Thanks to contraception and the widespread availability of reproductive technologies, couples today have more control over when they want to begin their family than in the past.
Waiting to start a family is possible, although it can make it a little harder to get pregnant.
That said, there’s no “best age” to get pregnant. The decision to start a family should be based on many factors — including your age and your readiness to be a parent.
Just because you’re over 30 or 40 doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy baby.
Read on to learn more about getting pregnant in each stage of your life.
Women are most fertile and have the best chance of getting pregnant in their 20s.
This is the time when you have the highest number of good quality eggs available and your pregnancy risks are lowest.
At age 25, your odds of conceiving after 3 months of trying are just under 20 percent.
Fertility gradually begins to decline at around age 32. After age 35, that decline speeds up.
Women are born with all the eggs they’ll ever have — about 1 million of them. The number of eggs gradually drops over time.
At age 37, it’s estimated that you’ll have around 25,000 eggs left.
By age 35, your odds of conceiving after 3 months of trying are about 12 percent.
Due to this, your doctor might recommend additional screening and testing for you and your baby.
There’s a steep decline in a woman’s ability to get pregnant naturally in her 40s. At age 40, your odds of conceiving after 3 months of trying are around 7 percent.
Over time, the quantity and quality of your eggs decline. Older eggs can have more chromosome problems, which increases the odds of having a baby with a birth defect.
Most women in their 40s can still have a healthy pregnancy and baby, but the risks increase significantly during this time. These risks include:
After age 40, your doctor may do extra testing and monitoring to look for possible complications.
If you’re over 35 and you’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than 6 months, you might be dealing with fertility issues. Your doctor or a fertility specialist can help determine why you aren’t pregnant yet and recommend next steps for trying to conceive.
Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) can help you conceive, but they can’t entirely make up for age-related declines in your fertility.
But the odds of achieving a successful pregnancy with these methods do get lower as you age.
Another option is to use a healthy donor egg. The egg is fertilized with your partner’s sperm and then transferred to your uterus.
If you’re not quite ready to have a family but know that you’ll want one in the future, you might want to consider freezing your eggs during your peak reproductive years.
First, you’ll take hormones to stimulate egg production. Then the eggs will be retrieved and frozen. They can stay frozen for several years.
When you’re ready to use them, the eggs will be thawed and injected with a sperm to be fertilized. The resulting embryos will then be implanted in your uterus.
Freezing your eggs won’t guarantee a pregnancy. Conceiving — even with younger eggs — is more difficult once you’re in your late 30s and 40s. But it can ensure that healthy eggs are available to you when you’re ready.
A man’s fertility also declines with age. But this process happens later, usually starting around age 40.
After that age, men have a lower semen volume and sperm count. The sperm they do have don’t swim as well.
Sperm cells of an older man are also more likely to have genetic abnormalities than those of a younger man.
The older a man is, the longer it will take him to get his partner pregnant. And his partner is at greater risk for a miscarriage, regardless of her age.
This doesn’t mean that a man can’t father children in his 40s and beyond. But it might be a little more difficult than it was earlier in his life.
Benefits of having children later | Benefits
In addition to giving you time to explore your career and relationship, waiting to get pregnant has other benefits to both you and your baby.
A 2016 study found that older mothers are more patient and tend to yell and punish their children less. Their children also have fewer social, emotional, and behavioral problems in elementary school.
Research has also found that children born to older mothers are generally healthier and end up better educated than their peers who were born to younger mothers.
Waiting to get pregnant might even help you live longer. Another 2016 study found that the odds of living to 90 were much higher in women who delayed having children.
There’s no proof that delaying childbearing directly causes any of these effects. It’s possible that other factors in older mothers besides their age might have played a role. But these findings suggest there are some advantages to waiting.
If you’ve been trying to get pregnant but aren’t having any luck, it’s time to see a fertility specialist.
Here’s when to see a doctor:
- within a year of trying if you’re under age 35
- within 6 months if you’re over age 35
Couples with known genetic diseases or those who’ve had multiple miscarriages should also check in with their doctor or a fertility specialist.
The passing years can make it more challenging to get pregnant. Yet it’s still possible to have a healthy baby when you’re in your 30s or 40s.
Ultimately, the perfect time to get pregnant is when it feels right to you. It’s not unreasonable to wait until you feel more confident in your career and finances to start building your family.
If you do choose to wait, you might want to check in with your doctor or a fertility specialist to make sure no health issues will stand in your way once you’re ready.