Fertility declines with age until you reach menopause, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get pregnant as you get older. Here’s a peek at your fertility at every age, and some ways to boost your chances of conceiving no matter how old you are.
“Women are born with all the eggs they’ll ever have.” This is what we always hear. It feels a little weird to focus on the reproductive potential of a newborn baby—but okay, point taken.
Unlike men, who can produce seemingly unlimited amounts of sperm year after year, women don’t continue making eggs throughout their lifetimes. Also unlike men, who can theoretically have a child at any age, women’s bodies can’t support a safe and healthy pregnancy forever.
Still, there’s some nuance to the conversation about fertility at different ages. Things aren’t quite as black and white as “old = infertile.”
So, how many eggs does a woman have, and what really happens to your eggs and reproductive capacities as you get older? Here’s a rundown of what your fertility tends to look like at every age, plus some strategies to boost your chances of conceiving.
How many eggs does a woman have at birth?
Before we can discuss how many eggs a woman has at each stage of her lifetime, let’s start at the beginning. Again, a little weird to discuss the reproductive potential of a baby, but it’s a helpful starting point for us to understand how the number changes as we age.
According to the
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a fetus has, at maximum, 6 to 7 million oocytes at 20 weeks of gestation. By the time the fetus is born, the baby has 1 to 2 million eggs. How many eggs does a woman have as she ages?
As she gets older, a woman has fewer eggs; your body ages,and so do your ovaries and your eggs. This translates to:
Fewer total eggs A greater percentage of lower quality eggs Higher chances of fertility issues
Each month, you release a mature egg during
ovulation. Outside of ovulation, you also lose oocytes (or immature egg cells) throughout the month. Since your body doesn’t make more eggs or oocytes (developing eggs), the ones you release and lose aren’t replaced—meaning as you age, the total number of available eggs decreases.
Considering that you’re born with somewhere between 1 and 2 million oocytes, you have some wiggle room. However, by the time you hit puberty, this number is down to around 300,000 to 500,000 and you start losing
around 1,000 oocytes each month, so you don’t have wiggle room forever, either.
Of your total eggs, the ones that remain over the years are more
likely to have chromosomal abnormalities. If fertilized, eggs like these can lead to an increased risk of miscarriage, complications during pregnancy, and genetic disorders.
Finally, aging increases the chances of developing conditions that can lead to fertility issues. Uterine polyps, uterine fibroids, or endometriosis, for example—all conditions that can develop later in life—may make it difficult to get pregnant without medical intervention.
How many eggs does a woman have in her 20s?
Your 20s are your peak reproductive years. In her 20s, a woman likely has 150,000 to 300,000 eggs.
In your 20s (and into your early 30s as well),
fertility and reproduction rates show that around one in four women will get pregnant in any given menstrual cycle.
Many people will have no issues with getting pregnant in their 20s. Some may get pregnant within a couple months of trying. For others it can take longer, even at this age. Trying to conceive can take up to a year and still be considered within the typical time to pregnancy range.
>>MORE: How Long Does It Take To Get Pregnant?
If you’re still not pregnant a year into things, consider consulting a
reproductive endocrinologist who can help you figure out what may be going on.
Remember that it takes two elements to make a baby: an egg and a sperm. If you and your male partner are having trouble conceiving, you should both get tested for infertility (yes,
male factor infertility exists!). Either (or both) of you could have something to do with the issues you’re experiencing. How many eggs does a woman have in her early 30s?
Your fertility continues to thrive in your early 30s. In her early 30s, a woman likely has 100,000 to 150,000 eggs.
Research has shown that
female infertility rates range from 7.3% to 9.1% up to age 34. Essentially, a vast majority of people 34 years old and younger tend to get pregnant without too much trouble.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that pregnancy will necessarily happen on the first try, but the majority of couples or individuals trying to conceive at this age likely won’t find themselves dealing with infertility.
However, infertility does happen, and it can happen at any age. If you’re under 35, experts recommend that you see a fertility specialist after one year of trying to conceive.
How many eggs does a woman have in her mid to late 30s?
In your mid to late 30s, it may take a little longer or require a bit more effort to conceive than when you’re younger. By your later 30s, you likely have around 25,000 eggs left. At this time, the rate at which you lose oocytes
increases beyond 1,000 per month.
There’s nothing magical or final about age 35. However, it does tend to be the age people point to as the moment where your fertility may experience a more pronounced decline.
This definitely doesn’t mean that
getting pregnant after 35 is impossible – pregnancy in your late 30s is absolutely possible! It just means that certain discussions related to risks and fertility-boosting options may become more relevant to you.
Here are some things that can be different about fertility and pregnancy in your late 30s and early 40s:
Longer time to pregnancy Increased risk of miscarriage or stillbirth Increased risk of developing medical conditions during pregnancy, like gestational diabetes or high blood pressure Increased risk of genetic disorders or birth defects Increased risk of pregnancy complications, like ectopic pregnancies or preeclampsia Higher chances of premature birth Higher chances of delivering by C-section
Remember that it’s not as if all of this happens automatically as soon as you turn 35. Rather, the possibility of certain complications increases as you age into your late 30s and early 40s. Some people may not experience anything on the above list.
You can help proactively prepare for pregnancy if and when you’re ready by discussing your overall health and different lifestyle and fertility strategies with your doctor or an OB/GYN. No need to make a specific appointment if you don’t want to: these are conversations that you can have at your yearly check-ups. If you prefer, you can also schedule pre-pregnancy healthcare visits.
Surprise pregnancies are certainly still possible in your 30s. That being said, infertility affects 25% of women aged 35 to 39. If you’re 35 and older, experts recommend that you see a fertility specialist after six months of trying to conceive (versus a year if you’re younger than 35).
How many eggs does a woman have in her 40s?
In your 40s, you’re nearing the end of your reproductive years and conceiving without medical help gets more complicated. A woman in her 40s likely has 5,000 to 10,000 eggs.
By age 40, around one in ten women will get pregnant in any given menstrual cycle (down from one in four women in their 20s and early 30s). Infertility is at an all-time high: from 40 to 44 years of age, infertility rates are
By this time, you don’t have a lot of eggs left and those that remain may be of lower quality. Additionally, you may not ovulate consistently every cycle, lowering the chances of getting pregnant in a given month. If you do get pregnant, your body may have a harder time with pregnancy than when you were younger.
The possible risks and complications with pregnancy that start popping up in your mid to late 30s now become likelier.
If you’re over 40, experts
recommend that you see a fertility specialist before you start trying to conceive.
By age 45, your fertility has declined to the point where it’s
unlikely that you’ll get pregnant without medical assistance. In this case, a healthcare provider may be able to help you conceive using assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as in vitro fertilization, or IVF. How many eggs does a woman have during perimenopause and menopause?
Sometime in your early to late 40s (or even your late 30s, for some people),
perimenopause begins. Perimenopause is the transitional period leading up to menopause. It can last anywhere from a couple of years to a decade.
Even though it’s not as likely as getting pregnant at younger ages, you can still
get pregnant during perimenopause. This is because you still ovulate during perimenopause, albeit irregularly. If you’re ovulating, it means you’re releasing eggs that can be fertilized—in other words, you can get pregnant.
After perimenopause comes menopause. Menopause is the end of your menstrual cycles. By menopause, you have around 1,000 oocytes left – down from the 1 or 2 million that you’re born with.
Menopause is diagnosed once you’ve gone 12 months without a period. While the timeline varies from person to person, the
average age of menopause in the US is 51. Once you’ve reached menopause, you no longer ovulate and you can no longer get pregnant. Understanding your egg count: How to get pregnant at different ages
Being aware of just how many eggs you have may make you worried about your future fertility. As women, should we be counting down the days before it’s “too late” to get pregnant? Should we rush to have a baby before we’re ready just to make sure it can happen?
The answer should be a resounding no! (Unless you want to, and that’s great too—if you want to get pregnant ASAP, more power to you!)
However, for those who don’t want a baby right this minute but might want one later, getting older doesn’t have to be terrifying. If and when the time comes, there are ways to optimize your fertility, and, if you need an extra boost, there are different medical technologies that can help you.
Maximizing your chances of conceiving
Here are some strategies you can try at any age to
optimize your fertility and increase your chances of conceiving: Maintain a healthy, balanced diet Take fertility vitamins Get regular exercise (but don’t overexercise, which can negatively impact ovulation) Have sex when you’re ovulating, during your fertile window Take doctor-prescribed medication to help treat any underlying conditions (like PCOS, endometriosis, or luteal phase defect) that may be affecting your fertility
Consider talking with your doctor or an OB/GYN as you start trying for a baby to get more personalized advice and strategies.
Using assisted reproductive technology
ART can be both an
infertility treatment option and a way to conceive at an older age. And every year, ART methods become more effective.
From 2011 to 2020, data from the CDC
shows that birth rates increased for pregnancies resulting from ART cycles. In fact, across all age groups, ART birth rates rose from 31.5% in 2011 to 36.9% in 2020.
The caveat is, of course, that those numbers depend on the age of the pregnant person:
Under 35: 41.9% birth rate in 2020 Over 40: 27.9% birth rate in 2020
Still, other data from 2020 show more similar birth rates across ages when the pregnant person used a donor egg or embryo (likely because egg donors are typically in their 20s or early 30s):
Under 30: 44.8% birth rate Over 45: 37.6% birth rate
In other words, ART methods using donor eggs and embryos can increase your chances of pregnancy, even into and beyond your early 40s.
ART methods include:
In vitro fertilization (IVF) Intrauterine insemination (IUI) Egg or embryo freezing Intracytoplasmic sperm injection Gestational carriers or surrogates How many eggs does a woman have? The bottom line
A female fetus starts with 6 to 7 million eggs, but by the time a woman is in her last years of fertility, this number is closer to 1,000. So, yes, as a woman, you have a finite number of eggs. And as a woman, you can’t get pregnant forever: at a certain point, your body is no longer capable of conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term safely.
But then again, there’s no guarantee of pregnancy at any age—younger or older.
There are, however, ways to optimize your fertility. Plus, there are doctors who can evaluate your fertility and help determine the best way forward if you’re set on conceiving to have a baby. And in our day and age, there’s also sophisticated technology that can help you across the finish line if you need it.
There’s no denying that knowledge about your fertility at every age is a great way to take control of your reproductive health. However, while it’s useful to keep the realities of your fertility in mind, this knowledge doesn’t need to be all-consuming. Maybe instead, you can store it in the back of your mind, for if and when it comes in handy.