Today, many women don’t think about parenthood until much later in their lives. With so many priorities to juggle, women may choose to delay childbearing while focusing on their education, career and relationships in their 20s and early 30s.
When opting to postpone parenthood, it’s very likely that women think about the impact of age on their fertility or are even reminded by friends and family about how their biological clocks are tick, tick, ticking away.
If a family member or friend ever told you that “your clock is ticking”, chances are they mean well. After all, they’re just encouraging you to start thinking about your fertility, and the possibility of conceiving sooner rather than later.
But what actually is the “biological clock”? What impact does it have on women’s chances of pregnancy and having children?
Women’s Biological Clocks and Fertility
The term biological clock refers to the “natural decline in female fertility with age,” explains Dr. Tanya Williams. Unlike men, who produce sperm daily, women are born with their entire lifetime supply of eggs. In fact, the average newborn girl has 1 million eggs in her ovaries. By the time the average girl reaches puberty, she has several hundred thousand eggs.
Although these numbers are certainly high, it’s important to remember that only a mature egg (also called an ovum) can be fertilized and result in pregnancy. This process is called ovulation and each ovum after ovulation lives for less than 24 hours. Pregnancy happens when a sperm, which lives for approximately five days, meets an ovum in a woman’s fallopian tube. Throughout her life, the average woman will release approximately 500 mature eggs from puberty to menopause. A menstrual cycle in which an egg is not fertilized results in a period.
If you spent most of your reproductive years trying to prevent an unexpected pregnancy, you’re certainly not alone. It’s normal for young adults to spend their twenties and early thirties dating different people, pursuing higher education, establishing their careers and exploring personal interests. Many couples are also socially encouraged to live together before tying the knot.
Although these are all important pursuits, these are some of the many factors that come into play when people decide to delay parenthood. Once you are ready to conceive, many people often find themselves learning fact from fiction when it comes to common fertility myths.
Watch our IGTV with Dr. Tanya Williams, where she addressed common fertility questions about the biological clock and its impact on our well-being.
The Truth about Biological Clocks and Fertility
When it comes to men and women’s biological clocks, these are the facts every person should know:
- Women experience their peak reproductive years between their late teens and late twenties. By the time she reaches 32 and even moreso at 35, women’s fertility often experiences a rapid decline.
- Doctors can test a woman’s ovarian reserve (i.e. the ovary’s capacity to provide fertilizable eggs) by conducting a transvaginal ultrasound, and also by performing simple blood tests to measure anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
- Although a woman only needs one healthy egg in order to conceive, an ovarian reserve test can help your fertility specialist counsel you about your fertility treatment options.
- Women aren’t the only ones with a biological clock. While men can naturally father a child in their senior years, doing so puts the health of their partners and the health of their unborn child at risk.
- Similar to women’s egg quality, the quality of a man’s sperm is also impacted by ageing. Men are advised to conceive before the age of 35, according to a 2019 study by Rutgers University.
Learn More about Your Biological Clock
Although these facts can play an important role in determining your family planning, it’s essential to remember that every person is different. Seeing a fertility specialist is the best way to consider all your options when it comes to trying to conceive and planning for a healthy pregnancy. Be sure to download our patient referral form to get started.