Are you in your mid-to-late 30’s, or early 40’s, and trying to conceive? If so, you’re not alone. Conception has become increasingly more common among women ages 35 or older.
More women are pursuing higher education, careers, economic freedom and delaying childbearing. For many obstetric medical practices, women ages 30-plus make up most of their patients. This is largely due to the new and improved advancements in artificial reproductive technology (ART).
Getting pregnant is a tremendous, life-changing event that can be full of joy and excitement, but for some women considering pregnancy after their 35th birthday can be frustrating and full of challenges.
Infertility is defined as not conceiving after actively trying for more than one year, and for women older than 35, it’s the inability to conceive within a period of 6 months or longer when actively trying to get pregnant.
Two obstacles you may face when trying to conceive a baby after age 35 are less frequent ovulation, and reduced egg reserve. As you age, you may even have cycles where your body doesn’t even release an egg. Without an egg, conception can’t happen.
In addition, as you age, the quality of your eggs may diminish, andthe number of viable, healthy eggs will decrease (known as decreased egg reserve). If your partner is also in their mid-30s or older, the quality of their sperm may also be compromised. If this sounds daunting just remember that though it may be harder to conceive if you’re age 35 or older, it’s not impossible. Living a healthy lifestyle can boost your egg health, so please choose a healthy diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and manage stress to help improve your chances of conceiving and birthing a baby.
Meet with a Pregnancy Specialist
Dr. Michael J. Glassner, MD, fertility physician, and founder and medical director of Main Line Fertility in Bryn Mawr, PA, advises “For women over age 35, scheduling an appointment with a reproductive healthcare provider is the first step to be considered after 6 months of unsuccessful efforts to conceive.” The second step is being aware of your own “fertility window.” When you want to have a baby, you can improve your chance of getting pregnant if you know about ovulation and your fertile window. There are about 6 days during your menstrual cycle when you can get pregnant, which includes 24 hours after ovulation (when you release an egg from your ovary), and the 5 days beforehand. This is known as your fertility window. Plan to have sex every 1 to 2 days during your fertile window, or on the 1-2 days leading up to and on the day of ovulation. Learning and tracking your fertile window is an essential tool to conceiving–it’s important to keep track of this time frame. Ovulation predictor kits are an easy and affordable way to know if you’re ovulating, and on which typical daysof your monthly cycle. They track the presence of luteinizing hormone (LH), which surges 10-12 hours before ovulation.
Couples Fertility Check up
The third step for women over 35 trying to conceive is to get a fertility checkup. According to Dr. Glassner, a fertility checkup consists of:
- Fertility hormone panel on day 13 or 15 of your cycle
- Semen analysis (if there is a partner involved) to rule out male-related fertility factors
- Progesterone level, which is performed 6 days after ovulation
- Cycle day 2 or day 3 ultrasound and bloodwork to check your egg reserve
- Ultrasound to observe the thickness of the innermost lining of your uterus and to look at the growth of the egg follicles in your ovaries
- Fallopian tube evaluation to make sure your fallopian tubes are open and not blocked
- Sims-Huhner Test, which counts the number of sperm and how long sperm survives within your cervical mucus—your egg can only be fertilized within 24 hours after being released from your ovaries
You are your own best advocate— it’s your body and your fertility— and every woman has her own experience in this regard. Choose a fertility practice that individualizes your care and experience. Do your research, meet with your pregnancy care provider to discuss your own individual and unique reproductive health.
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By Essence Williams, MSN, BSN, RNC-MNN, CCB, LCCE, is a maternal child health nurse who manages the clinical nursing component of a high-risk perinatal program affiliated with the Southern NJ Perinatal Cooperative. She also works in collaboration with Cooper University Hospital, Osborn Family Health Center and CAMCare in Camden City, NJ.