Old Eggs May Hinder Pregnancy Plans
Fertility in advanced maternal age
When you choose to have a baby at age 35 or older, you'll be labeled as a woman with advanced maternal age. And, despite the fact that you don't feel like an old maid, you may face higher risks and challenges with pregnancy. "Peak fertility occurs at age 27. From that moment on, fertility starts to decline," explains Dr. Mary Hinckley, a reproductive endocrinologist at Reproductive Science Center of the Bay Area. "The greatest drops are seen at age 40 and 42, when it becomes extremely difficult to conceive." So, what's going on inside you?
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Understanding your egg age
It may surprise you to learn the eggs that are not-so-perfect now have been with you since birth. "A woman is born with all the eggs she will ever release," says Dr. Hinckley. However, as you age, so have your eggs -- and they are getting as tired as you are as you march into the advanced maternal age zone.
The fact remains it takes a mind-blowing amount of energy for your little eggs to create the perfect little person. "We know for a fact that the energy-producing powerhouses of the egg, called mitochondria, diminish with age," advises reproductive endocrinologist Dr. John Jain, Santa Monica Fertility. "With less sources of energy, the highly demanding needs of a maturing egg are unmet, leading to abnormal chromosome segregation."
Conception challenges with older eggs
Although a successful pregnancy is possible in advanced maternal age, as your egg quality declines, your risk of complications grows greater, explains Dr. Hinckley. "These eggs are more difficult to fertilize and create less healthy embryos, more likely to miscarry or have abnormalities."
Dr. Jain agrees. "The resulting egg fails to fertilize, dies as a chromosomally abnormal embryo in the fallopian tube, is miscarried by the 12th week of pregnancy or less often leads to the birth of a child with a chromosomal abnormality such as Down's Syndrome."
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Although your egg age can pose fertility challenges ranging from miscarriage to Down's Syndrome, dumping your dreams of getting pregnant isn't your only option when your egg quality after age 35 declines. "Women who plan delaying childbearing are encouraged to consider egg freezing in their late 20s or early 30s," advises Dr. Peyman Saadat, M.D, reproductive endocrinologist, infertility specialist, obstetrician and gynecologist, ReproductiveFertility.com. But, when you haven't planned that far in advance, you can still take comfort in knowing that even in advanced maternal age, plenty of women just like you are delivering happy, healthy babies!