Consider this. You are a product of an oocyte (immature egg) that was growing in your grandmother’s womb. When your mother was a fetus of about 5 months of age in her mother’s womb (your grandmother), she already had 6 to 7 million oocytes in her tiny ovaries. Quite simply, one of those oocytes became you.
Women’s health matters at every age. And your choice to conceive may be an important part of this journey. Fertility is the natural ability to conceive a baby. It’s easy for some and more difficult for others. There are several factors that contribute to conception and pregnancy success. Genetics and lifestyle choices play a role. Let’s dive in to understanding fertility and a little bit about what also inevitably happens as we age, peri-menopause and menopause.
Women’s Life Expectancy and Fertility
In the United States in the 1900’s women lived to be 48 and by 1950 they lived to be about 71. It’s no surprise that many women were conceiving earlier than they do today. For women, deciding when to have a baby is a personal decision affected by different life choices. Wanting to further their education, marrying later in life as they wait for the perfect guy or the perfect time, and building their career. Another factor that may play a role is that we are living longer — life expectancy for women is now 85. Why rush to marry and have kids you ask? There is no rush except that our ovaries aren’t adjusting to this increase in longevity. The ovaries age faster than any other organ in the body.
Some Facts About Women’s Eggs
- You are born with about 1 – 2 million eggs. They mature at puberty. You will only release about 300 to 400 of them throughout your lifespan during ovulation.
- Women are in puberty and begin menstruating between the ages of 8 and 13. At this point, you will have about 300,000 to 500,000 eggs.
- One egg needs to meet one of the million sperm that arrive to conceive and this needs to occur when a woman is ovulating (releases an egg from the ovaries).
- Unlike other cells in the body, egg cells cannot regenerate.
Chances of Getting Pregnant
- A healthy woman in her early to mid-20’s has a 20-25% of getting pregnant. One reason for this is due to the fact that a certain amount of women’s eggs are abnormal.
- A woman’s chances of becoming pregnant are greatest within a day or 2 of ovulation when an egg is released from the ovaries.
- It is possible to get pregnant in the days leading up to ovulation since sperm can live up to 5 days in the woman’s body after intercourse.
- By age 30, the chance of conceiving for women is 20%. Ninety percent of her eggs are gone at this age.
- By age 35, the chance of conceiving drops to 15%.
- By age 40, the chance of conceiving is 5%. Sixty percent of a woman’s eggs are abnormal. Peri-menopause may be starting at this age or younger (fluctuating hormones) and affect the ability to conceive. Women in peri-menopause don’t ovulate as frequently and your levels of hormones may not support a pregnancy. How you are feeling is important to discuss with your doctor.
Ask the Questions
It’s your body and it should be your decision to become pregnant or not. No matter what your decision is, it’s important to tune in and listen to how you are feeling mentally and physically. Ask your gynecologist any and all questions related to your health and request bloodwork to get a full picture of your hormonal health. It’s essential if you want to conceive to listen to your body since peri-menopause occurs 7 – 10 years prior to menopause and is usually diagnosed by the symptoms a woman is experiencing. Surprisingly, this stage can occur in your mid to late 30’s. Your doctor doesn’t know about these symptoms unless you share them.
Menopause, when you have had no period for 12 months and can no longer conceive, usually occurs at age 51 but can happen in your forties. I was 44 when I was in full menopause. My menopausal symptoms were going on in my mid to late 30’s. If possible, it’s critical to talk to your mother or female relatives to learn what they have experienced when it comes to pregnancy, peri-menopause and menopause since you will more than likely have a similar experience. Knowledge is power.
How to Know When You are Ovulating
Ovulation occurs on day 14 of a woman’s cycle. This is important information since more sexual relations at the ‘right’ time will increase your chances of conceiving. Day 1 of your cycle is the first day of your period, no matter what time of day you start bleeding. There are many applications (apps) and ways to get in touch with your body and track your cycle. Signs you may be ovulating:
- Mild cramping in the lower abdomen
- A change in vaginal discharge
- Breast tenderness
- Increased libido
- Slightly elevated temperature
What You Can Control
Although you cannot create more eggs, you can keep the ones you have healthy if you choose to have children. No need to panic (remember, that causes stress) since everyone’s body is different. Follow these tips:
- Manage your stress levels. If you are in a stressful living environment, work environment, or toxic relationship, sadly no one is going to change this for you. It is your responsibility to believe you deserve the best. Take the time to seek help if needed and re-evaluate these important areas of your life.
- Eat a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly, get proper sleep, stop smoking and moderate alcohol consumption. Check out my blog on creating positive habits slowly.
- Consider taking fish oil, folic acid and coenzyme Q10. Fish oil helps with regulating hormones, which is important for ovulation. Coenzyme Q10 helps in cellular energy regulation. Folic acid helps prevent birth deformities of the brain and spine should you decide to become pregnant. Discuss these and all supplements with your doctor as they may interact with prescription medication.
- Avoid environmental contaminants and toxic substances.
- Again, talk to your female family members for a clearer picture of where your hormonal journey may be similar.
I’m a registered nurse for over 24 years with a Masters Degree in Nursing (Education). I am also a Certified Women’s Health Coach specializing in helping women navigate changing hormones in their 30s and beyond after my own difficult experience through menopause. I believe women should truly thrive in midlife and not just survive!