Playing by Your Biological Clock’s Rules

By Evelyn Minaya, MD, OB/GYN Vice President of Women Caring for Women

Posted on | By Evelyn Minaya, MD, OB/GYN

As women, we face challenges every day, whether it is at work, home or in our personal relationships. It is especially difficult when we talk about the challenges women face when having a baby. Not only can a woman face difficulties in becoming pregnant, but complications can also arise in terms of keeping the pregnancy and giving birth. Presented here is some purely factual information about fertility and age.

Women are born with approximately 2,000,000 to 5,000,000 eggs in each ovary. By the time you get your first period, you have depleted your egg count by 250,000 in each ovary. That’s still a lot of eggs! The eggs are all “suspended” in time in meiosis (this is the a stage of cell division). An egg will remain this way until it is fertilized by sperm and then completes the division process.

The problem at the time of conception begins with division. The older the cell is, the greater chance it has of making mistakes at the time division is completed. For example, trisomy 21 (which is Down’s syndrome) happens most commonly because the genetic material does not divide properly and it gives you three copies of the number 21 chromosome when it should be only two.

The risk of Down’s syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities increases with age. For example, the risk of any genetic abnormality at the age of 25 is 1 in 1100. If the woman is 35, that chance increases to 1 in 250 and by the age of 40, it is 1 in 50. If at the time of conception the woman is 45, the chance of a genetic abnormality is 1 in 25. It is does not matter how healthy we are, age determines the increase in the chromosomal abnormalities, as well as the increase in miscarriages as a consequence of these abnormalities.

Article written by Evelyn Minaya, MD, OB/GYN
Vice President of Women Caring for Women