Fertility After 40, Part 1: Slowing Down the Clock

A typical life plan for many women would read: Finish school, build career, meet fabulous guy, get married, spend a few  years  having fun, and only then consider settling down to have a few kids. Great plan except for one major flaw. Biologically, women are meant to have babies in their twenties. The current phenomenon of women delaying childbirth until well into their thirties or even forties is a result of longer life expectancy, delayed (or no) marriage, and the personal expectation that a women can be CEO, and then carry and raise three children. So how long is too long? Without pushing the envelope too far, what is the longest someone can wait without missing her opportunity?

It is an irrefutable biologic fact that fertility starts to decline in the early thirties, which is why a 30-year-old has roughly a 20% chance of conceiving in any given month, but by 40, there is only about a 5% chance. 

While there is not a lot you can do about when you are genetically programmed to wind down, there are steps you can take to “slow down the clock” and potentially extend your fertile years.

Don’t Smoke

Up to 13% of fertility problems and pregnancy loss are attributable to tobacco. In addition, smokers are destined to go through menopause 2-4 years early. Kick the habit today.

Avoid Sexually Transmitted Infections

Most non-monogamous adults are well aware that the potential to contract some sort of pelvic infection is a reality of sex in the city … or the suburbs. Few are aware that that one condom-less encounter can result in a silent infection resulting in tubal damage and subsequent infertility. Mild cases of chlamydia result in infertility as high as 10% of the time. In the event of a severe infection, infertility rates are as high as 50%. So, not to sound like your mother, but use a condom. All the time. Even if he is a nice guy.  Especially if he is a nice guy. In addition, routinely get screened for chlamydia and gonorrhea, even if you have no symptoms.

Keep Your Weight Down

Women who are overweight are far more likely to have ovulatory dysfunction than women who are at their normal weight. Being at the other end of the spectrum – underweight – also causes problems. Visit Dr. Oz’s Diet and Weight Loss Center.

What About the Pill?

It is not unusual for a woman to start the pill at 16 and continue until her late thirties, only to find she is unable to conceive after years of preventing pregnancy. It is  age, not the exposure to hormones for 20 years that has resulted in decreased fertility. In many cases, the pill  preserves fertility. Taking the pill suppresses endometriosis, prevents abnormal cysts, and decreases ovarian cancer. It’s waiting until 40, not the pill, that’s the problem.

My next blog will tell the latests way to how to know how fertile you are.