1. Mum's the word
When I got married recently it wasn’t long before people started asking about my plans for having children.
These days, like me, many women are delaying motherhood until their 30s. In 2015, more women in England and Wales aged over 40 gave birth than those under the age of 20. Reasons for this delay vary, but often the cause can be our careers, lack of financial stability or simply not yet having met the right partner.
The trouble with postponing motherhood is that the longer we leave it, the more difficult it is for us to conceive. Women’s fertility starts to decline rapidly after the age of 35, and by the time we reach 40, our chances of falling pregnant are becoming increasingly slim.
2. Make changes now
Being healthy and making some simple lifestyle changes can help with conception. Click or tap to find out more.
This content uses functionality that is not supported by your current browser. Consider upgrading your browser.
Image credits: Cultura Creative/Alamy; Johner Images/Getty; PhotoAlto/Alamy and Josie Grant/Alamy.
3. A question of timing
Of course, a key factor in becoming pregnant is sex.
Identifying the exact date of ovulation - when the ovaries release an egg - can be tricky, but generally, a woman will be most fertile in the 10-16 days before her period.
It may seem a short window for success, especially when considering that the lifespan of the unfertilised egg is just 24 hours.
However, sperm can live in the fallopian tubes for up to five days after sex, and it’s also possible that the egg could be fertilised by sperm which entered the fallopian tubes before ovulation.
It might be tempting to plan sex based on what the calendar says, but this has the potential to become stressful. NHS advice is to have sex every two to three days during the month for the best chances of a successful conception.
However if you’d prefer to give your chances a boost there are various methods by which you can estimate your most fertile period. If your period is regular you can simply calculate the 10-16 days before it begins.
Ovulation predictor kits can also help. These can be used to check urine for the surge in hormone levels which occurs ahead of ovulation. By doing so, they flag up the your most fertile days but they do not guarantee pregnancy.
4. Thinking ahead
So when should women start to think seriously about their fertility?
Research says that girls are born with between 1-2 million ovarian follicles capable of producing an egg, but these are lost progressively throughout the rest of their lives. The younger eggs tend to be more fertile, so the best chances lie with those who start trying to get pregnant in their twenties and early thirties.
Older eggs may not fertilise as normal, so there is also an increased risk for miscarriage in older mums, as there is a greater chance for the baby to have a genetic abnormality that may not be compatible with life.
Other genetic problems such as Down’s syndrome are also more common in babies born to older mums. A woman who is 30 has a one in 800 chance of having a baby with Down’s syndrome, while for a 40-year-old, the chances are one in 100.
Once in their mid-thirties women will encounter more difficulties with conception and there are increased risks for the mother and baby during pregnancy. These range from high blood pressure, which can lead to pre-eclampsia, to early delivery. Mums over 40 are three times more likely than younger women to require an emergency caesarean section.
Even if we have no immediate desire to have children, with simple common-sense lifestyle changes, we could give ourselves a better chance to have a baby when the time comes.
5. What’s the best age to start a family?
When do you think you should start trying for a baby?