Most women are aware that their fertility declines with age, but now an official study by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has warned that women who wait until later in life have much more difficulty getting pregnant than younger women.
In fact, according to the report women age 35 are six times more likely to have problems conceiving than women age 25. Not only are older women making it harder for themselves to have children, they are also more at risk of serious medical complications for both themselves and their baby.
The report also says that men don’t escape the tick-tock of the fertility clock. As male fertility also declines with age, doctors estimate that an average 40 year old man takes two years to get his partner pregnant, even if she’s younger than him.
So the advice is simple – the best time to have children in terms of your fertility and potential for medical problems is between the ages of 20 and 35.
But it’s not quite that simple. How many women, or indeed men, have met a suitable partner by the time they are 35? How many are ready to give up their careers for a family at this age?
And many people still have the misconception that IVF and other medical advances are a failsafe option, so they can afford to wait because there’s always science to rely on. But this isn’t the case, because amongst other factors, IVF success rates are affected by age – the older you are, the lower the success rates. And for older women in their 40s, the use of donor eggs – of which there’s an acute shortage in the UK – are becoming more of a necessity simply because their own eggs are not good enough to be used.
Now those in the medical profession are calling on women and men to be made aware of the fertility facts, some even say it should be taught in schools alongside sex education. Regardless of your ambitions and circumstances, science can’t always overcome the biological clock – and if you do decide to wait, that there are risks involved.