For busy women, having children can often feel like another thing to check off the to-do list as soon as possible.
Of course, with the help of incredible new innovations in fertility treatments, women are now getting pregnant well into their 40s. But a woman’s fertility still declines with age. According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, women under 35 have a 48 percent chance of getting pregnant, and women between the ages of 35 and 37 have a 39 percent chance of getting pregnant via fresh non-donor embryo transfer.
These facts can be anxiety-provoking, but it helps to understand them in context. For guidance, The Broadcast called Dr. Kelly Culwell, an OB-GYN and former medical officer at the World Health Organization. She had some advice on what to keep in mind, whether you hope to become pregnant immediately or at some point in the future.
If you are in your early 30s and want a baby now
Focus on your health
Most women in their early 30s don’t have any trouble getting pregnant, Culwell says. But she encourages women to focus on living a healthy lifestyle and address any chronic medical conditions before trying to have a baby. “Women who have diabetes or high blood pressure or anything like that, it is really, really important that they see a healthcare provider when they are thinking about getting pregnant so they can make sure they are doing everything they can to be as healthy as possible,” Culwell says.
Learn about your menstrual cycle
It can take up to a year to get pregnant, even when partners are actively trying. But learning about your menstrual cycle to understand when you are ovulating and when you’re most fertile can help. “I often see partners who are trying to get pregnant, but then I find out they’re only having sex twice a month, and that’s not going to be the best recipe for success,” Culwell says. She also recommends Planned Parenthood’s fertility app, Spot On, and another known as Natural Cycles.
If you are in your early 30s and want a baby in the future
Egg freezing is an option
Although expensive, egg freezing is an option that more women are considering. A woman’s fertility tends to be linked with the age of her eggs, but the uterus is not affected in the same way. The earlier women choose to freeze their eggs, the better the outcome. “If a woman feels strongly that she wants to be pregnant, and it is not possible at the moment, I think looking into the options of egg freezing is a fine idea. It is expensive, unfortunately, but it is worth looking into,” says Culwell.
Embryo freezing is also an option
Embryo freezing, in which doctors freeze a fertilized embryo, is also an option if partners know they want to get pregnant later. “If the partners are not necessarily ready right now there is also embryo freezing,” Culwell says. “That does cost money but it also has a higher likelihood of success than even egg freezing, so it is another option that could potentially work for some couples.”
If you are feeling anxious about the whole thing
“I would tell women not to panic in their late 20s and early 30s and instead focus on getting to a place in their lives where all of the other things are in place,” Culwell says. “Women get pregnant well into their mid-to-late 40s. It may require help or egg donation, or if you have frozen your own eggs you may be able to use them. It is not an absolute cliff, and it is just life planning in general.”
Share facts about fertility with your partner or explore options to have a baby on your own
In heterosexual relationships, women may often feel like they are the timekeepers when it comes to having children. But Culwell encourages women to share the biological facts with their partners. “It is all about mutual respect, and obviously it is important for couples to be on the same page of whether they want to have kids,” Culwell says. “Assuming they are on that page, provide your partner with information about biology and the fact that fertility does decline with age. But there are also women who do it all on their own.”