The ovaries have a lifetime supply of egg follicles from birth. These ripen into eggs, which can be fertilized to produce pregnancy. By age 30, the eggs have been present for some time. In problems of fertility, the quality of the egg is critical. Therefore, the woman’s age becomes a very important factor.
Age co-factors also include less frequent ovulation and less regular periods by the late 30s and 40s. The older the woman, the greater the risk of exposure to tubal obstruction. If pregnancy occurs, there is a higher risk of spontaneous abortion. It can be seen that a woman’s reproductive life has a limited time span.
Keep in mind that fertility data are averages only. No woman can consider that she is too old to conceive until her menopause is complete.
The risk of birth defects rises with increasing years. Down’s Syndrome, a chromosome disorder, which affects the mental and physical abilities of the baby, is the most common female age-related defect. It occurs:
- 1 out of 365 births at age 35
- 1 out of 109 births at age 40
- 1 out of 32 births at age 45
- 1 out of 12 births at age 49
The risk of men age 40 plus passing on birth defects was estimated at 3 per 1,000. Recent findings seem to suggest that it could be higher. Researchers now understand that sperm in men of all ages are more likely to cause birth defects than was previously thought.
The Timing Factor
Timing for the optimum chance of fertilization is critical. Once the egg is in the oviduct, it only remains viable for the next 12 to 24 hours. It must be fertilized during this time. Sperm only remain viable for a maximum of 48 hours. It is essential to know the precise date of ovulation to maximize the optimum chance of fertilization.
Ovulation predictor tests are commercial kits that can be obtained from a local pharmacy. They are inexpensive, simple to use, and accurate. They measure the surge of LH hormones that trigger ovulation. By frequent testing of urine samples and charting the results, the actual time of ovulation can be worked out.
Transvaginal ultrasound is the new high-tech method to detect the time of ovulation. The probe is placed in the vagina and shows the ovaries with their developing follicles on a monitoring screen. Ultrasound to detect ovulation is costly. Older women may choose this method if the sands of time are running against them. By comparison, charting the vagina temperature, the cervical mucus, and so on, come a poor third. Ovulation is a major factor in female fertility. Know the time of ovulation.