Fertility and women aged over 35Jon
There has been a lot in the news today about fertility and questioning whether women are leaving having children too late. Research reported in the Daily Telegraph has found that “current levels of childlessness among British women in their 40s have reached levels not seen since the 1960s”.
And the Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Dame Sally Davies, has been quoted as saying she is concerned about the numbers of women choosing not to have children.
At FPA, we don’t want women to panic. Fertility is not something that disappears overnight. You don’t get to 34 years and 364 days able to have children and wake up the next morning infertile.
If you are planning children then it is important to be mindful of your own fertility, as it does of course decline with age, and it does not happen to all women at the same time. It’s also important to remember that there are many reasons why a woman might not be able to conceive – and it’s not always linked to age.
But many women become pregnant in their late 30s, 40s and a few even in their 50s. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show the number of women over 40 having a baby has risen fourfold in the past three decades.
With that in mind it is also important for women who are not planning to have children, or have completed their family, to continue to use contraception until menopause. When we see stories in the media about women struggling to conceive as they get older, it is easy to assume that as you get into your 40s you might not need to use contraception any more.
When is it safe to stop contraception?
The general rules are to continue contraception for:
- One more year following the last spontaneous menstrual period if aged 50 years or over.
- Two more years following the last spontaneous menstrual period if aged less than 50 years.
What methods of contraception can be considered for women over 35?
No method of contraception would be considered unsuitable due to age alone, but contraceptive suitability and choice may be influenced by many factors, including:
- Frequency of intercourse and sexual function
- General lifestyle issues such as smoking
- The wish for non-contraceptive benefits
- Menstrual dysfunction
- Concurrent medical conditions.