In general, age forty has become the universally-recognized, virtual end of a woman’s ability to conceive. The notions that a pregnancy after age 40 is impossible, and its corollary, namely that almost all women under 40 have no problem getting pregnant, are hard to shake.
But both are not entirely correct. A woman’s chance of becoming pregnant, or, conversely, her likelihood of infertility, already changes after age 20. But with a little luck, a woman above the age of forty can still have a child, even without special measures such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
Likelihood of pregnancy according to age
At a very young age, the likelihood of becoming pregnant after three months of regular, unprotected sex is just under 86%. At age 25, the odds begin to drop significantly. After age 35, the chance of becoming pregnant after three months of unprotected intercourse is only 50%.
The reason: Ovulation does not occur with every period. Furthermore, not all biological conditions of a woman at the age of 35 are as good as they were at age 20. The following graph shows how the likelihood of pregnancy decreases with age:
The likelihood of infertility and a woman’s age
On a similar scale, the likelihood of infertility increases with age. ‘Infertility’ refers to the inability to conceive after one year of regular, unprotected sex.
The graph below shows the likelihood of infertility as a percentage:
Thus, planning for a pregnancy and adopting behaviors that will have a positive impact on the chances of becoming pregnant are of particular importance for women age 30 or more.
Can a woman increase her fertility?
It would seem that a healthy diet, normal weight, avoidance of environmental pollutants and heavy metals, as well as stress reduction, would have a positive effect not only on a man’s fertility, but also on a woman’s. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this thesis.
What is recommended for a healthy pregnancy?
Women can positively influence the course of their pregnancy. Folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA from fish oil), iron, and vitamin B’s are of essential importance for fetal development from the first weeks and months of pregnancy. Many studies show that women who supplemented their diet with these important nutrients from prior to pregnancy through breast feeding, experienced significantly fewer complications. There are also strong indications that these nutrients have a positive effect on the development of the baby’s motor skills, brain, and immune system.
Child development is already predetermined prior to pregnancy. Almost 85% of all women in Europe evidence a deficiency in folic acid. Folic acid deficiency increases the risk of spina bifida (incomplete closing of fetal neural tube) fourfold. Gynecologists therefore recommend that women begin supplementing their diet with specific nutrients when they are in the planning phase of a pregnancy. Since it takes several weeks for a woman to discover that she is pregnant, folic acid deficiency may have already caused irreversible damage to the fetus by that point in time.
The odds of becoming pregnant can be improved with the following measures:
- Determine the days you are fertile and have intercourse around those days (three days before to one day after).
- Abstinence is recommended just before the fertile days (for men).
- Supplementation with trace elements, vitamins, amino acids, and antioxidants can significantly help improve sperm development. Learn more here.
A healthy diet is presumably not enough to increase a woman’s likelihood of becoming pregnant.