In an ideal world, a woman would wait until she’s at the “right” stage for her to have a baby, taking into account factors such as financial, emotional and mental readiness. However, the reality for women is that fertility starts to decline the older she gets, which means she might not be at the best possible fertility stage when she is ready in all the other ways.

The relationship between age and female fertility is popularly referred to as a woman’s “biological clock”, and when she reaches the age where her fertility drops, it is often the “biological clock is ticking”.

The fertility clinic Medfem explains that all women are born with a finite number of eggs, around one million. At puberty, this number is reduced to around 500 000, and from puberty (around 12) to menopause (around 51), eggs get depleted, and lose their quality. Some women will experience a significant decline in the quantity of their eggs in their forties, while others may experience this much earlier.

Fertility peaks in most women in their 20s, and gradually begins to decline in the late 20s. At around age 35, fertility starts to decline more rapidly. As you age and come closer to menopause, your ovaries respond less well to the hormones that are responsible for helping the eggs ovulate.

Research has found that in any given month your chances of getting pregnant at:

  • Age 20 to 35 is about 25%
  • Age 35 to 39 is about 18%
  • Age 40 is about 5%

However, before you consider your fertility, it’s important to consider when you’re ready to have a baby.

Tiny baby feet crossed over in pose

How do you know when you’re ready to have a baby?

It’s normal to feel ready to have a baby but still feel nervous to take that step.

Here are signs though that you’re more ready than not:

  • You and your partner are both on the same page, and want a baby
  • You’re able to financially support a baby
  • You have a support system in place (family or helpers)
  • You’re prepared to make some serious life changes by putting someone else’s needs before your own
  • You’re ready to lose some sleep, and you’re prepared for the unexpected.

Once you know you’re ready, you can stop taking your contraceptives, and enjoy the process!

“Fertility peaks in most women in their 20s, and gradually begins to decline in the late 20s. At around age 35, fertility starts to decline at a much more rapid pace.”

When planning a family, what changes to your lifestyle should you prepare for? 

Fertility requires healthy sperm and healthy eggs to increase chances of conception. Medfem recommends a few simple lifestyle changes which you can start making immediately to boost fertility and your chances of getting pregnant.

Eliminate smoking and alcohol

Smoking has major adverse effects on sperm and egg quality, while alcohol also reduces fertility in both partners.

Manage stress

Research has shown that there’s a link between a day-to-day stress and lowered chances of pregnancy. It’s easier said than done, but try your best to manage your stress levels, whether it’s through exercise or finding things to do that make you happy. Chat to a professional if you’re unable to manage your stress alone.

Improve nutrition

A balanced diet can help to boost the chances of falling pregnant and having a healthy baby. Your diet should provide all the vitamins, minerals and amino acids your body needs for optimum health – opt for a mix of fruit, vegetables, grains, lean protein and healthy fats. If you want some guidance, chat to a dietitian who can help.

Fortunately, there are also over-the-counter supplements that can help boost fertility, as they contain certain vitamins, minerals, herbs or other amino acids. Chat to your chemist or doctor for advice on what to take.

View our articles, competitions and promotions on BabyYumYum for all things parenting. SA's #1 Parenting Portal.