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Beating Your Biological Clock

Posted 11/22/2017 by UHBlog

It's a biological reality that getting pregnant after age 35 becomes more difficult. Talk to us about your fertility concerns.

Pregnant woman with partner at waterfront

These days, women are waiting longer than ever to get pregnant. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women in their 30s are now having more children than women in their 20s.

But just because magazines show celebrities having babies in their 40s and 50s, women who want to become mothers shouldn’t count on their body’s natural ability to beat the biological clock, says reproductive endocrinologist Rachel Weinerman, MD.

“Peak fertility for women is 18 to 35,” Dr. Weinerman says. “That doesn't not mean you can’t get pregnant after 35. It just means that for some women, it may become harder.”

And while it’s true that many older patients have had no problems conceiving, statistics are not on the woman’s side. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, about one-third of couples will have trouble getting pregnant if the female is 35 or older. Since many people have spent a great part of their life trying not to get pregnant, it’s hard to know which camp you may be in.

“The best way to know if you’re fertile is to try,” Dr. Weinerman says.

Many women older than 35 have had seamless pregnancies and births. But Dr. Weinerman says it’s important to understand that women who get pregnant at an older age may face more health and medical obstacles than women in their 20s.

“The risk of having a child with Down Syndrome or any other chromosomal abnormality, increases after 35,” she says.

After 35, you are also at greater risk for:

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Miscarriages
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Premature birth
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Growth problems in the baby

If you have any flexibility in the matter, Dr. Weinerman advises you not to wait too long to try and conceive.

“I would say a woman needs to have a child when she is ready to have a child – and I certainly don’t encourage women to have children when they’re not ready just because they're worried about their age,” says Dr. Weinerman. “Unfortunately from a fertility perspective, there’s not much positive about waiting to try.”

While you can’t beat your body’s biological clock, Dr. Weinerman offers these five potential options you can try to help slow it down and increase your chances of a successful conception:

  1. Freezing you eggs. This is a good option for women in their 20s or 30s who want to delay pregnancy.
    “It gives you the possibility of potentially using those younger eggs later in life," she says.
  2. Fertility drugs. These drugs stimulate the production of eggs. They can also raise your chance of multiple births, Dr. Weinerman says.
  3. Intrauterine insemination. A fertility procedure where sperm are deposited directly into the uterus. This is a less invasive procedure than IVF and is used most often for unexplained fertility issues and low sperm count.
  4. In vitro fertilization. A more involved fertility process where an egg and sperm are fertilized in a laboratory. Once the embryos are formed, they’re placed back in a woman’s uterus. It’s a more invasive and less common procedure, with only about 5 percent of couples seeking it out.
  5. Stay active and healthy. “That means giving up smoking, if you’re a smoker, or losing weight, if you're overweight,” she says. “Being healthy helps improve fertility and pregnancy outcomes.”

If you are 35 and older, and haven’t gotten pregnant after six months of trying, Dr. Weinerman advises consulting with your doctor.

Rachel Weinerman, MD is a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist in the University Hospitals Fertility Center at University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Weinerman or any other doctor online.

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