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anonymous on September 12, 2011

How does female fertility change with age?

I am planning to marry my girlfriend who is four years older than me. I’m 25 and she’s 29. Is there anything I should know about potential problems with our sexual life or her ability to bear a child?  

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on September 12, 2011

Thanks for sharing your concern. Although everyone’s biology is slightly different, female fertility does change with age.

Research on the topic of female fertility shows that women become less fertile as they age. (Men do, too, but not to the same extent.) In one study conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, women were most fertile between the ages of 19-25 and the probability of pregnancy declined from the late 20s onward.

For women ages 35-39, the probability that they would get pregnant on any particular day dropped to half of the probability for women in the 19-25 age group. In other words, as women get older, their chances of conceiving do decrease somewhat.

That said, you and your girlfriend are well within the range of normal fertility. Of course, there are a number of other factors that can affect fertility, too, including high alcohol consumption, smoking, being under or overweight, stress and possibly other lifestyle factors. If any of these factors apply to you or your girlfriend, I would recommend that you speak with your doctor who can recommend lifestyle improvements and thereby potentially increase your fertility as a couple.

Also, when you’re ready to have a child...your partner can help herself and the baby stay healthy throughout the pregnancy by seeing her obstetrician before conceiving. Consulting an obstetrician as you plan for a child can help ensure that your partner is consuming the right nutrients ⎼ like folic acid ⎼ for a healthy baby.

Thanks again for your question, and I wish you both a happy marriage and family life.

Related info:

Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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