In general among women, the age of 40 is considered highly significant for family planning. There is a deep-rooted view that pregnancy is no longer possible after the age of 40.
This is not entirely correct. This is because the likelihood of pregnancy and the probability of infertility can change in women as young as 20.
Likelihood of pregnancy depending on age
After three cycles with unprotected intercourse, the likelihood of becoming pregnant amounts to just below 86% in very young women. By as early as the age of 25 the probability drops considerably. After the age of 35, only one in two women will become pregnant after three cycles without protection.
The reason: every period no longer comes with ovulation, and not all biological conditions are as good as they were when you were 20 years old. The following chart shows how the probability of a pregnancy falls as a woman’s age increases:
Probability of infertility and a woman’s age
In a similar way as a woman’s age increases, so does the probability of infertility.
This means that even after many cycles with unprotected intercourse, a woman does not become pregnant.
The probability is shown as a percentage in the following chart:
Therefore it is especially important for women over the age of 30 to plan their pregnancy and improve the probability of having a child in as many ways as she can.
First and foremost, there are some things a woman can do herself to support a healthy pregnancy. Folic acid (1), omega-3 (2)(DHA and EPA from fish oil), iron (3) and B- vitamins (4) are especially important during the first weeks and months of pregnancy, as they are essential for the healthy development of the foetus. This also meets the requirements for later development. Around 85% of all women in Europe have folic acid deficiency. Folic acid deficiency increases the likelihood of spina bifida (which literally means a split spine) approximately fourfold.
Therefore doctors advise women to take targeted nutritional supplements when planning the pregnancy. If a woman is already in around her sixth week of pregnancy, it is possible that folic acid deficiency has already caused irreversible damage to the spine of her foetus.
The chances of becoming pregnant can improve with the following measures:
1.Determine when your fertile phase is, and around your fertile days (approximately three days before and one day afterwards) have intercourse.
2.Immediately before the fertile phase, it is recommended that the male partner is abstinent.
3.A man’s sperm development can be significantly improved through a targeted healthy diet with lots of micronutrients, vitamins, amino acids and antioxidants. More information can be found here. If only the woman alone is eating healthily, this probably will not influence the chances of pregnancy.
(1)Olsen SF, Knudsen VK. Folic acid for the prevention of neural tube defects: the Danish experience. Food Nutr Bull. 2008; 29(2): 205-9
(2)Jones ML, Mark PJ, Waddell BJ. Maternal dietary omega-3 fatty acids and placental function. Reproduction. 2014; 147(5): 143-52
(3)Pena-Rosas JP, De-Regil LM, Dowswell T, Viteri FE. Daily oral iron supplementation during pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012.
(4)Ronnenberg AG, Goldman MB, Chen D, Aitken IW, Willett WC, Selhub J, Xu X. Preconception homocysteine and B vitamin status and birth outcomes in Chinese women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002; 76(6): 1385-91