The average age of menarche in the United States is about 12.5 years. In postmenarchal girls, about 80% of the cycles were anovulatory in the first year after menarche, 50% in the third and 10% in the sixth year. Women's fertility peaks around the age of 19-24, and often declines after 30. With a rise in women postponing pregnancy, this can create an infertility problem. Of women trying to get pregnant, without using fertility drugs or in vitro fertilization:
At age 30, 75% will get pregnant within one year, and 91% within four years.
At age 35, 66% will get pregnant within one year, and 84% within four years.
At age 40, 44% will get pregnant within one year, and 64% within four years.
The above figures are for pregnancies ending in a live birth and take into account the increasing rates of miscarriage in the aging population. According to the March of Dimes, "about 9 percent of recognised pregnancies for women aged 20 to 24 ended in miscarriage. The risk rose to about 20 percent at age 35 to 39, and more than 50 percent by age 42".
Birth defects, especially those involving chromosome number and arrangement, also increase with the age of the mother. According to the March of Dimes, "At age 25, a woman has about a 1-in-1,250 chance of having a baby with Down syndrome; at age 30, a 1-in-1,000 chance; at age 35, a 1-in-400 chance; at age 40, a 1-in-100 chance; and at 45, a 1-in-30 chance."
The use of fertility drugs and/or invitro fertilization can increase the chances of becoming pregnant at a later age. Successful pregnancies facilitated by fertility treatment have been documented in women as old as 67.
Doctors recommend that women over 30 who have been unsuccessful in trying to conceive for more than 6 months undergo some kind of fertility testing.
Male fertility and age
Erectile dysfunction increases with age, but fertility does not decline in men as sharply as it does in women. There have been examples of males being fertile at 94 years old.However, evidence suggests that increased male age is associated with a decline in semen volume, sperm motility, and sperm morphology. In studies that controlled for female age, comparisons between men under 30 and men over 50 found relative decreases in pregnancy rates between 23% and 38%.
Cause of decline
Sperm count declines with age, with men aged 50-80 years producing sperm at an average rate of 75% compared with men aged 20-50 years. However, an even larger difference is seen in how many of the seminiferous tubules in the testes contain mature sperm;
In males 20-39 years old, 90% of the seminiferous tubules contain mature sperm.
In males 40-69 years old, 50% of the seminiferous tubules contain mature sperm.
In males 80 years old and older, 10% of the seminiferous tubules contain mature sperm.
Recent research has suggested increased risks for health problems for children of older fathers. A large scale Israeli study found that the children of men 40 or older were 5.75 times more likely than children of men under 30 to have an autism spectrum disorder, controlling for year of birth, socioeconomic status, and maternal age. Increased paternal age has also been correlated to schizophrenia in numerous studies.
The American Fertility Society recommends an age limit for sperm donors of 50 years or less, and many fertility clinics in the United Kingdom will not accept donations from men over 40 or 45 years of age. In part because of this fact, more women are now using a take-home baby rate calculator to estimate their chances of success following invitro fertilization.