Many women try for a baby after 35. Almost one in four (24%) pregnant Australian women are aged 35 and over. But there are risks and challenges you need to know about.
If you've been trying to get pregnant for six months or more, you should see a doctor to discuss your fertility.
It can be harder to get pregnant than when you were younger. You're at your most fertile in your early 20s. In general, fertility starts to decline faster after the age of 30, and declines more significantly after the age of 35.
The older you are, and your partner is, the more likely it is to take a long time to conceive.
Why does your fertility decline?
At birth your ovaries have all the eggs you will ever have — between 1 million and 2 million. By puberty, half of them will be gone. As you get older, the number of eggs continues to reduce. Also, your eggs age as you do, and older eggs don’t fertilise as easily.
But still, you only need one.
Improving your chances of becoming pregnant
You’ll have a better chance of getting pregnant if you understand your menstrual cycle. The average cycle is 28 days, but it can vary from anywhere between 20 to 40 days for some women.
If your cycle is regular, then you can know that you probably ovulate 2 weeks before the start of your next cycle. So you can work from that and work out the best time to have sex.
Also, 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:
- quit if you smoke, and avoid passive smoking
- be a healthy weight
- avoid alcohol
- eat a healthy diet
- check for and treat any sexually transmitted infections
When should you ask for help?
If you’re over 35 and you’ve been trying to get pregnant for six months or more, you should see a doctor.
For women under 35, the usual advice is to try for a year first, unless you know you have issues like endometriosis or other conditions that can affect your fertility.
First, you and your partner would have a number of fertility tests, which might include sperm tests, checks for sexually transmitted infections, and possibly 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. None is guaranteed.
For example, most women have a 33% chance of taking home a baby after one IVF cycle, and 54% after 8 cycles. But for women aged 40 to 44, this decreases to 11% after one cycle and about 38% after 8 cycles.
If you get pregnant?
If you are over 35 and have become pregnant, it’s important that you get good antenatal care, as there are a few things that you need to watch out for, such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and the chance of twins.
For more information and advice, call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436.
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Last reviewed: February 2020