in their tables, which gives a slightly higher chance of success and it is presented in a table which makes it very easy to understand.
These figures are general and can’t be used to show your individual chances of success, but at the same time they do raise the realities of the difference that age makes when considering pregnancy and parenthood. There’s often criticism about this kind of research from people who say that it puts pressure on women – and no one wants to worry people unnecessarily – but at the same time, we can’t ignore factual information because we don’t like it. I’ve seen so many women in their mid forties who assume that they must still be fertile because they are fit and healthy, look much younger and are still having periods – but none of those things guarantee that you are still fertile. The oldest person to get pregnant using IVF with her own eggs was 46, but this was such a remarkable and extraordinary case that it was reported in a scientific journal – see here
Although this new research can’t be used as a certain predictor for any individual, it does give a clearer picture of the difficulties women can face. It is true that many will go on to have children if they start trying for a family in their late 30s, but others won’t and it is important that everyone is aware of the realities of age and fertility. You can read more about the research in New Scientist here