Women Home > Fertility After 40

The older a woman gets, the less likely she is to become pregnant -- and the more likely she is to experience complications. A slight decrease in fertility is seen in many women around age 32, with an even sharper decline occurring around age 37. Your chances of getting pregnant after 40 are influenced by several factors, such as your overall health and whether you are undergoing infertility treatment.

Am I Too Old to Have a Baby?

Don't let anyone else answer this question for you. It's highly personal, and only you (and your partner, if you have one) can make that decision. Finances, work situation, health, family dynamics, and many other factors play into the decision, so what is right for one woman isn't necessarily right for the next.
However, age plays an extremely important role in fertility. Your age will strongly affect your chances of getting pregnant naturally, your chances for miscarriage, and the chances that your baby will have a chromosomal abnormality like Down syndrome. Age also affects the effectiveness of infertility treatments.

Old Eggs

By about 20 weeks of gestation, female fetuses already have all the eggs they will ever have (about 6 or 7 million). By the time a baby girl is born, that number has already declined to about 1 to 2 million. By the time she hits puberty, she'll be left with about 300,000 to 500,000 eggs. At the age of 37 years, only 25,000 are left, and by the time she hits 51 (which is, incidentally, the average age for menopause in the United States), only 1,000 are left.
Not only does aging drastically reduce the number of surviving eggs in the ovaries, but it also affects the quality of those eggs. This, combined with the gradual hormonal changes (primarily, the increase in a hormone called follicle-stimulating hormone, or FSH), is why fertility naturally begins to decline, starting around the age of 32. This decrease in fertility really speeds up at age 37. Research strongly suggests that egg quality is one of the biggest reasons for the decline in fertility with aging. For instance, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is much less successful for older women if their own eggs are used. But if donor eggs from a younger woman are used, the success rate for older women is quite similar to that of younger women.  
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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