Medical Contribution from Shady Grove Fertility physician, Dr. Stephen Greenhouse.
When it comes to conception there are many indicators that can determine your chances of getting pregnant. While some of these indicators require testing by a physician to evaluate, there is one that can be easily used to determine your chances of getting pregnant right now… your age.
Age is one of the initial indicators used to determine a woman’s chances of getting pregnant. And more importantly, age combined with length of time trying to conceive gives any woman direction on if and when to seek a fertility evaluation.
Chances of Getting Pregnant by Age
At birth, women will have their entire lifetime supply of eggs. As women age, the quality and quantity of those eggs begins to decrease. This, paired with the fact that human reproduction is not the most efficient process, makes timing key.
Many are surprised to learn that each month, on average, a woman only has a 15 to 20 percent chance of conception. For women in their 20s, their chances of getting pregnant within 1 year are 78 to 86 percent. For women 30 to 34, their chances of getting pregnant within 1 year is approximately 63 percent. For women ages 35 to 39, the chances of conception within 1 year declines to 52 percent. This rate continues to decline in a woman’s 40s, until she reaches menopause, typically between ages 48 and 55.
This is not to say that after 12 months of trying, conception magically declines, but rather that most fertile couples will have conceived, and couples who have not may likely have some form of infertility.
Figure 1: Adapted from Hendershot GE, et.al., Infertility and age: an unresolved issue. Family Planning Perspectives. Vol,14;5 (Sept./Oct 1982), p. 288 Ó The Alan Guttmacher Institute.
While a woman’s age—and the related decline in egg quality and quantity—isn’t always the exact cause of infertility, it is a good indicator that something else may be awry. Infertility is generally defined as the inability to conceive within 12 months for women under the age of 35 and within 6 months for those over the age of 35.
Making an Informed Decision: When to See a Fertility Specialist
Like the old adage says “knowledge is power” and age is the most powerful tool in your decision making arsenal. Many well meaning friends and family members will confidently tell you “relax and it will happen.” While their intentions are good, their advice may not be entirely accurate.
Use your age to empower you to take proactive steps in your family building. Women under the age of 35 who have been trying for a year (or over 35 that have been trying for 6 months), should talk with a reproductive endocrinologist.
Shady Grove Fertility’s team of highly-renowned reproductive endocrinologists are available for consultations to review medical history and advise if you need a fertility evaluation. Talking with a fertility specialist can provide you with the answers you need and help you understand why getting pregnant is taking longer than expected.
Which Fertility Treatment to Consider
The outcomes of fertility treatments mirror the chances of getting pregnant on your own; as a woman ages, her chances of success begin to decrease—another reason taking the proactive step of talking to a fertility specialist as soon as you suspect a problem is important.
Chances of Getting Pregnant with Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
For many women, in vitro fertilization (IVF) will likely not be their first treatment option. In fact, half of all treatment performed at Shady Grove Fertility is a more basic form of intervention called intrauterine insemination or IUI. The goal of this treatment is to increase the number of sperm that reach the Fallopian tubes and subsequently increases the chance of fertilization. IUI provides the sperm an advantage by giving it a head start, but still requires the sperm to reach and fertilize the egg on its own.
The goal of IUI treatment is to improve the rate of conception to that of the fertile population, or roughly 15 to 20 percent per attempt. Age, along with the cause of infertility, will ultimately determine what your chances of success are per cycle of IUI.Figure 2: Intrauterine insemination pregnancy rates according to age and diagnosis (teal = ovulation disorders / PCOS, orange = unexplained and mild male factor, and grey = diminished ovarian reserve or uterine and tubal factors).
Chances of Getting Pregnant with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
IVF is one of the most widely talked about forms of fertility treatment because of its high success rates and significant technological advances. During IVF treatment, a physician will remove one or more eggs from the ovaries, which are then fertilized by sperm inside the embryology laboratory. The embryos develop, typically for 5 or 6 days, and then one or two embryos are then transferred into the uterus where implantation occurs and a pregnancy starts.
|Egg Retrievals (ER)||1447||885||923||488||264|
|Embryo Transfers (ET)||1296||724||662||301||162|
|Clinical Pregnancy rate per Embryo Transfer||53.9%||49%||45.3%||37.5%||21%|
Figure 3: Success rates for IVF treatment by age. Not all initiated cycles result in an embryo transfer as some cycles are canceled due to poor response to medication and others result in freezing all eggs or embryos. 2016 preliminary IVF data for Shady Grove Fertility, Rockville, MD. sart.org
Chances of Getting Pregnant by Donor Egg Treatment
Donor egg treatment is the great equalizer. Treatment with donor eggs is the only fertility treatment option where the age of the female partner does not impact the outcome. The treatment is the same process as IVF except the egg used comes from a donor. Since donors are ages 21 to 32 and thoroughly screened, donor egg treatment is the most effective fertility treatment, with a 60 percent clinical pregnancy rate per embryo transfer.
The Bottom Line
If you’re trying to conceive, your age can play a big role in your chances of getting pregnant. As a result, it is important to meet with a fertility specialist in a timely manner. Starting earlier will leave more treatment options available to pursue and give you the best chances of success.
If you’re interested in understanding how many eggs you have to better understand your fertility, please call 1-877-971-7755 to schedule an appointment and speak with a new patient liaison.
Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published in September 2016, but was updated for accuracy in June 2018.