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The Hood Magazine

Still Time to Try: What to Know About Becoming Pregnant After 35

04/19/2014 01:28PM ● By Hood Magazine

Photo courtesy of Finished Vision Photography

By Tiffany Von Wald, MD, MPH, and Jay Flanagan, MS, CGC, Sanford Health

Pregnancy is an amazing experience, but as we get older, there is often concern if we will be able to conceive a pregnancy and what the risk will be for the baby. With the help of your physician and support system, you can make your dream of a family a reality.

Traditionally, a women’s fertility has been said to decline around age 35, but fertility for women actually peaks at around age 25 and declines from there. This is due to two reasons: the number of eggs decreases and the risk of genetic errors increases.

Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have. During each menstrual cycle, some of these eggs die off until no eggs are left. There is no direct way to study a woman’s eggs. However, we can assess ovarian aging by checking hormone levels and through a pelvic ultrasound. These tests are markers for both egg quantity and quality. They can also help predict the outcomes of certain fertility treatments.

Often, when age is discussed, the discussion has been about having a baby with Down syndrome. But what has not been well understood is how chromosome issues play a role in infertility and miscarriage. As age increases, the machinery of the egg starts to break down. This causes problems with how the genetic material is passed and increases the chance for chromosomal issues. Chromosome issues most often result in difficulty getting pregnant and also pose a significant risk for miscarriage.

To overcome some of these risks, technology has been developed to help you conceive. It is now possible to fertilize eggs outside the body and identify the embryos that give you the greatest chance of having a viable and healthy pregnancy. This is called preimplantation genetic screening.

If you are over 35 considering a future pregnancy, we recommended a visit with your physician or a fertility specialist to discuss your history and baseline ovarian reserve testing. No matter what age you are, you should also consider visiting with a specialist if you have tried for a year or have irregular cycles. With appropriate care, there are many effective treatment options to increase the chance for conceiving and having a healthy baby.