A woman’s age is the primary factor affecting her fertility, although health and lifestyle choices can impact her ability to reproduce as well. You see, a woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have, about one to two million immature eggs, or follicles, in her ovaries. Throughout her life, the vast majority of follicles will die through a process known as atresia. Atresia begins at birth and continues throughout the course of the woman’s reproductive life.
When a woman reaches puberty and starts to menstruate, only about 400,000 follicles remain. With each menstrual cycle, 1,000 additional follicles are lost and only one lucky little follicle will actually mature into an ovum (egg), which is released into the fallopian tube, kicking off ovulation. That means that of the one to two million follicles, only about 400 will ever mature. By menopause, there are little to no follicles remaining.
What does this mean for your fertility?
You are more fertile the younger you are. The probability of having a baby decreases by 3-5% per year at the age of 30 and at a much faster rate at 40. In addition to Atresia as a woman ages, her eggs also age, impairing egg quality and increasing her risk for miscarriages or chromosomal abnormalities.
This information can present a scary reality for women who have not yet finished or begun having children and are suddenly faced with a cancer diagnosis! You don’t have to give up your dreams of becoming a biological mother. The first, most important step is learning how fertile you are today to determine what fertility preservation option is right for you.
With a simple blood test at a Reproductive Endocrinologist’s office, fertility specialists can assess your level of fertility by measuring your hormones. If you are diagnosed with cancer, we have a fertility specialist in our network that will assess your fertility complimentary.
Data Provided by the Southern California Reproductive Center (www.scrcivf.com)