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How Are Age and Fertility Connected?

Doctor working at the Ottawa Fertility Centre
Doctor working at the Ottawa Fertility Centre

A woman’s age is one of the most important factors that affects her ability to build a healthy family. This is because females are born with a set number of eggs, estimated to be around one million. By the time a woman hits puberty, that number has declined to about 300,000. As women age, the number and quality of eggs continues to decrease and reduced egg quality affects fertility and the chances of pregnancy. 

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How Do I Know If I Have Enough Egg Follicles That Will Be Fertile?

Dr. Doron Shmorgun

Dr. Doron Shmorgun

The amount of egg follicles is associated with a woman’s age, health, and lifestyle. However, a successful fertilization isn’t dependent on the number of egg follicles, but rather on the quality of the eggs. Dr. Doron Shmorgun says there aren’t any methods of testing for egg quality, and that the best indicator is female age. “There are tests called ovarian reserve tests that assess egg quantity, but not quality,” says Dr. Shmorgun. 

Ovarian reserve tests are important in helping to predict a woman’s response to treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and egg freezing. However, Dr. Shmorgun says, “these tests don’t predict the probability of natural conception and likely won’t explain why you’re having difficulty conceiving.” 

How Can I Maximize My Natural Fertility?

 Dr. Bryden Magee

Dr. Bryden Magee

There are many factors that influence a woman’s natural fertility. Dr. Bryden Magee says that the first step to maximizing a woman’s natural fertility is being aware of the fertile window. This is a six-day period leading up to the day of ovulation. “Intercourse every day or every second day during this time maximizes the chances of pregnancy,” says Dr. Magee.

Ovulation is a part of a woman’s menstrual cycle that occurs when an egg is released from the ovary. Ovulation occurs two weeks before your period. “If you have regular, predictable monthly periods, then you’re most likely ovulating each month,” says Dr. Magee. There are several approaches to monitoring your cycles and establishing when you’re ovulating. According to Dr. Magee, “you can predict ovulation by using a calendar or phone app, checking for cervical mucus changes, or using a home urine ovulation prediction kit.”  

How Can I Improve My Chances of Conceiving?

Dr. Tannys Vause

Dr. Tannys Vause

Lifestyle factors have a massive impact on a woman’s fertility and can drastically affect your chances of conceiving. Dr. Tannys Vause says that making slight changes to your everyday routine can improve your chances of conceiving. “If you’re over 35 years old and are looking to conceive, maintaining a healthy body weight, avoiding cigarette smoke and marijuana, reducing alcohol, and moderating caffeine can help maximize your chances of pregnancy each month,” says Dr. Vause. 

There are alternative options available for women who are struggling to conceive naturally should these minor lifestyle factors fail to assist. Dr. Vause suggests that women learn more about options available through fertility clinics. 

What Options Exist to Preserve Fertility?

Dr. Jenna Gale

Dr. Jenna Gale

Prolonging the ability to have children is becoming progressively more common for women today. With that, there are options to preserve fertility including freezing your eggs. Dr. Jenna Gale says that the best time for a woman to freeze her eggs varies from patient to patient. The two most important predictive factors for success with egg freezing are a woman’s age and her ovarian reserve. 

Egg freezing cannot guarantee the future live birth of a child. “The highest chance of future live births occurs when eggs are frozen at or prior to the age of 35,” says Dr. Gale.

It’s important for women to educate themselves about their options and on the process of freezing their eggs. “Patients considering egg freezing should be referred to a fertility specialist for a full discussion about egg freezing, including the associated risks and alternatives,” Dr. Gale says. “Patients will undergo a full evaluation, including ovarian reserve testing.” 

Clinical Pregnancy and Implantation Rate infographic

About Ottawa Fertility Centre

Ottawa Fertility Centre staff group shot

The Ottawa Fertility Centre has been an independent fertility clinic since 2006 when it was a part of the Ottawa Civic Hospital prior to that.  As Ottawa’s most established fertility centre it services Eastern Ontario, the GTA, and Western Quebec.  With a staff of 7 highly trained fertility doctors, a state of the art on-site lab with andrology and embryology teams, a blood lab, and Ultrasound suites the OFC is positioned to be the premier fertility centre in the region helping thousands of patients each year.

Source: Canadian Assisted Reproductive Technologies Registry (CARTR) Plus. Final treatment cycle and pregnancy outcome data for 2017. Better Outcomes Registry & Network Ontario. Ottawa ON, September 2019.

“Permission is granted for the reproduction of these materials solely for non-commercial and educational purposes”.

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