While our age isn’t something we can solve, it is a major factor that affects our chances of getting pregnant. The good news is that up until around age 33, we pretty much coast along without an age-related worry in the world. But then, fertility potential starts fading fast. “From 35 to 40, you can lose up to 15% of your fertility each year. This translates into many women being much less fertile at age 40 than they were at 35,” Dr. Noyes explains.
Then during the roughly 10-year period leading up to menopause, which most of us enter around age 50, women become sub- to completely infertile. “It’s a little different from person to person with age of natural menopause ranging from about 42 to 58, but almost every woman is infertile by 45,” Dr. Noyes says. Those who magically give birth at 50 have most often either had eggs or embryos frozen at a younger age, or they used eggs from a younger donor. “There’s no shame associated with any of these options, so misleading a 40-something-year-old woman into thinking she can wait until the fifth decade and simply turn up pregnant without help is a disservice. Egg age truly matters.”
While doctors used to counsel couples trying to conceive to give it a year of having unprotected sex before getting help for infertility, Dr. Noyes says that is a very outdated perspective.
“That approach was developed when the average woman gave birth in her early 20s. Now, more of us are waiting until our 30s to start a family—me included—so giving up a critical year when our eggs are best and youngest no longer makes sense. We often don’t have month after month to wait and see.”
So how long should you give it the “college try” before seeing the doctor? If you’re still in your early- to mid-30s, you can wait three to six months before checking in, Dr. Noyes says. “If you’re 38 or older, I would go to a fertility doctor within a month or two—fertility treatments can definitely decrease the time to pregnancy.”