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“I am 40 but I have not yet conceived”

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More and more women decide to have their first child after the age of thirty, without realising that their fertility starts to diminish from that age

“I am 40 but I have not yet conceived”

It is not always easy to find the right time to be a mother before the age of 40. First of all there is one’s education and then one’s professional career… The difficulties in making professional life compatible with family life may lead many women to postpone motherhood until they are past the age of 35. In fact, during recent years the number of women who decide to be mothers at that age has doubled. What many of them do not know is that precisely from that age, their fertility starts to be reduced.

The number of women who are first-time mothers at that age has increased considerably over the past few years. For instance, in the UK the number of women who experienced their first pregnancy after the age of forty practically doubled between 2000 and 2010. The same trend applies to Spain: while in 2000 only one out of every ten women had their first child between the age of 35 and 39, in 2010 almost two out of every ten were first-time mother at that age.

Reduction in fertility

Contrary to what some people believe, continuing to menstruate is not synonymous with being fertile. Dr. Clara Colomé, a specialist from the medical team of Eugin Clinic, stresses “the number of eggs a woman has diminishes with age, but from the age of 35, and particularly from the age of 40, this reduction is more pronounced; besides, the remaining eggs gradually lose their quality. Everything is linked to the passing of time”, she adds. So even though a woman of this age may continue to have regular periods, this does not necessarily mean her fertility is still intact.

In normal conditions, the ovarian reserve or the number of eggs a woman has is optimum until the age of 35. After that age the number of eggs starts to fall. Between the age of 37 and 39 this process is accelerated and between the age of 40 and 43, it is much faster and more pronounced. From the age of 43, says Dr. Colomé, “the possibilities of a natural pregnancy with one’s own eggs are extremely slim”.

In such cases, it is common to use egg donation to become pregnant. “The low quality of the oocytes increases the risk of a miscarriage and the possibilities of the foetus suffering chromosomal alterations such as Down syndrome”, warns the doctor. Furthermore, with age it is more likely that the woman will suffer from diabetes or hypertension during the pregnancy.

How to know whether you need help

If you are aged over 35 and have been trying to get pregnant for six months or more, it is best to see your gynaecologist, who will examine you to see whether there are any alterations in your fertility. If you are unable to get pregnant naturally, you can use assisted reproduction technology such as artificial insemination or in vitro fertilisation.

At all events, the evaluation of your doctor with respect to your personal situation, along with your state of health and your age, and a study of your partner will make it possible to determine which technology is best for you.

References

    Share of first birth rates among women aged 35-39 on the total fertility rate for first births, in %, 1950-2010. Sobotka, T. I International Symposium on Social Egg Freezing, Barcelona. 2013
    UK National Statistics
    Instituto Nacional de Estadística

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