By James Tillman
Monday, February 1, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com)—A new study from the Universities of St. Andrews and of Edinburgh is offering a more accurate understanding of fertility and its decline with age, which researchers say is steeper than previously thought.
The study, which involved about 325 women of different ages from the United States and Europe, investigated the number of eggs that remain in the ovaries over time. This number, said the researchers, peaks at about 20 weeks after conception and subsequently drops until no eggs are left at menopause.
At the age of 30 years, only 12% of the maximum ovarian reserve - the number of eggs with which women are born - is typically present; by 40, only 3% remains.
The average egg quality also decreases with age, which increases the difficulty of conception and the chances of an unhealthy baby.
Nevertheless, the rate at which eggs are lost does not relate directly to the loss of fertility. Only about one third of couples in which the female is 40 years old are infertile.
"Women lose eggs a lot faster than we thought," said Good Morning America medical contributor Dr. Marie Savard.
She pointed out that women need to hear that the biological clock runs fairly quickly, and that the chances of having children are jeopardized the longer one waits.
Savard also pointed out other factors that can help fertility from decreasing, such as not smoking, keeping down body weight, and controlling stress.