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At what age should you start thinking about fertility?


Heads-up: I’m going to say the F-word a lot in this article. You know, the one that makes women in their mid-30s all squirmy. 

“Fertility.”

And probably the other F-word too. Because f*ck the restraints of female fertility! It’s the time pressure no one asked for.

Not only do 21st-century women need to build careers to make enough money to pay the bills, source a suitable sexual partner or sperm donor, and take care of our bodies enough to carry a child – our whole dang reproductive system just throws the towel in somewhere in our 40s. 

“Oh, but there’s the miracle of modern technology!” we reassure ourselves. Yes, women can freeze and store their eggs, and even get pregnant without sex these days. But there’s no avoiding that finite fertility window, always staring us down. Stressing us out. Forcing us to speed up the BIG decision of when to have kids.

It’s a lot.

So what age should we start thinking seriously about fertility and starting a family?

(Spoiler: Probably now.)

Real Talk: When should you have a baby?

There’s much discussion about the ‘best age to have a baby’ in today’s world. You better believe that someone’s developed an AI system to predict this for you, taking into account your fertility and life circumstances. But if you’re not up for leaving this decision to a computer model, let’s talk it through.

On the one hand, you’re more likely to conceive easily and have fewer pregnancy complications in your 20s. But at this age, a lot of women are still establishing careers, saving money, paying off student loans, going on Contiki tours, finding “the one”, and figuring out what the hell they’re doing with their lives. The question of “when are you most fertile” may not exactly be top of mind.

In your 30s, your fertility will start to steadily decline, but perhaps you’re more likely to have found a life partner, have some cash stored away, and feel more like an ‘adult’, ready to pretend you know what you’re doing. (You might even have health insurance by now – go you!) 

Then again, maybe you’re still not ready. You might be fighting your way to the top of the corporate ladder and ticking things off your pre-baby bucket list still. 

Come your 40th birthday, perhaps you’ve finally made it where you want to go in your career, and you know with clarity that you want to have kids. But by now, your fertility is way past its peak. Lots of women will go through the motions with fertility testing, only to realise they’ve got a mere 5% chance of falling pregnant each month. 

What. The. F*ck. 

How much should you actually base your life decisions on your fertility peak?

Why fertility is kind of a big deal

Here’s the thing. The number of eggs in your body is finite. You were born with around 2 million, and by age 37 you’ve got around 25,000 left. As you age, the number of eggs (potential babies) in your system declines. And their quality drops too. After age 45, there’s a minute chance of falling pregnant naturally, and even successful IVF is fairly unlikely.

With your fertility in slow decline once you hit your 30s, there’s not what I’d call a ‘leisurely’ amount of time to consider whether you want kids or not. Pressure’s on.

So when are you most fertile?

I’m sorry to say it, but biology actually backs up what your nosey Aunt Jenny tells you at every single family gathering: your fertility is at its peak in your 20s

But let’s be real: your bank account and current selection of sexual partners may not make this age ideal for having a baby. And you know what? That’s okay. You don’t need to succumb to ‘baby panic’ just yet. (Or bang the next willing stranger.) 

How do you decide what to do?

Talk with your doctor (and look into fertility testing)

If your 20s are a distant memory, or you’re just not ready to bring a baby into the world, do yourself a massive favour and seek out further advice from your doctor or a fertility specialist. They can run some tests, advise on overall reproductive health, and clue you up on how your age affects fertility.

If you’re over 35…

We can’t ignore that time is getting away. If you are trying to conceive, experts recommend seeing a specialist if you haven’t fallen pregnant within six months. They may suggest a fertility test to work out your likelihood of falling pregnant naturally. Fertility testing typically involves:

  • Checking for ovulation issues – ruling out conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

  • Checking your fallopian tubes and uterus – performing a pelvic ultrasound or assessing fallopian tubes for blockages.

  • Performing a semen analysis – because your guy could actually be the one with fertility issues.

If you’re still not ready to get pregnant, now is a good time to look into your options (freezing your eggs, adoption, fostering etc.) Best to be safe!

Chat to your partner

(If you have one.)

You may find that they have their own ideas about when to have kids. It’s important to be realistic and get on the same page. 

If you’re with a man, he’s got his own fertility thing happening too. Male fertility starts to decline in the mid-forties, so they can’t sit on the fence forever. If you’re with a woman, start to chat seriously about your options for getting pregnant.

Think about what matters to you

Becoming a mum is – and we cannot stress this enough – a HUGE step. And for that matter, so is becoming a mum AGAIN. It may take a pros and cons list or two to work out what you want to do, but take the time to get clear on what you want for your life. 

It doesn’t matter what other people say or think (shut it, Aunt Jenny!) – what do you want?

Trust your gut, lady. This life is yours. Your body is yours. Your eggs are yours.


Read next: What’s your fertility by age? Here’s what to know

BBC, How far can female fertility be extended?

IVF Australia, Fertility Tests

Queensland Fertility Group, Age & Fertility

Better Health Channel, Age and fertility

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Having a Baby After Age 35: How Aging Affects Fertility and Pregnancy

Kin Fertility, At what age should you start thinking about fertility?

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia’s mothers and babies

Melbourne IVF, Fertility Tests

Gruhn, J. R., Zielinska, A. P., Shukla, V., Blanshard, R., Capalbo, A., Cimadomo, D., Nikiforov, D., Chan, A. C.-H., Newnham, L. J., Vogel, I., Scarica, C., Krapchev, M., Taylor, D., Kristensen, S. G., Cheng, J., Ernst, E., Bjørn, A.-M. B., Colmorn, L. B., Blayney, M., … Hoffmann, E. R. (2019). Chromosome errors in human eggs shape natural fertility over reproductive life spanScience (New York, N.Y.)365(6460), 1466–1469. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aav7321

The Atlantic, How long can you wait to have a baby?

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