When's the Best Time to Start a Family?

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When's the Best Time to Start a Family?
Figuring out when to have kids. Inside are the biological myths and realities about conception.

I Misconception: "Fertility starts to decline in a woman's late 30s and most women can have children naturally in their 40s."

Reality: Fertility begins to decline gradually in a woman’s late 20s and goes into a free-fall around age 40. By age 42, a woman has less than a ten percent chance of getting pregnant without donor eggs, and many fertility clinics discourage women over 43 from attempting to get pregnant with their own eggs.

When the American Fertility Association surveyed more than 12,000 women in 2001, many incorrectly assumed that the waning of female fertility begins in the late 30s. They were way off.

"A woman's fecundability—her chance of becoming pregnant in a single month—falls from at least 20 percent in her 20s, to between 10 and 15 percent in her mid-30s, to 10 percent at best at age 40, to a mere 2 or 3 percent by age 45," estimates Dr. Copperman.

With an average age of 38, many of the patients at his practice "are going to have egg-quality issues," he says, which lead not only to problems getting pregnant, but also to increased miscarriage rates and potential genetic abnormalities. Dr. Copperman advises that any woman over 35 should go in for an evaluation "sooner rather than later. Certainly after six months of timed trying, it’s time to investigate."

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