Women's fertility drops off later than we thought, says new study

Jennifer Savin
·3-min read
Photo credit: Smith Assavarujikul / EyeEm - Getty Images
Photo credit: Smith Assavarujikul / EyeEm - Getty Images

It's no secret that there's a gender gap when it comes to healthcare and that women's issues have typically received less funding and time when it comes to research. This may explain why now, a new study has shown that one of the most common 'facts' about female fertility – that it basically drops off the face of the earth at the age of 35 – may well actually be something of a myth.

According to the research published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (and an interesting exploration of it by The Guardian), this long-held belief that falling pregnant will become drastically more difficult after the age of 35, adding immense pressure on women and their partners, may be false.

In today's society, the research found that the number of reproductive years for women in America has increased from 35 to 37.1 and that the age at which they're entering menopause is increasing too.

While you may be thinking 'Okay cool, but that's only an extra two years of breathing space before the the panic and pressure of having-to-conceive-before-it's-too-late kicks in again', there's more to it. A lot more.

Photo credit: HUIZENG HU - Getty Images
Photo credit: HUIZENG HU - Getty Images

That often-used 'stat' that a third of women aged 35 to 39 will spend a year or more struggling and failing to conceive? It originated from data collected in France over 300 hundred years ago. Back when people also believed joining the workforce would dry a woman's uterus out and when doctors smoked tobacco for their health. Of course, there have also been later studies that appear to have corroborated some aspects of the original historical research, but still... it makes you think.

While there certainly are changes that occur in the body as we age and that can impact on having children (the quality of eggs on offer, for instance, decreases over time), another study of 770 European women recorded that, when having sex twice a week or more, 78% of women aged 35 to 40 conceived within a year. Comparatively, women aged 20 to 34, had a success rate of 84%.

The most recent government stats also show that the age at which women are having their first child is now 29 years and 6 months, but that having two children is still the most common familial group (showing that more women are leaving it later to have children, and suggesting that, on the whole they aren't experiencing too many issues conceiving, although everyone is different).

So, why is it that we never hear about this more recent and frankly more reassuring research? While it's always important to ensure you research an array of sources and studies when looking into anything health-related - and of course chat to a specialist or GP if you have concerns - wouldn't it be nice if the narrative around female fertility (and the ageing process as a whole) wasn't always so... bleak?

Food for thought, eh?

The latest issue of Cosmopolitan UK is out now and you can SUBSCRIBE HERE.

Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

You Might Also Like