Knowledge is power, and this age-by-age breakdown of your chances of getting pregnant will provide you with valuable insights into pregnancy possibilities by age, helping you to up your chances to conceive in your twenties, thirties, forties, and beyond.
We can all relate if your period is the only time you think about your fertility. There is a lot of mystery around conception and the likelihood of becoming pregnant at various ages for many people. Think of this as a quick introduction to reproductive biology.
Let’s begin with the fundamentals: If you have ovaries, you were born with between one and two million eggs, and that number will remain constant throughout your life. About 300,000 eggs will have formed by the time you have your first period.
“Only a small fraction of a woman’s 500 ovulations between the ages of 12 and 52 are actually viable, even if all of her eggs are considered to be healthy,” says Alan Copperman, M.D.
Human reproduction is inefficient, to add insult to injury. The first week of your cycle is when you have the best chance of being pregnant, but let’s face it, most of us don’t have a week every month to devote only to a door-to-door solicitation for children. To make the best choice possible, knowing your chances of becoming pregnant at various ages is helpful.
The Early 20s (20 To 24)
“90% of an individual’s eggs are chromosomally healthy by the time they are 21, increasing the likelihood of having a healthy baby,” says Dr. Copperman. In addition, you have years on your side. As a general rule, fertility in women with ovaries peaks at age 24.
Underage women with functional ovaries have a 96% probability of becoming pregnant within a year of trying. The probability drops to 92 percent if the male partner is younger than 25. Among younger couples, the male partner often has fertility problems. Unless a couple has been having trouble conceiving for over a year, most of these issues can be resolved without the assistance of a specialist.
Mid-Late 20s (25 to 29)
Women between 25 and 34 have an 86 percent probability of becoming pregnant after trying for a year. You have a 10% chance of having a miscarriage, which is just slightly higher than when you were in your early 20s. If you maintain your current lifestyle, you should conceive within a year. A specialist’s opinion isn’t warranted if you’ve been trying for less than a year and getting nowhere.
The Early 30s (30 To 34)
If you and your partner keep trying for a year, you may have as much as an 86% chance of being pregnant. The only significant difference is a 20% increase in the likelihood of a miscarriage by age 30.
Some physicians recommend seeing your OB/GYN or primary care physician if you still have problems conceiving after nine months, even though conventional wisdom says you should wait until you’ve tried for a year.
By doing so, “they can detect any abnormalities and fix them before your fertility starts to fall more rapidly after 35,” as Dr. Copperman puts it.
The Mid to Late 30s (35 To 39)
“In this window, especially before the age of 37, you still have a reasonable chance of becoming pregnant,” says Dr. Kelly Pagidas, a fertility specialist and chair of Medical Education at TCU School of Medicine in Fort Worth, Texas. After age 35, a woman’s monthly fertility rate typically ranges between 15% and 20%. That’s a 78% possibility of getting pregnant in the next 12 months.
Yet, it appears that fertility for those with ovaries starts to drop around age 35. Reduced egg quality is the main cause, according to Dr. Pagidas. Despite the abundance of eggs, a higher number of them will likely be affected by chromosomal abnormalities. You also run a slightly higher chance of having a miscarriage, having a pregnancy complicated by genetic abnormalities like Down syndrome, and having an abnormal pregnancy with conditions like preeclampsia and diabetes.
Around 30% of women over 35 may need a year or more to conceive. The medical community would rather not have you wait that long to learn your status. If you haven’t conceived after six months of trying, you should make an appointment with your OB/GYN as soon as possible to have checked out. Although in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be the best treatment choice, intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a less invasive assisted reproductive technology that has been shown to be effective, especially in cases of sperm abnormalities.
If you’d rather wait to have a family, this is your last chance to store eggs in a frozen state for future usage. “A lady can preserve her eggs up until age 40; then come back years later and have a good probability of pregnancy even into her mid-40s,” explains Steven R. Bayer, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at a Boston IVF fertility clinic.
The Early 40s (40 To 44)
Age is associated with a decline in both egg quality and quantity. However, you now face a number of obstacles that could make getting and staying pregnant more difficult.
Dr. Copperman states that by the time a woman reaches her forties, 90% of her eggs have some sort of chromosomal abnormality. The egg shortage isn’t the only reason people turn to reproductive technologies for help, but it is a major factor.
Some women also report an increase in problems with their uterine lining as they get older, which the presence of an older male partner may exacerbate. It becomes more challenging for the egg to implant when the uterine lining thins and the blood flow to it declines with age.
Women who are nearing menopause may also notice a decrease in the length of their cycles. Menopause usually begins between 40 and 60. Dr. Bayer notes that this means ovulation can happen as early as day nine of a shorter cycle. You have to time your sex activities so that they coincide with ovulation.
Sex should be planned every other day around ovulation at this age. Clear, slick, and stretchy cervical mucous indicates that ovulation is imminent. You can also try using an ovulation predictor kit (OPK) to time your sexual activity. See a physician immediately if trying to conceive has taken more than three months.
For women over the age of 40, conventional treatment with inseminations has a low success rate; IVF is the best alternative.
45 and Older
A woman’s chances of becoming pregnant beyond 45 are only 3–4%. It’s not impossible, but ART, the most common form of which is in vitro fertilization (IVF), is typically required.
Dr. Copperman warns that “the few eggs you have left may have chromosomal abnormalities,” making pre-IVF screening essential. To improve your chances of pregnancy, most clinics recommend using donor eggs from a younger woman if you are between the ages of 46 and 50.
Donor egg pregnancies are the best option for women in their mid-40s who want biological children. When using an egg from a healthy 25- or 30-year-old woman, “achieving and maintaining a pregnancy is fairly easy,” Dr. Bayer explains. If a woman is past menopause, there is still a 60%-65% chance of pregnancy.
The Ultimate Guide to Boosting Your Fertility at Any Age
If you want to start a family as soon as possible, it’s essential to know when you ovulate each month.
According to Dr. Bayer, “ovulation normally happens 14 days before your next period,” regardless of the length of your cycle. Ovulation occurs on day 20 for women with a 34-day cycle and on day 12 for those with a 26-day period. Penis-in-vagina intercourse should be planned for the five days before your expected ovulation date and the two days after.
According to Dr. Bayer, one to four days before the discharge of an egg, a woman will begin to produce clear, slippery cervical mucus. An ovulation kit is another reliable indicator. “When it indicates that you are about to ovulate, you should try to conceive within the next two days. The best time for sexual activity is between 24 and 36 hours,” says Dr. Bayer.