Our eggs age as we age: What women should know about fertility


It’s not uncommon for women, whether they are single or with a partner, to worry about having children at the “right” time.

Women, in general, are delaying childbirth, but some still fear they won’t be able to have kids after a certain age.

Dr. Delani Kotarba, chief of division reproductive medicine at The Ottawa Hospital and consultant and founding partner at the Ottawa Fertility Centre, tells Global News there’s no way to find out the health or quality of your eggs.

“You can look at your ovarian reserve,” she said. “What that means is you’re looking at how many eggs follicles you have … but you do not know what kind of quality they are.”

READ MORE: Social egg freezing on the rise as more women embrace single parenthood

She says there isn’t a basic test to look at egg quality and, in general, the quality of someone’s eggs comes down to age. As we age, so do our eggs.

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“Women are born with all of their eggs … unlike men who are producing sperm all the time,” she continued.

If you are going through in vitro fertilization and eggs are taken out of the body, doctors are able to see the actual egg, she said.

A shift in when women have children

Dr. Yolanda Kirkham, an OBGYN at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, tells Global News more women may be having conversations around fertility and the quality of their eggs because of societal shifts in delaying childbirth.

More women are putting more years into their professional careers, others may spend more time in post-secondary education, and for some, finding a partner to have children with is out of reach. In any case, in Canada, there are fewer children and older mothers.

People want to make sure their finances are in order and mental health is on order and all those other factors.”

READ MORE: Single women aren’t freezing their eggs for health reasons. Some can’t find partners

Kotarba says for some women, it just may not be the right time in their life to have children.

But both experts agree there is fear and often confusion around timelines of the “best” time to have kids.

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Kirkham says it is important to speak with your doctor about your own fertility, rather than listening to others’ stories. “Eighty-five per cent of women will get pregnant in that first year.”

Single and unsure when you want kids? Know your options

Egg freezing is becoming more popular among young Canadians

Kotarba says egg freezing is the only way to slow down time.

“If you’re 28 when you freeze your eggs but you don’t use them until you’re 40, they stay ‘frozen in time’ and maintain the ‘healthiness’ of the woman who was 28 when she froze them.”

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Egg freezing can be done at any age, but Kotarba says it is better 35 and under (this is not to imply women over the age of 35 can’t freeze their egg).

But the stress often tied to freezing eggs is costly. The average cost of the procedure can range from $9,000 to $10,000, she said, which is why some women may not consider it an option. This doesn’t include the cost of additional drugs.

Why more women are freezing their eggs

Why more women are freezing their eggs

“The majority of consults are coming from family doctors and it is being instigated by the patient,” she explained.

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“I highly encourage it. It is very educational and we can tell people if they are a good candidate for (egg freezing).”

Kirkham adds there are other ways to track fertility in general.

Your period is often a good indicator. If you are tracking your cycle and having regular periods, you are releasing an egg every month, she says.

She says when she thinks about fertility, she thinks about a few factors. The first one is ovulation, the second one is the health of your cervix (you can determine this when you get a pap test) and the pelvic factors.

READ MORE: Canadian fertility clinic reports 180% increase in elective egg freezing

This can include a history of painful periods or endometriosis, it may be good to talk to your doctor about fertility. And with health matters, get your information from trusted medical sources.

“Even just having this discussion in person may help because it gives you an individual picture of your individual risks.”


© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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