November is a beautiful time. The outdoors are bathed in fall colors, we thank all our veterans and look forward to good food and company as Thanksgiving approaches. It is also the month that we go back to standard time by moving our clocks back an hour.
When this bi-annual time change kicks in, you may notice that it’s harder to concentrate, pay attention to detail and may even see more accidents on the road. The twice-yearly time shift disrupts our biological clocks because of the brain’s circadian clock that runs on a 24-hour cycle. And when it comes to your biological clock and fertility, note that virtually all of your cells, tissues, and organs run on some type of internal clock!
Your brain coordinates all of your biological clocks as you sense light, dark and other daily cycles and rhythms. So taking extra good care of yourself this month is important. From a self-care viewpoint, this is a good time to get enough restorative sleep, eat regular nutritious meals and spend time with your favorite people. Taking good care of your mental and physical health will help you as the clock adjusts.
When it comes to fertility, your biological clock is also influenced by your body’s changes over time, so the term “biological clock” means it’s harder to get pregnant later on in life. That’s usually because the amount and quality of a person’s eggs and sperm diminish with each passing year. And that can leave you feeling pressured if you haven’t started your family by a particular age. And it doesn’t help when your relatives gather for Thanksgiving and they ask you why you haven’t yet started a family.
But the age of peak fertility for you varies with everyone else. Not every woman stops menstruating and goes through menopause at the same time, just as you started menstruating at a different time than your teenage friends. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) estimates that fertility peaks in the early 20s and start diminishing after age 35. For many women 37 and older, they find it harder to become pregnant while for many men, their fertility starts to drop, albeit not as significantly as women’s, as they reach their 40s.
Fertility Rates Over Time
According to ACOG, as a baby still in your mother’s womb, you may have had up to 7 million eggs (oocytes) in your ovaries. As time goes on that number naturally drops so that by the time you hit puberty, you have around 300,000 to 500,000 eggs left. And by the time you reach menopause (typically around 51) your ovaries could only have about 1,000 eggs remaining.
Even the quality of your eggs, along with the level of reproductive hormones you have, lessen as you age. You also carry a greater risk of health conditions the older you get that might make it harder for you to achieve pregnancy, such as:
- Hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (or PCOS)
- Uterine fibroids
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (or PID)
And then you also need to consider that getting pregnant when you are older increases your risk of these medical issues:
- Cesarean section delivery
- Low birth weight babies
- Preterm delivery
Your Biological Clock, Your Decisions
Being aware of all of these factors may help you make the best decision for your body and circumstances. If you feel your biological clock is ticking too quickly just know that there is help available for your fertility journey to be successful. Whether you are in your peak reproductive years or not, our fertility team offers viable options for you. Freezing your eggs is one option if you are postponing pregnancy for use in later years, or if you are needing help to conceive now, there are treatments to support your efforts.
If you are feeling pressured about your biological clock and options, our Idaho Fertility Center team invites you to speak with one of our reproductive endocrinologists. We can help you make the right decision for your physical and mental health along with your future children. Today’s fertility options are better than ever before.