Conceiving After 35: Tips from a Fertility Specialist
Be proactive, ask for help, be stubborn about your goal!
There has been a steady rise in the age of women during their first pregnancies. In fact, approximately 20 percent of women in the United States now have their first baby after the age of 35. However, after this age, fertility typically begins to decline, conception becomes more difficult, and miscarriage is more common. As a fertility specialist who had her first child at 38 years old, I often get asked about starting a family after the age of 35. Here’s what I tell my patients:
Women shouldn’t wait until they are struggling to conceive to become informed about their fertility. It is better to know what you’re up against before you even reach that stage in your life. I suggest that a woman in her early 30s, regardless of her relationship status, see a reproductive endocrinologist for a reproductive health physical. At that appointment, we would test her ovarian reserve, conduct an ultrasound of her uterus and ovaries, and discuss the current state of her fertility and how it will affect her future family planning. As with anything in life, the more information you have, the better the decisions you can make.
Ask for help
It is usually suggested to try for a year before consulting an infertility specialist, but if you’re over 35 and trying to get pregnant, wait no longer than six months to contact a specialist and explore your options. Time is of the essence at this age, as fertility begins to decline, and the odds of getting (and staying) pregnant decrease. Reaching out to a specialist can put you on the course to a treatment plan, but doing so earlier can also identify health issues that tend to decrease fertility, and give you time to correct course through simple lifestyle changes before taking more extensive measures. The more time you have, the better chance you have for a successful pregnancy.
Be stubborn about your goal, and flexible with your methods
Being a mom is the greatest joy of my life, and if motherhood is important to my patient I encourage her to pursue it wholeheartedly. Going through fertility treatment can be a long and difficult road, and you need to be kind to yourself and surround yourself with those who will support you and keep you motivated. You also need to keep your goal in mind, and not allow the illusion of how you thought it would be discourage you. Like so much related to pregnancy and motherhood, everyone’s experience is different. Sometimes the journey is not the way you imagined it – IVF, donor eggs, the use of a gestational carrier, single parenthood, and adoption are more common after the age of 35 – but it is so worth it in the end. No matter how you get there, you are a mother.
Photos by Ivory Tree Portraits.