How do the chances of getting pregnant change as I get older?
There is much debate between scientists about the odds of conception. Here is one of the most commonly cited estimates on the percentage chance of conception after one year of trying:
- Age 20: 90% probability
- Age 30: 70% probability
- Age 35: 55% probability
- Age 40: 45% probability
- Age 45: 6% probability
- Aged 19 to 26: 50% chance in any one menstrual cycle
- Aged 27 to 34: 40% chance in any one menstrual cycle
- Aged 35 to 39: less than 30% chance in any one menstrual cycle, but with a male partner 5 years older, the chance falls to less than 20% chance in any one menstrual cycle.
Can IVF improve fertility rates for older women?
However, success rates for IVF still mirror those of natural fertility, with reports issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that the rate of live births from IVF and similar treatments using the mother’s eggs decreases with age.
According to the CDC in 2019, for women under 35, the percentage of live births after assisted reproductive treatments (including IVF) was about 47%. Success rates declined after this age group. For those between ages 35 to 37 it was about 34%, dropping steadily to just 7.5% for those aged over 40.
But older women can dramatically raise their IVF success rates by using an egg donor. The CDC report states that the chance of a fertilized egg implanting depends on the age of the woman who produced the egg.
Success rates for women, even in their mid-forties, who use a donor egg from a woman in her 20s or early 30s remains above 40%.
Many women have no trouble getting pregnant over 35 or even over 40. If you’re over 35 and haven’t conceived after 6 months, it’s worth talking to your doctor and starting fertility investigations.
What can be done to improve my odds?
Here’s some tips on improving your chances of getting pregnant, without paying a fortune:
- Reduce your stress levels. There’s a strong correlation between stress levels and fertility. If the main reason you’re stressed is that you want to have a baby, then this is hollow-sounding advice indeed. But there are often ways you can change other stresses in your life: take a holiday, or re-think your job or other commitments that might shift down your priority list.
- Aim for a healthy weight. Research shows that there is a strong connection between obesity in women and lower fertility. Being significantly underweight for long periods of time can also negatively impact your fertility. Try for a healthy balance!
- Improve your diet. While research evidence is inconclusive, some fertility experts swear by a diet of organic foods. It’s your choice whether to go all-out or just keep an eye on your food choices (eating at home and avoiding takeout is a good start!)
- Quit smoking and cut back on the booze. There’s a strong link between smoking and reduced fertility in both men and women; this might be enough of an incentive to help you kick the habit.
- Get regular exercise. You don’t have to become a gym junkie. In fact, it’s better if you’re not. But some regular exercise each day can’t hurt. If a nice long walk reduces your stress levels and improves your cardio status, it might well help your chances of getting pregnant.
The information of this article has been reviewed by nursing experts of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, & Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). The content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment. For more advice from AWHONN nurses, visit Healthy Mom&Baby at health4mom.org.