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It is a known biological fact that the potential of having children reduces in both men and women with age. The exact time varies among individuals and genders. Among women, fertility is higher below the age of 35. In men, those younger than 40 years are more likely to be fertile than older men. And the combination of both parent's ages ultimately decides the likelihood of pregnancy. These facts stand regardless of the method of conception, be it natural or assisted reproductive treatments such as IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization).
Following are some of the reasons how age affects various aspects of fertility:
1. Eggs And Age
All women are born with as many as 1 million eggs. These eggs may get down to around 300,000 by puberty. 70% of the eggs they lose to puberty. And for the rest of their reproductive life, the 300,000 eggs gradually decline to the point where they have basically no eggs, by the age of 50.
So, if a woman is 37 years of age, she's trying to ovulate a 37-year-old cell. As these eggs get older, they go through a chromosomal division just 36 hours before ovulation. That chromosomal division becomes abnormal more and more often as the women get older. In short, the older you get, the older your eggs get, and their quality lowers due to more chromosomal errors occurring in them.
2. Sperm And Age
Sperm from older men is somewhat unhealthy at the genetic level and sometimes even damaging to the child. It impacts how likely their sperm will fertilise an egg and also if the pregnancy is to succeed.
Pregnancies in women that have been fathered by older men are more likely to end in a miscarriage than pregnancies in women fathered to younger men. This is simply because the sperm production factory is getting a bit tired in older men.
Above the age of 40, pregnancies are less successful in men in comparison with men below the age of 40. Because as men age, the testicles tend to get smaller and softer; and the sperm shape and movement tend to decline.
3. Pregnancy And Birth Risks With Older Parents
Many changes occur in eggs and sperm as we age, which include damage to genetic material. Children of older parents are at higher risk of birth defects and genetic abnormalities. There is a marginally higher risk of mental health problems and autism spectrum disorder in children of fathers older than 40 compared to younger fathers.
According to estimations, the risk of having a baby with chromosomal/genetic abnormality is approximately 1 in 400 for a woman aged 30; and 1 in 100 for a woman aged 40. There is also a risk of miscarriage if either woman is older, or the father is over 40. The complications in pregnancy and childbirth are also higher for older women than for younger women.
Older women also have a higher risk of having gestational diabetes, placenta previa, placental abruption, stillbirth than younger women. All the information shows eggs are healthier in younger women than older women. Similarly, younger men have more active and better-quality sperm than older men.
A study comparing women of different age groups and ability to conceive concluded the following:
- For women aged 34-35, the chances are 14 % lower.
- For women aged 36-37, the chances are 19 % lower.
- For women aged 38-39, the chances are 30 % lower.
- For women aged 40-41 years, the chances are 53 % lower.
Couples / Men or Women who wish to have a child later in life can opt for:
- Egg or sperm preservation
- IVF using donated eggs and sperm
On A Final Note...
Early conception has higher chances of successful pregnancy and a healthy child. Having a child using IVF or ART with the use of sperm and eggs of the couple becomes complicated with age. We hope we have cleared all the doubts you might have had regarding the topic of age and its role in fertility. You can consult an experienced IVF specialist to know in detail what options you can opt for to help you achieve the joy of having a child. In conclusion, age plays a critical role in the fertility of men and women.