My fertility doctor told me that too many wome have misconceptions about age and fertility levels. Sure, he said, we hear about women getting pregnant in their 40s - but it's easier said than done.
Here are 10 facts about a woman's fertility (or infertility as she ages)...it's not exactly the best news for women who are around 40 and want to get pregnant -- but it is helpful to know!
"Once we're in our forties, only a few eggs can start to grow each month," writes Dr Margo Fluker, co-director of the Genesis Fertility Clinic in Vancouver, BC, in her article "Forty is the New Thirty", Right? "Those remaining eggs are of lower quality than in our teens and twenties. It's harder to get them to ovulate, to fertilize, to implant and to grow normally. This translates to lower pregnancy rates, higher miscarriage rates, and a higher risk of chromosomal abnormalities in the few babies that are born to mothers at this age."
Yikes - but don't let this stop you from trying to get pregnant if you're over 40! And, be aware of these misconceptions about age and infertility…
1. Forty is not the new 30. No matter how healthy you are or how well you've taken care of yourself, your eggs are 40 years old. "Some women's egg quality or egg quantity declines much earlier than expected," writes Dr Fluker. "This is a difficult problem to assess because we can't actually see the eggs to evaluate them, except during an cycle of in vitro fertilization (IVF) .
2. It doesn't matter if everyone says you look great for your age. It doesn't matter how fit you are or how great you look…your ovarian reserve has been decreasing since you turned 35.
3. Yes, you probably know women who got pregnant in their 40s! Without a doubt, it's possible to get pregnant in your 40s or 50s…but it's just less likely and more problematic.
4. It doesn't matter if there are very fertile women in my family. Even if your grandmother got pregnant and had her ninth child when she was 45 years old, your ovaries and egg quality may still be low.
5. Being on the birth control pill doesn't "save" your eggs. The Pill doesn't change your egg quality or ovarian health, and it definitely doesn't increase the chances you'll get pregnant if you're over 40!
6. When you decide to get pregnant, it won't happen because you exercise regularly and take good care of myself. "It is estimated that a 38 year old woman has only 10% of her eggs remaining," writes Dr Fluker. "From that point onward, the progressive yearly decline in a woman's fertility will start to become on of the biggest factors in her chances of conceiving a baby ."
7. Just because you had a miscarriage two years ago when you were 43, you aren't more likely to get pregnant again. Unfortunately, miscarriage rates are higher for pregnant women in their forties.
8. Nicole Kidman can get pregnant and she's a 40 year old woman. Sure, there are lots of women who do get pregnant in their forties and have healthy children…it's just not statistically common.
9. Even though you haven't gone through menopause, you're still less fertile. The cessation of your menstrual cycle isn't the only thing that stops you from getting pregnant! To be fertile, women need healthy follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels, high quality eggs, a high number of eggs, and other markers of fertility. Getting pregnant isn't just about menopause.
10. You know lots of women who got pregnant in their 40s. Sure, and I know "lots" of couples who get pregnant after adopting a baby. That's a myth, too - that only happens 10-15% of the time! Knowing a few exceptions to the rule doesn't change the fact that a woman's age decreases her fertility levels.
"If you're over 40 and want to have a baby, ask yourself (and your partner) if you are willing to consider alternatives, such as donor eggs, adoption, and child-free living," writes Dr Fluker.Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen is a full-time writer and blogger who created and maintains five "Quips and Tips" blogs: