The Truth about When it is Too Late to Have a Baby

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Recently in the news, it was revealed that the dramatic fertility cliff that we have been told occurs at age 35, is based on 300-year-old science. An article by BBC explains, “while fertility declines with age, it does not appear to do so as quickly as we have been led to believe. Among women aged 27-34, the study showed that 86% will have conceived within a year of trying. So the 82% figure for women aged 35 to 39 is only a little lower," (source).


No matter what the new research shows, however,  we all know in regards to getting pregnant, that we have an expiration date. The frustrating part is that our expiration dates are entirely individual. Some of us will have no problem getting pregnant at 38 years old and others of us will struggle at 33 years old.


The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) explains, “It is important to understand that fertility declines as a woman ages due to the normal age-related decrease in the number of eggs that remain in her ovaries. This decline may take place much sooner than most women expect," (source).  Yikes! That last line is terrifying. 


The information online is conflicting- do we need to worry or not?  Dr. Don Aptekar who has been in practice for over 40 years, said honestly, "probably not." He said he doesn't worry for his patients unless they are showing certain signs that include signs of anovulation, are over the age of 38 AND have been trying for a year. And by trying, he means that they are timing their fertile window and the husband's sperm has already been checked. 


The problem with asking doctors the question, "when am I too old to have a baby," is that our fertility is similar to how some of us will see our first gray hair at age 28 and others won’t until age 45. Dr. Apetkar said he has had patients who had to use donor eggs in their 30s due to poor egg quality and others that came to him naturally pregnant at 47 years of age. 


It is true that, statistically speaking, trying to conceive after our 20s makes it harder to get pregnant and stay pregnant. The current scientific belief behind this is due to reduced egg quality. The statistic, however,  may simply mean that it will take longer to get pregnant, not that you wont get pregnant. For example, you may have ovulated 12 times a year in your 20s and now that you are over 35, you may only ovulate only 4 times in a year. What this means is that timing sex each month is essential. Dr. Aptekar says that his main success helping his healthy older patients get pregnant has not been through drugs, but by helping them pinpoint when they are fertile. That way they don't miss their window of opportunity when a quality egg does happen, which may be only 4 times a year for a couple of days. 
 

“Many women today find themselves trying to conceive after the age of 35. This opportunity can be full of joy and riddled with questions. Despite some challenges, many women in their thirties and forties successfully conceive," (source).  
 

You also may be wondering about whether you will have a healthy baby. Dr. Aptekar said to "be reassured that despite the slightly increased risks, you are still more likely to have a healthy baby than not." 
 

Should you discover that you are unable to conceive, that is an unbelievably hard truth to face. Your dream was most likely to experience pregnancy, birth, and parenting a child with your own eggs and your husband's sperm.  If you find in your heart, however,  that you can change your dream to simply being a parent, then perhaps consider adoption or donor sperm/eggs.


And if that works for you, then your dream indeed does not have an expiration date.