Many people try for a baby after 35. Around 1 in 5 pregnant Australians (20%) are between 35 and 39 years of age. There are risks and challenges you should know about when trying for pregnancy after 35 years.
It can be harder to get pregnant now than when you were younger. Females are most fertile in their 20s.
If you've been trying to get pregnant for over 6 months, you should see your doctor to discuss your fertility.
- Female fertility begins to decline faster after the age of 30. It declines more significantly after the age of 35.
- Male fertility begins to decline faster after the age of 40. It declines more significantly after the age of 45.
The older you and your partner are, the more likely it is to take longer to conceive. This can also increase the risk of pregnancy complications.
Why does your fertility decline?
At birth, a female’s ovaries have all the eggs they will ever have — between 1 million and 2 million eggs. By puberty, half of the eggs will be gone.
As you get older, the number of eggs continues to reduce. Eggs age as the person does, and older eggs don’t fertilise as easily, but still, only one is needed.
Males produce sperm constantly. However, the number of sperm made reduces with age. The quality of the sperm also begins to decline. These factors reduce fertility.
How do I improve my chances of becoming pregnant?
If you are female, you will have a better chance of getting pregnant if you understand your menstrual cycle. The average cycle is 28 days, but it can vary for different people.
If your cycle is regular, you will probably ovulate 2 weeks before the start of your next period. So, you can work out the best time for sexual intercourse to result in pregnancy.
If you are male, talk with your partner about their menstrual cycle.
Both you and your partner should be as healthy as you can be. Apart from anything else, this really will help your chances of getting pregnant. You can both:
- eat a healthy diet
- be a healthy weight
- check for and treat any sexually transmitted infections
- avoid alcohol
- if you smoke, stop smoking and avoid passive smoking when possible
When should you ask for help?
You should see a doctor if you’re a female, over 35 years, and have been trying to get pregnant for over 6 months.
People under 35 years, should have regular unprotected sexual intercourse for 12 months. If you don’t get pregnant in that time you should see your doctor.
However, if you have endometriosis or another condition that affects your fertility, you can visit your doctor sooner.
First, you and your partner will have a number of fertility tests. These might include:
- blood tests
- sperm tests
- checks for sexually transmitted infections
- an ultrasound
Depending on the results, your doctor might suggest treatments such as:
- hormone therapy
- IVF and variations such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
- artificial insemination
These treatments can all work. However, none of them are guaranteed.
For example, most people who have IVF have a:
- 33% chance of taking home a baby after one cycle
- a 54% chance of taking home a baby after 8 cycles
However, for people aged 40 to 44 years, this decreases to:
- 11% chance of taking home a baby after one cycle
- about a 38% chance of taking home a baby after 8 cycles
What happens if I get pregnant?
If you are over 35 years and become pregnant, it’s important to receive good antenatal care. This is because there are some things to watch out for.
As the age of parents increases, the chance of pregnancy complications also does. These include:
- high blood pressure
- caesarean sections
- gestational diabetes
- chance of twins
Your new baby may also have a higher risk of:
- birth defects, including cardiovascular and musculoskeletal defects
- disorders including autism, ADHD
- mental health concerns
- childhood cancer
You might also want to talk to your doctor or midwife about:
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
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Last reviewed: July 2022