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Who says you can’t get pregnant post 35? It’s time we debunk such myths around female fertility

Published on:1 August 2021, 10:00am IST
As women grow older, their reserve of eggs gets old, and they do not generate new eggs. But there are also a lot of myths surrounding this issue that are more fiction than fact. Here’s all you need to know
Dr Rohit Gutgutia
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ovarian aging
Ovarian aging happens as a woman grows older. Image courtesy: Unsplash
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Ovarian aging is the loss or depletion of the ovarian follicles and oocytes or a decrease in oocyte competence or quality. It is influenced by genetics and the environment as well. Ovarian aging can be normal, or it can be pathological as well. 

When society mentions the ‘biological clock’, this is what they are referring to. As women get older, their reserve of eggs also gets old, and the quantity and quality reduce. Women have a specific reserve of eggs that they are born with, and they do not generate new eggs. So, when women reach a certain age (around their late thirties), it can become more difficult for them to get pregnant, as they have a limited number of eggs. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the remaining eggs are good in quality. 

Gynecologists can check a woman’s ovarian reserves using two methods. They are:

1. Antral follicle count (AFC): This is literally just counting the eggs. The doctors count them on an ultrasound. 

2. Anti-mullerian hormone (AMH): This is the second way to count the eggs in one’s reserve, and can be done through a simple routine blood test. 

In both processes, the higher the count, the better the chances of having a baby.

ovarian aging
Your odds of conceiving are still high. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
What are the stages of reproduction?
  • Reproductive years: Reproductive years of a woman can be counted from the time she hits puberty and starts menstruating, which is around 12 or 13 years of age. When one starts menstruating, it basically means that the body has shed eggs that have not been fertilized. 
  • Menopausal transition: This stage can also be called ‘perimenopause’. This is the time when a woman is transitioning from her reproductive years to her non-reproductive years. 
  • Postmenopause: This is when a woman has not bled or has not gotten her period for more than a year. 
How does reproductive aging affect fertility?

We all know that there are many factors that can affect a woman’s fertility in her lifetime. It can be PCOS, uterine fibroids, scarring of the fallopian tubes, etc. However, aging is one of the biggest factors that can impact a woman’s fertility and ability to reproduce. Once a woman reaches her thirties, it becomes more difficult for her to conceive as the number of eggs in the ovarian reserve depletes over time. The eggs also age along with the woman’s age, and there are only a few good eggs left. 

ovarian aging
A woman’s fertility starts to reduce in her early 30s, and more so after the age of 35.. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Age and fertility myths debunked:

1. Infertility only happens in the case of women: This is false. Infertility impacts men as well; their sperm is not always healthy and good in quantity and quality. Men face DNA fragmentation with increasing age.

2. Female age does not matter if one is under 35: One cannot guarantee the fact that a woman will be at her peak fertility, just because she is under 35 years of age. The decline in fertility begins in the ’20s and gradually becomes more, when the woman reaches her 30s. 

3. Stress causes infertility: With age, there are a lot more things that a person has on their mind like marriage and work pressure, which makes a person stress more often. Stress is not good for the body and makes it difficult for a person to conceive.

Dr Rohit Gutgutia Dr Rohit Gutgutia

Dr Rohit Gutgutia, Medical Director at Nova IVF Fertility, Eastern India