Older Women and Infertility

March 5, 2008

Many women today are waiting longer before deciding to take the plunge into motherhood. There are several societal reasons for this shift to an increased age of first time mom's.

Birth Control and Societal Norms

Ever since the pill was introduced to society as the ultimate form of birth control, a woman's sexuality could be separated from child-baring as well as marriage. This separation allowed women to marry later, pursue their education and career more aggressively and decide for themselves exactly when they were ready to begin to have children, if they choose to at all.

Feminism's Role Society

Nowadays many woman take for granted the amazing strides that were made in the second half of the 20th century which benefit women and society as a whole. The condition of women in the institutions of education, law, employment, and equality in general are vastly improved. But this advancement has not been without its cost.

The Cost of Delaying Motherhood

As women pursue their education and careers, they often decide to marry later, and then wait some more until they feel financially and emotionally ready to begin their families. Unfortunately this delay can sometimes cause infertility problems for the couple.

What Are the Facts?

From the outset of menses at the average age of approximately 12 until menopause at the age of about 50 or so there is a huge variation in the ease with which a woman can become pregnant and deliver a healthy child. Approximately 10% of women of the ages 20-29 report difficulties conceiving. This percentage rises to about 25% for women in their 30's and explodes to 50% of all women in their 40's having trouble getting pregnant.  Beginning at about age 35 there is a definite noticeable large decline in fertility for women.

What Causes Decline in Fertility?

It has been difficult to pinpoint exactly what causes the decline in fertility of women who are having regular periods and are ovulating in what seems to be a normal way. The possible causes of decreased fertility are either ovarian, meaning the aging egg is the problem; or uterine, meaning that the uterus is less receptive to implantation of the egg due to hormonal factors.  At the moment, studies seem to show that the problem is with the egg, since IVF using donor eggs seems to produce fertility rates in older women similar to those of younger women. Hormonal therapy to increase the receptivity of the uterus to the egg does not seem to significantly improve fertility in older women.

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