New Research Tells Couples When to Start TTC

Wondering how age affects your fertility? A study out of the Netherlands calculates when exactly couples should be trying to conceive if they want to avoid IVF.

New Research Tells Couples When to Start TTC

You know you want to have children some day, but then things like work get in the way and it can be tricky to settle on that exact moment to start trying. Good news: Much like asking Google whether you actually need to bring a gift to a gender reveal party, you can now leave it to an algorithm to figure out your life. Yes—a new Dutch study crunched the numbers to help couples decide when they should start a family, based on the woman's age, how many children they want, and whether they're willing to consider in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Why your age matters

Although fertility partly depends on the father's age and health, the mother's age matters more, so researchers looked primarily at how a woman's increasing age and declining fertility would affect her chances of successfully conceiving and carrying a baby to term. The scientists used a sophisticated computer model that simulated the potential outcomes of 10,000 couples without any known fertility problems who are trying to become pregnant.

They found that a woman should start trying at age 32 if she wants a 90% chance of having at least one kid without resorting to IVF and at 27 if she really wants two children without assistance.

Being open to using IVF, however, buys you time: up to a decade or more, in fact. What's more, if you're willing to accept a 75% chance of success, the woman can be 37 years old to begin trying for one kid, 34 for two, and 31 for three.

The best laid plans...

While the simulation considered chances of conception in a given month, miscarriage, and also infertility, every person is different and individual health needs to be taken into consideration. So consult with your physician before making any calendar-driven plans and certainly educate yourself regarding the benefits and risks of IVF, including a recent study, which found that women who had IVF were three times more likely to be diagnosed with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease than those who conceived without assistance. (Researchers speculate it may have to do with certain medications taken during treatment, stress and depression associated with infertility, or spending a greater amount of time lying down in an effort to avoid miscarriage.)

What's more, some specialists believe that the difference in IVF success rates between the Netherlands and the U.S. (with Americans having more success) is one reason to take the age guidelines with a grain of salt. Still, some women may be overconfident in their chances of conceiving—with or without IVF—so the research is a good reality check regarding human reproduction. Either way, this related infographic is plenty food for thought when it comes to fertility.