You exercise regularly, eat a nutritious diet, and have enviable cholesterol and blood pressure levels. That's great, but it doesn't mean you're fertile. One in 10 healthy couples of reproductive age will experience fertility problems. The causes are variable and equally attributed one-third of the time to the female, one-third of the time to the male, and one-third to unidentifiable reasons or to both partners. Unfortunately, the biggest factor that impacts fertility is something none of us can control: age, says Sam Thatcher, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist at the Center for Applied Reproductive Science in Johnson City, Tennessee, and author of Making a Baby: Everything You Need to Know to Get Pregnant (Ballantine, 2000).
For healthy women, fertility peaks in their mid 20s, begins declining at age 27, then nosedives around age 37. If you are in your mid 30s or older and trying to conceive, you need to be very pointed in your efforts, Dr. Thatcher advises. That means figuring out when you're ovulating and having sex at those optimal times. And if you're over 35 and concerned about your fertility, don't settle for a gynecologist saying "Just give it time," cautions Dr. Thatcher. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine advises women age 35 or older to consult a fertility specialist if they fail to get pregnant after six months of unprotected intercourse. Women ages 37 to 40 should wait no longer than three months.