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September 2, 2020

Ageing and Infertility

Age is a significant number in anyone’s life. From skin to energy level, ageing changes affect the functioning of all systems in the body. And, reproductive performance is also something that cannot escape the clutches of ageing. Since males and females have different biological clocks, they need to be aware of the same and plan their family accordingly.

How does fertility change with age? At what age does a woman stop being fertile? How can a man become more fertile? If you need answers to these crucial questions and want to know more about ageing and infertility, read on…

How does age affect fertility?

First, let’s talk about women’s fertility!

When a girl is born, her ovaries contain all the eggs she will ever have for a lifetime. As a woman ages, so do the eggs. And, both the quality and quantity of eggs decrease as the woman gets older.

So, what’s the best age to get pregnant for a woman?

When she is in her 20s… During these years, a woman has a 25-30% higher chance of getting pregnant. Once a woman reaches her early 30s, her fertility starts to decline. After the age of 35, the decline accelerates and by 40, there is only a 5% chance of pregnancy every month.

If a woman does manage to get pregnant, the chances of a complication occurring increases as well. The risk of miscarriage, placenta previa, stillbirth and C-section increases when a woman gets pregnant after 30.

That being said, age is not the only factor that affects fertility. Drug addiction, smoking, obesity, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), thyroid issues and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) might complicate the process of a woman getting pregnant.

At what age does a woman stop being fertile? The answer varies from woman to woman. But, once a woman stops ovulating or hits menopause, she won’t be able to bear children.

Men and fertility

It is believed that male fertility is unaffected by age. But, that is not true. Male fertility also decreases with age, though, not to the same extent as a female’s.

Fertility in older men decreases because of:

  • Declining sperm quality
  • Declining levels of male sex hormones
  • Less interest in sex

So, at what age does men’s sperm count drop? While the answer will again differ from man to man depending on genetic makeup and lifestyle habits, in most males, the drop begins around the age of 40-45.

This is when the semen volume lowers. Sperm count decreases and the ones that are there don’t swim very well. As compared to younger men, the sperm cells of an older male are more likely to have genetic abnormalities.

Thus, when asked the question of how old can a man still be fertile. The answer is Men don’t stop being fertile but their fertility does go down. If the partner is also above 35/40 years, then getting pregnant might not be very easy.

Some statistics…

According to the Indian Society of Assisted Reproduction, between 10-14% of Indians are affected by infertility. When a couple is unable to conceive in India, the fault is usually said to lie with the female. It is the woman, her body and reproductive system that are not right.

But, did you know? Male infertility is 1.5% more common than female infertility.

According to a WHO report pertaining to infertility in India, 50% of infertility cases are due to male infertility. The doctors at AIIMS reported that three decades ago, the sperm count for a normal Indian adult male used to be 60 million/ml. Now, it has dropped down to 20 million/ml.

There are many reasons for it. Pollution, high-pressure jobs, lack of proper sleep, unhealthy lifestyle, lack of physical activity, alcohol and tobacco consumption, and poor diet have contributed to lowering the sperm count in the Indian male population.

So, how can a man become more fertile? First of all, taking care of the body and inculcating good lifestyle habits are vital. Men should look into maintaining a healthy weight; abstaining from alcohol, smoking, and illicit drugs; reducing stress through therapeutic means; and reducing exposure to pollution, toxins, pesticides and anything that creates prolonged heat for the testicles.

As we can see, fertility in both men and women declines with age. While for women it comes to a complete standstill, men are still fertile, albeit some complications may arise. Thus, it is crucial for a couple to sit down and plan their family accordingly. Besides, conscious planning can lead a couple to become happy parents to a healthy child.