I'm well into my 30s. but I still feel really young — too young and unsettled to have a baby, anyway. But I still have concerns about fertility issues, even though I don't want kids right now. I worry that my ovaries didn't get the memo that kids are a thing that I might want some day. I worry that while I'm working late hours and traveling with my brand new wife, those ovaries are shriveling away, laughing at my barren naivety as they sink into retirement. It's enough to give me late-night panic attacks from time to time. Especially when people I went to high school with are taking their kids on college visits or teaching them to drive. Craziness.
Everyone says, "Oh, don't worry, you still have time. You're still fertile." Am I? Do I? Do you? I can barely handle having two dogs and I'm not getting any younger. I mean, I saw a show on TV once about a woman who had a baby when she was 72, but I'm not confident that's a thing that happens very frequently. So what are the facts? Do I need to freeze my eggs or take some kind of superfood-based vitamin? Did I take all that birth control in my 20s for nothing? What exactly is a reasonable cut-off age for pregnancy? Have I wasted away my fertile years? Let's hold hands and find out together. Oh, and I apologize in advance for all the baby GIFs.
1. What's The Cut-Off?
Well, there kind of isn't one. I know, not a great answer, but it really depends on your body. According to Mary M. Murry, R.N., C.N.M. of the Mayo Clinic, your body only makes a certain number of eggs, and when they're gone, they're gone. So technically, if you still have viable eggs and if there are no other fertility or health issues at play, you can conceive up until menopause hits. Women enter menopause, on average, at age 51, according to Laura Flynn Mccarthy of Parenting, with most women hitting the change between ages 45 to 55.
2. Can I Get Pregnant In My 30s?
Absolutely. Real talk, though, 30 is when your fertility starts to decline and your risk of miscarriage and pregnancy complications increases, according to Mccarthy. But it's not like your ovaries put on velvet track suits and start talking about the good old days on your 30th birthday. The changes to your fertility are slight until about age 35 and then a little more significant after 35, but for most healthy women, conception and pregnancy are not out of your reach.
3. Can I Get Pregnant In My 40s And Beyond?
You can! While pregnancy after 40 is on the rise, it's still pretty rare (less than one percent of all pregnancies). The chances that you'll get pregnant without any fertility treatment is only five percent, according to Mccarthy.
Other troubles start to become reality, getting more likely for every year after age 38. Your miscarriage rate climbs to around 20 percent, according to WebMD. Your risk of complications increases, as does your risk of multiple births. Your eggs also begin to lose viability. Still, if you are determined to conceive, and open to some bumps in the road, pregnancy in your 40s is often possible.
4. How Can I Extend The Timeline?
One of the most important things you can do now to ensure future fertility is to get regular pap tests and STD screenings. If you're not getting regularly tested, you risk harboring something that's wreaking havoc on your reproductive system, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Get tested every year and with every new sex partner.
Other than that, the best thing to do to extend your fertility is to take good care of yourself, eat healthy foods, manage chronic diseases and get to a healthy weight, according to the Mayo Clinic. And if you smoke, make sure to quit ASAP.
5. How Do I Know If I'm Still Fertile
If you're in your 20s and you try to get pregnant for one year with no success, your doctor will begin different fertility tests to see what's going on. In your 30s, that window drops to six months. Your doctor will test your hormone levels, anatomy, and egg health and production.
6. Should I Freeze My Eggs?
Egg freezing is all kinds of hot right now. Well, for people with at least 10k up front and $100 a month for storage. But even if you freeze your eggs, there's still only a one in five chance that you'll be able to conceive with your frozen ova. according to Debora Spar in an article for Marie Claire. Still, one in five is better than zero in five, so it may be an option for you. And if you don't opt to freeze your own eggs, you can always use donor eggs should yours dry up.
It's true that once you hit your 30s, you need to start thinking about your fertility, but you don't have to start freaking out if you're not ready to be a parent. Plus, if you're interested, you can adopt much later in life.
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