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Does Age Affect Fertility or Not? The Real Story

Posted on May 21, 2016

Does Age Affect Fertility or Not

It seems like every few month’s, there a new headline glossing the cover of a magazine, urgently proclaiming that women are running out of time to have kids. Career ambitions? Bag ’em. Stable relationship? Who needs one? Just get a kid cooking in that uterus, sister, because it’s now or never. These articles are, at least most of the time, written by reputable journalist. They’re filled with statistics and research done by people who have gone to medical school or who have worked in the field of reproductive science for longer than we have, so who are we to argue? Oh, 90 percent of our eggs are gone by the time we turn 30? Forget about graduate school, it’s time to get knocked up!

But the truth is, even when written with good intentions, many of the popular science supporting these inflammatory claims is bunk. In a piece at The Atlantic a few weeks ago, Jeam Twenge dug deep to uncover where some of this misinformation is coming from. Though rife with poignant examples, one particularly noteworthy piece of information was this:

The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on an article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely mentioned is the source of that data: French birth records from 1670 to 1830. The chance of remaining childless – 30 percent- was also calculated based on historical populations.

And this wasn’t the only widely cited “fact” about aging and fertility that had dubious origins. For example, more recent fertility studies (albeit with smaller sizes ranging in the thousands) found that, although fertility does decline with age, it doesn’t become a significant problem until women are nearing or over 40 a bit later than most people claim.

This is good news for women who feel scare-mongered and panicked into settling down before they’re ready or who are putting career plans on hold in order to start a family. But what Twenge’s article also highlights, though she doesn’t speak about it directly, is that fertility really varies widely per women (and per couple). Everyone is different – this is something we all know. It’s why the women one desk over from your can exclusively eat doughnuts for breakfast and is still able to fit into the same clothes she wore in high school. It’s why some women find themselves buying wrinkle cream at twenty-five instead of forty-five. Our fertility is no different. When I was still cycling with my own eggs age 42 I had one of my best cycles, 23 eggs retrieved but, yet I didn’t have a positive outcome from the cycle. After that I met a women in the playground a few years later and after trying to figure out her age we started talking. At the age of 45 her and her boyfriend became pregnant naturally for the first time without even truly planning it. They decided to let nature takes it’s course and whatever was meant to be would be.

It’s amazing that women are born with between one and two million immature eggs. That’s a range of an entire million – a fairly significant difference. So just as some women have the physiological makeup to be long-distance runners and others were simple born to be brilliant at math, some women’s bodies are naturally more forgiving regarding fertility. If you’re a women who one day wants to have children, the best thing to do for yourself is to be your own best advocate and learn what you can about your body while you still have plenty of time to make decisions that your’re happy with. I advocate to people us at Creative Love Egg Donor and Surrogate Agency. I would be more then happy to talk about your future fertility and your plans.

Another recommendation is to have your AMH tested. Anti-Mullerian Hormone is a substance produced by granulose cells in ovarian follicles. The AMH test can be done on any day of a women’s cycle. Sine AMH is produced only in small ovarian follicles, blood levels of this substance have been used to attempt to measure the size of the pool of growing follicles in women. Research has shown that the size of the pool of growing follicles is heavily influenced by the size of the pool of remaining primordial follicles (microscopic follicles in “deep sleep”) Therefore, AMH blood levels are thought to reflect the size of the remaining egg supply or ovarian reserve.  Now with increasing of a females age the size of their pool of remaining microscopic follicles decreases. This means that their AMH levels and the number of ovarian antral follicles visible on ultrasound also decreases.

From here, you can make a decision about other time-forgiving measures, such as freezing your eggs. In the meantime, to help each of us make more informed decisions, we should all take steps to encourage better and more accurate research for both male and female fertility.  When you go and see your gynecologist for your next annual talk to them about your future fertility.

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