A woman’s ability to get pregnant normally decreases as she gets older. In later life, women have fewer eggs, egg quality goes down, and eggs have more abnormalities in their chromosomes (genetic material). All these factors together mean that older women have lower pregnancy rates and higher miscarriage rates.
The ability to have a baby decreases in all women as they get older, but the exact age when a woman can no longer conceive varies from woman to woman. In some women, this happens at a younger age than would normally be expected. About one third of couples will have problems getting pregnant when the female partner is age 35 or older. There are several tests that can help show a woman’s fertility potential, also called ovarian reserve.
These tests try to predict a woman’s response to fertility treatment and how likely she is to get pregnant compared to other women of the same age. Abnormal ovarian reserve test results suggest that fertility potential has declined but they do not tell who will or who will not conceive. Some younger women with normal test results have difficulty conceiving. Results may vary from cycle to cycle; however, any one abnormal test generally shows that fertility potential has decreased.
The chance of getting pregnant is primarily related to the quality of the eggs. Women over the age of 35 with abnormal test results who have not had successful treatment have a lower chance of conceiving. These women may be candidates to use eggs or embryos from a donor. Even with a normal ovarian reserve test, older women may have difficulty conceiving.
No single test of ovarian reserve can predict a woman’s ability to get pregnant. These tests are often used to develop a treatment plan, including the need for donor eggs or embryos.
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