What to Know About Getting Pregnant After 35

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You may have heard that once you reach age 35, getting pregnant becomes harder. Research has demonstrated that it is often more difficult to conceive naturally after a certain age. However, there is debate about using 35 as a "cutoff" age for fertility. And just because it may be more challenging, that does mean that you can't get pregnant after age 35.

Whether you’re trying to conceive after 35 or are just thinking about the future, here are some things you should know about getting pregnant later in life.

Getting Pregnant After 35

Conceiving after age 35 has its challenges but it's by no means impossible. Some people may need reproductive assistance, such as IVF, however, others will conceive on their own after just a few cycles. Learn more about what impacts your ability to get pregnant after age 35 and how you can improve your odds.

Advanced Age Impacts Egg Health

One biological reason that it can be more difficult to get pregnant beyond a certain age is that the number and quality of viable eggs dwindle as a person with ovaries gets older. By contrast, partners with testes can produce 100 million sperm a day throughout their lifespan.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), 1 in 4 women in their 20s and 30s who are trying to conceive will get pregnant in each menstrual cycle. For women over the age of 40, only 1 in 10 will get pregnant.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Vital Statistics Reports show that in 2018, the birth rates for women between 35 and 39 years of age was 52.6 births per 1,000 women, and 11.8 births per 1,000 women ages 40 to 44.

Your Partner’s Age Matters

Research has found that male fertility also declines with age, but not as predictably as female fertility. Studies have shown that during a year of trying to get pregnant, conception was 30% less likely when a male partner was 40 years or older than it would be for males in their 20s.

Miscarriage rates, as well as the rate of birth defects, also increases with age (for both male and female partners). A study published in 2019 found that the rate of miscarriage increased rapidly for women after age 30, reaching more than 50% for women over the age of 45.

Don't Wait to Ask for Help

If you're hoping to get pregnant, time is of the essence because age naturally lowers your monthly fertility odds. Don't delay seeking help if you are not able to conceive after 6 months of trying. Some people might not conceive on their own in 6 months but go on to conceive naturally after a year—or even 2 years.

If you're over 35, don't wait a full year to talk to your provider. Ask about fertility testing if you aren't pregnant after six months of trying. If you're over 40, talk to your doctor before you start trying. Treatment success also is less likely as you age; the sooner you start, the more likely it is to help.

If no obvious cause of your fertility problems is found, your provider might suggest that you keep trying to conceive naturally for a few more months, then come back if you are not successful.

Your provider might order blood tests, an ultrasound, and a specialized x-ray, known as an HSG. For a male partner, a semen analysis might be performed. Once the results of those basic fertility tests come back, you, your partner, and your provider can decide about the next steps.

Age Affects Fertility Treatment Success

Don't put off seeking help because you think that fertility treatments can make up for the lost time. Fertility treatments become less successful as you age (unless you plan to use donor eggs), too.

According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), the rate of fertility treatment success greatly decreases beyond the age of 40. The rate of live births (per egg retrieval) for women between the ages of 35 and 37 is 42%, and 26.6% for women ages 38 to 40.

CDC data has shown that the percentage of live births per IVF cycle for women over the age of 40 is only 5.8%. However, if donor eggs are used, the rate of success rises to almost 40%.

When looking at pregnancy success rates for fertility drugs like Clomid, or for fertility procedures like IUI or IVF, keep in mind that it's not just your age that matters—the cause of infertility also plays a key role.

Your odds for pregnancy success with IUI treatment at age 27 is very different from when you're 37.

What Healthy Habits Can (And Can't) Do

Don’t assume that your age is the only reason you’re not conceiving quickly. When you’re over 35, your lifestyle can also work against you as you try to get pregnant, too.

To improve your chances of conceiving, your medical provider might suggest you try making some lifestyle changes, such as avoiding sugar and overall choosing a healthier diet, cutting back on alcoholic drinks, ensuring you are at a healthy weight (neither underweight nor overweight), reducing your caffeine consumption, alleviating excess stress, and quitting smoking.

Diet and lifestyle can affect fertility. Eating healthier, embracing healthy lifestyle habits, and maintaining a healthy weight can help you conceive faster and may even boost your odds for fertility treatment success if you do need treatment.

Don’t forget about mind-body therapies as well. While research hasn’t yet found a strong link between mind-body therapies like mindfulness, mediation, and yoga with fertility, most everyone can benefit from adding stress-reducing activities to their life.

It's important to understand that while quitting unhealthy habits can improve your fertility, changing your lifestyle won't stop age-related fertility decline. Your age, like many other factors that influence your chances of conceiving, is out of your control. So, even if you eat a balanced diet, get regular exercise, and don't smoke, you will still get older and experience age-related fertility decline just like anyone else.

How to Improve Fertility After 35

Lifestyle habits have been linked to fertility challenges. For example, smokers have eggs that age faster. That said, here are some changes you can make to improve your fertility.

  • Avoid sugar
  • Eat a more nutritious diet
  • Cut back or limit alcoholic drinks
  • Ensure you are at a healthy weight (neither underweight nor overweight)
  • Reduce your caffeine consumption
  • Alleviate stress
  • Engage in mind-body therapies like mindfulness, mediation, and yoga

Try When You Feel You're Ready

If you want to have children one day, you'll want to understand how your age affects your chances of starting a family. This will help you make informed and educated decisions about when to start trying and can prepare you for the possibility of not getting pregnant as quickly as you'd hoped.

That said, no one should be pressured to have kids before they feel ready. Don't allow your age, or anyone else's opinion, to pressure you into starting a family if you don't feel prepared or sure. However, if you do want to have kids and are in your 30s or older, you might consider trying to get pregnant sooner than you might if you were younger. Note, too, that even if it doesn't seem to be the absolute perfect time. that elusive "ready" feeling not even exist—or may just happen once you get pregnant.

If you're upset with yourself for "waiting too long" to start a family, try to be forgiving. There is no "right age" to have a baby, and you can't go back anyway. Instead, focus on doing what you can to conceive now.

A Word From Verywell

Getting pregnant after age 35 isn't as easy as it is at 25. However, while it can be more challenging, it is possible for many people to have kids later in life. The most important thing is that you seek fertility help right away from your OB/GYN if you're ready to have a family but aren't having luck getting pregnant.

While you can't prevent yourself from getting older, you can build lifestyle habits that will help you age healthfully, such as eating well, exercising, and quitting unhealthy habits like smoking or recreational drug use.

If you have been trying to get pregnant for 6 months without success, talk to your healthcare provider. The sooner you have fertility testing, the sooner you can start treatment (if it's needed), and the more likely it is that treatment will be successful.

10 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Wallace WH, Kelsey TW. Human ovarian reserve from conception to the menopausePLoS One. 2010;5(1):e8772. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008772

  3. Harris ID, Fronczak C, Roth L, Meacham RB. Fertility and the aging maleRev Urol. 2011;13(4):e184-e190.

  4. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Having a baby after age 35: How aging affects fertility and pregnancy.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). National Vital Statistics Reports 2018.

  6. Magnus MC, Wilcox AJ, Morken N-H, Weinberg CR, Håberg SE. Role of maternal age and pregnancy history in risk of miscarriage: prospective register based studyBMJ. 2019;364:l869. doi:10.1136/bmj.l869

  7. Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART). National summary report.

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ART success rates.

  9. Sharma R, Biedenharn KR, Fedor JM, Agarwal A. Lifestyle factors and reproductive health: taking control of your fertility. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2013;11:66. doi:10.1186/1477-7827-11-66

  10. de Angelis C, Nardone A, Garifalos F, Pivonello C, Sansone A, Conforti A, Di Dato C, Sirico F, Alviggi C, Isidori A, Colao A, Pivonello R. Smoke, alcohol and drug addiction and female fertility. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2020;18(1):21. doi:10.1186/s12958-020-0567-7

By Rachel Gurevich, RN
Rachel Gurevich is a fertility advocate, author, and recipient of The Hope Award for Achievement, from Resolve: The National Infertility Association. She is a professional member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and has been writing about women’s health since 2001. Rachel uses her own experiences with infertility to write compassionate, practical, and supportive articles.