When it comes to having children, you may think you've got all the time in the world. But a research study shows that depending on how many children you ultimately want, you may need to get busy stat.
For their study, Netherlands researchers created a computer model that simulated the situations of 10,000 real couples trying to conceive, taking into account the chances a couple would get pregnant in a given month, the likelihood the pregnancy would be lost, and the chance the couple would be found infertile. With that data, the researchers were able to estimate the maximum age at which a woman should try to get pregnant based on how many children she wants — and whether she's open to in vitro fertilization (IVF).
For example, a woman who wants at least a 90-percent shot at having a child — and who isn't willing to use IVF — should start trying to conceive no later than age 32, the researchers found. A woman who wants two children should start getting busy by 27. The good news, however, is that those same women could each wait another 10 years if they were willing to use IVF, according to the study.
This study begs an important question of couples who are looking to balance their careers with their desire to start a family: Can you wait too long to try? Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., Clinical Professor of OB-GYN at Yale School of Medicine, says that before you worry over whether you're waiting too long, you have another question to ask yourself: "How devastated would you be if you couldn't have a baby?" she asks. Depending on your answer, you'll know how seriously to take her next points and this research.
Once you have your answer, consider this: Unless you have already-established infertility issues, "the numbers are really pretty good before you hit 35," says Minkin, "and they're not bad from 36 to 40. The real break in the success curve is at about 40 — with really not good numbers beyond 42." Even with IVF, your chances of getting pregnant after age 42 are slim, she says. Of course, Minkin is quick to point out that if a woman is in good physical health and is willing to use donor eggs, "then success is really quite good beyond 42."
Minkin mostly agrees with the researchers' findings. "Should numbers of pregnancies count? Absolutely," she says. "So if you'd like to have three kids, then I would start by age 34 or 35 having one every two years. If you only want one kid and you've hit that age, then it's OK to wait a little longer." But to ease your mind, Minkin adds, "I can tell you that I've delivered one woman at age 45, and she has done fabulously. I've also delivered three 47-year-old women who weren't planning their pregnancies — it just happened for them, so it can happen for others."