table of contents
- Main takeaways
- What are the average chances of pregnancy, based on age?
- How does age impact fertility?
- Why does fertility change over time?
- Can getting pregnant later in life influence pregnancy or birth outcomes?
- When thinking about your age, are there other fertility options to consider?
- If you’re trying to conceive and not getting pregnant, when is it time to see a specialist?
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Even if you know you want kids in the future, fertility isn’t always front and center. As you get older, you might be wondering about your reproductive window — or how long you can expect to have menstrual cycles and possibly conceive. It’s a fact of life right now that some people are putting off pregnancy for a number of reasons — the economy, gender inequalities in the workplace, and the COVID-19 pandemic, just to name a few. But while trying to conceive earlier in your reproductive years may increase the likelihood of getting pregnant, conception is still possible in your late 30s and early 40s.
In this article, we’ll break down the chances of pregnancy by age, including helpful charts so you can visualize what you can expect fertility-wise over the course of about 25 years. We’ll also include alternative options if conceiving without assistance proves to be more challenging. And if you want to take a more proactive approach to getting pregnant (which we’re all about), we’ll explain what you can do now — and what to expect later on if issues do arise.
- Eggs decline in both quantity and quality from birth up until menopause.
- Although age is a factor in fertility, it’s a misconception that 35 is the magic age when your chances at getting pregnant vanish. It is, however, the age when fertility starts to more rapidly decline.
- Getting pregnant after 40 isn’t impossible, but there are increased chances of certain risks for you and the developing fetus that your healthcare provider may monitor you for.
- There are procedures and treatments that can improve your chances of conceiving at an older age, but they aren’t guaranteed to work for everyone.
Before we dive in, it’s important to note that conception rates for different ages are based on data collected from sample groups — just because you’re a certain age does not mean you’ll definitely have this experience. Still, understanding average rates of conception can help you when you’re thinking about your own plans for kids.
What are the average chances of pregnancy, based on age?
Since age is an important factor in your chances of getting pregnant, knowing the average success rates of conception for different age groups can help you know what you might expect when trying to conceive. Below, we’re unpacking what the research says about chances of conception based on age — without medical assistance or a history of infertility.
Chances of pregnancy in your 20s
It’s widely accepted that the prime time for childbearing is in your 20s. Eggs are at their highest quality when you’re in your 20s, and sperm is also often at a healthy sperm count. In general, people are in top shape to procreate during this time in their lives, but a lot of people may not be mentally or financially ready for that.
As for your actual chances of conceiving in your 20s? One 2017 study of almost 3,000 opposite-sex couples examined how long it took people of different ages to get pregnant without medical assistance, and without a history of infertility. In the below chart, we broke down the study’s findings from ages 21-30.
Age and pregnancy chart for people in their 20s:
|Age range||Chances of conception|
|21-24||56.8% after six cycles; 70.8% after 12 cycles|
|25-27||59% after six cycles; 79.3% after 12 cycles|
|28-30||62% after six cycles; 77.9% after 12 cycles|
What does this data tell us? The rates are pretty high across the board — chances of conception for the related time frame are all above 50%. Since these are just averages based on one large-scale study, the biggest takeaway is that the odds for getting pregnant are pretty good in your 20s (based on this particular sample group without a history of infertility).
Chances of pregnancy in your 30s
In your early 30s, your chances at pregnancy are only slightly lower than they were in your late 20s because of the gradual decline we mentioned before. Age 35 is often highlighted because this is around the time the decline becomes more rapid (though not overnight like that “fertility cliff” rumor would have you believe).
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) cites the average chances of pregnancy for a “healthy” person at age 30 at 20% each cycle. For a more detailed breakdown, we return to the 2017 study mentioned above.
Age and pregnancy chart for people in their 30s:
|AGE RANGE||CHANCES OF CONCEPTION|
|31-33||60.7% after six cycles; 76.6% after 12 cycles|
|34-36||55.9% after six cycles; 74.8% after 12 cycles|
|37-39||46.3% after six cycles; 67.4% after 12 cycles|
What does this data tell us? You can see a more gradual shift between 31-33 and 34-36 before the chances of conception after six or 12 cycles decline more rapidly in the 37-39 group. What this highlights is key: Conception rates don’t “fall off a cliff” after 35 — the decline is just a bit more rapid.
Chances of pregnancy in your 40s
Although fertility does decrease over time, with a more rapid decline after 35, the number of people getting pregnant in their 40s is going up every year, in large part because of assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures like in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
For people in their 40s, ASRM says the average chance of pregnancy is around 5% each cycle. Again, we’re revisiting that large-scale 2017 study for more data to consider when mapping out your timeline for kids.
A quick note before we jump into the data: While the 2017 study doesn’t acknowledge whether or not the participants were trying to get pregnant for the first time, Dr. Jenn Conti, MD, MS, MSc, an OB-GYN and medical advisor for Modern Fertility, adds that “chances of conception go up if you’ve already had a child.”
Age and pregnancy chart for people in their 40s:
|AGE RANGE||CHANCES OF CONCEPTION|
|40-45||27.6% after six cycles; 55.5% after 12 cycles|
What does this data tell us? Comparing it to conception rates between the ages of 37 and 39, we see a more significant jump from 46.3% to 27.6% after six cycles and 67.4% to 55.5% after 12. It’s worth noting, though, that the drop is less significant when we’re looking at rates after 12 cycles.
How does age impact fertility?
There are many common misconceptions about how age affects pregnancy, namely concerning fertility after age 35. While it’s true that a person with ovaries will have their highest chances of conceiving in their 20s, there isn’t a hard drop-off the moment you reach your 35th birthday. Think of it more as a gradual hill than a cliff, one that declines a bit each year from puberty through menopause.
You’ve probably heard about the “biological clock” your entire adult life — but is it something you really have to think about with each passing birthday? First, it’s important to point out that the entire “biological clock” narrative actually comes from outdated views on fertility and the role of people with ovaries in general. As science progresses and we continue to learn more about what affects our fertility, it’s clear that age is one single factor — and not the only one. What’s most important is staying informed of your chances and options regarding pregnancy and maintaining the healthiest lifestyle you can.
Why does fertility change over time?
So, why do our bodies become less equipped for conception the older we get? It basically comes down to the simple fact that people with ovaries are born with a certain number of eggs: This number is astonishingly around seven million when you’re just a fetus. (Yes, this is also the time when you need eggs the least, but biology doesn’t always play fair.) Once you’re born, that number drops down to around a million, and at puberty you’re down to around 300K.
As you can probably guess, this number will continue to decrease as you go about living your life, and for a lot of that time, maybe not even thinking about your fertility. In addition to the number of eggs remaining, the quality of the eggs you have also drops over the years. So, even if an egg is available for fertilization, its quality plays a role in whether or not meeting up with sperm would result in a viable pregnancy.
While there’s no way to test for egg quality before trying to get pregnant, you can get insight into egg quantity. Measuring your anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) is the best way to understand your ovarian reserve — or how many eggs you have in the wings.
Can getting pregnant later in life influence pregnancy or birth outcomes?
While many people who conceive later in life go on to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, there can be increased risks for certain health problems and outcomes.
These are some of the outcomes associated with pregnancy after 35:
- Gestational hypertension (high blood pressure during pregnancy)
- Preeclampsia (high blood pressure resulting in increased risk of seizure, stroke, and early delivery for the pregnant person)
- Gestational diabetes (heightened blood sugar levels during pregnancy)
- Placental abnormalities, such as placenta previa (when the placenta cover the cervix)
- Increased chance of needing a cesarean section (commonly called a C-section)
- Higher risk of breast cancer (though researchers don’t yet understand why this can happen)
- Higher risk of miscarriage (this rises to around 24.6% from ages 35-39, 51% from 40-44, and 93.4% from 45-50)
- Chromosomal abnormalities (but there are many ways to screen for them during pregnancy, including nuchal translucency ultrasound and noninvasive prenatal testing)
While healthcare providers will often deem pregnancies after 35 as “high risk” so they can more closely monitor your health and fetal development, that doesn’t necessarily mean the pregnancy is inherently “risky.” Your healthcare provider can help you understand your unique risk factors.
When thinking about your age, are there other fertility options to consider?
If age (or other factors) make getting pregnant more difficult, there are a number of options you can think about pursuing — either at a younger age proactively or when you’re ready for kids.
Freezing your eggs
Egg freezing (called oocyte cryopreservation in medical-speak) is one option for people who aren’t ready to get pregnant at the moment, but would like to have more options open in the future. The egg freezing process typically takes a couple weeks, and begins with visiting a fertility specialist:
- After a series of hormone injections to encourage eggs to mature, the actual egg retrieval only takes about 10-20 minutes. The process itself can be pretty painless and is completed in a single day while under anesthesia.
- According to one study, people who were 35 years old or younger had about 14 mature eggs retrieved in one cycle on average, while 40-year-olds had about eight mature eggs retrieved on average.
- The eggs are then flash-frozen in liquid nitrogen in a process called vitrification so they can be fertilized and implanted later through intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) or IVF.
- Each step of the process is associated with some decreases in the number of eggs or embryos that make it to the next step, so one egg retrieved doesn’t necessarily equal one pregnancy.
- Ultimately, the chances that one egg retrieval cycle will eventually result in a live birth is 55.6% for people under 35; 40.8% for people 35-37; 26.8% for people 38-40; 12.6% for people 41-42; and 3.9% for people 43 and older.
Egg freezing doesn’t guarantee a future pregnancy — but it preserves the quality of however many eggs are retrieved at a younger age. And while it may be a great option for some people, others may not find the process affordable. The exact price of egg freezing depends on your clinic and region. According to Dr. Temeka Zore, MD, FACOG, a reproductive endocrinologist at Spring Fertility and Modern Fertility medical advisor, the price range for the procedure alone is usually between $5,000 and $10,000 per cycle. When considering the costs of injections and fertility medications, the price of one egg freezing cycle goes up to around $10,000-$12,000. (This price usually includes one year of storage for your eggs.)
Fertility treatments and medications
There are a number of fertility treatments that may improve your chances of getting pregnant:
- Fertility medications that stimulate ovulation (aka ovulation-inducing meds) can be considered, though it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about whether or not they’re right for you.
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a treatment where sperm (either from a partner or a donor) is inserted directly into the uterus with the use of a speculum and a small catheter.
- In-vitro fertilization (IVF) is an ART procedure where your own eggs (fresh or frozen) or donor eggs are fertilized in a lab and then implanted into the uterus.
If you’re trying to conceive and not getting pregnant, when is it time to see a specialist?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the leading body of OB-GYNs, recommends seeing your healthcare provider or a fertility specialist after 12 months of trying to conceive if you’re under 35 and after six months if you’re 35 or over. While it’s known that fertility declines with age, it’s important to rule out any other factors that may be affecting your chances of getting pregnant (like out-of-range hormone levels or any structural issues in your uterine cavity or fallopian tubes). Your healthcare provider may suggest lifestyle changes, medications, or fertility treatment.
Dr. Jenn Conti is an OB-GYN and serves as an adjunct clinical assistant professor at Stanford University School of Medicine.