With Meghan Markle becoming pregnant in her late 30s, it had us wondering how easy it is to get pregnant at different stages of your life. In today’s career-driven society, more and more women – like Princess Meghan – are choosing to start a family later in life. Although it is sensible to postpone motherhood until you feel ready, many of the women who wait until their 30s and 40s are often unaware that the chances of falling pregnant are a lot lower.

Most fertility experts would agree they can’t pinpoint an exact ‘right time’ to start a family – however, there are plenty of pros and cons to trying for a baby at different ages. Despite there being more knowledgeable about the subject of fertility available than there has ever been before, experts at the internationally leading fertility clinic, Institut Marquès, have observed that some confusion and conflicting advice surrounding the pregnancy process still remains – which can make conceiving a lot more challenging for women when they do decide to try for a family, particularly later in life.

To tackle this issue, Institut Marquès has put together a step-by-step guide which aims to educate women about their fertility ‘body clock’, and ensure that they are in the know about what to expect if looking to embark on parenthood at different points throughout their adult lives.

Here, Dr Alex García Faura, Scientific Director at Institut Marquès, discusses the key factors all women should take into consideration if looking to conceive during their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond:

Your Fertility In Your 20s

Lots of women today don’t realise that your 20s are, biologically, your most fertile years. This is because, in many cases, periods are regular and ovulatory, and the quality and quantity of your eggs is at its peak, so falling pregnant is naturally easier.

Not only is there a higher chance of falling pregnant when in this age bracket, but pregnancy is often easier for women of this age too. Broadly speaking, levels of physical fitness are high, which means that you will have more energy during the pregnancy and find it easier to manage the post-delivery recovery. Your pelvic floor is also at its strongest during your 20s, which can mean a more comfortable pregnancy, and a faster quicker labour and recovery.

From a medical perspective, your 20s are the best decade for conceiving and carrying a baby, because your body is primed to handle the demands of pregnancy. However, this doesn’t mean to say that it is the most suitable time for everyone – as there are lots of other important lifestyle factors that need to be taken into consideration too.

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For example, many people in their 20s are studying at University, just starting out a new career, or working and living at home with their family, which means that they may not be emotionally or financially prepared to start a family just yet.

Your Fertility In Your 30s

As you move into your 30s, your ovaries will age just like the rest of your body, and the quality of your eggs will slowly start to deteriorate, which means that they are harder to fertilise. As this is a gradual process, the chances of falling pregnant in your early 30s are only a little bit lower than in your late 20s however, once you reach 35 your odds will start to decrease more rapidly.

In the same way, if you require assisted reproduction treatment, such as Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) or In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), your chances of success are still higher in your early 30s than they are if you are in your late 30s or 40s.

Body clock aside, there are many lifestyle advantages of becoming a new mum in your 30s compared to your 20s. For example, women in their 30s tend to live a healthier lifestyle, and are more secure in their career and relationships, all of which will provide a secure foundation for a new family. Also, by this age women will have learnt a lot about themselves, and gained a lot of ‘life experience’, so they will be well-prepared for the challenges involved in looking after someone else.

Your Fertility In Your 40s

In today’s career driven society, more and more women are making the decision to try for a baby later in life. Although it is sensible to postpone motherhood until you feel ‘ready’, many of the women who wait until their 40s are often unaware that the chances of falling pregnant are a lot lower.

By the time a woman reaches her 40s, the quality and quantity of her eggs will have diminished even more. Once a woman surpasses her mid-40s, it is common for her menstrual cycle to become less regular as she heads towards the menopause – which makes the pregnancy process a lot more challenging, and the chances of falling pregnant naturally much lower. And there’s also a higher risk of recurrent miscarriages.

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However, for those women who do struggle to conceive naturally, there’s never been a better time to try to conceive, given the vast range of fertility options available. For example, egg donation is one of the most frequently offered treatments for women of this age group at Institut Marquès. As part of this treatment, donated eggs (which are always removed from a younger female) are fertilised with sperm in a laboratory, before being implanted into the patient’s womb using IVF – offering a much greater chance of conceiving.

Your Fertility In Your 50s

Although it is still possible to conceive over the age of 50, the majority of European fertility clinics would not offer assisted reproduction treatments to women of this age, due to ethical and legal reasons.

Most women will go through the menopause in their late 40s / early 50s, and therefore, are at the point where their bodies are designed to no longer be able to conceive and carry children.

From an ethical point of view, there can be many complications with conceiving in your 50s, including potential birth defects, a higher risk of miscarriage and also the associations with being an ageing mother. Therefore, although it is not impossible to have a baby during this decade, it is not advisable.

Whatever Your Age

In today’s career driven society, more and more women are making the decision to try for a baby later in life. Although it is sensible to postpone motherhood until you feel ‘ready’, many of the women who wait until their 40s are often unaware that the chances of falling pregnant are a lot lower.

Whatever age you are, maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help to protect your fertility and prolong your chances of conceiving. The best measures you can take are keeping fit and sustaining a healthy weight, managing your stress levels, drinking sensibly, and avoiding smoking.

If you have been trying to conceive naturally for over a year and have been unsuccessful, then I would always recommend visiting a fertility specialist. In the first instance, you and your partner would undergo a series of tests to find out why you are struggling to conceive. After the test results have been received and analysed, the fertility specialist would discuss suitable treatment options with you – for example IVF, ICSI, egg donation, embyo adoption, or sperm donation.

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