Trends in birth rates are showing that women are starting families later in life, with official figures showing an increasing average age of mothers, currently at 30.4 years in the UK. Over the last few years the birth rates for women in their 30s has surpassed that of women in their 20s, a trend that appears set to continue.
According to The Office of National Statistics, “since 2004 women aged 30 to 34 have had the highest fertility of any age group; prior to this, women aged 25 to 29 had the highest fertility.” Fertility is defined here, as birth rate.
The fertility rate for women aged 35 to 39 has trebled since 1980 and is now at it’s highest ever level since the beginning of the time series in 1938.
Not only this, but the fertility rate for women aged 40 and over has trebled since 1990 and is at its highest level since 1949 and in the last few years has exceeded the rate for women aged under 20; this pattern was last recorded in 1947.
Fertility rates in both the under 20 and 20 to 24 age groups are now at their lowest ever level since the beginning of the time series in 1938 (see figure). The largest percentage decrease in fertility rates in 2016 was for women aged under 20 (5.5%); the largest percentage increase was for women aged 40 and over (4.6%).
- Based on live births in each calendar year.
- The rates for women under 20 and 40 and over are based on the female population aged 15 to 19 and 40 to 44 respectively.
No doubt modern lifestyles are causing women to give birth later. With 1 in 6 couples reported as having difficulty conceiving, more and more couples are turning to Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART).
July this year marks 40 years since the very first IVF baby was born. Since then between 1991 and 2016 there have been 1.1 million IVF treatment cycles in the UK, with over 68,000 IVF treatment cycles in 2016, resulting in over 20,000 births (approximately 30% success rate overall for women under 40).
42% of IVF patients were under the age of 35 in 2016. As egg quality declines rapidly from the age of 35, some women choose to have their eggs frozen before this age, for IVF treatment later. Alternatively women over this age may choose to use an egg from a younger donor, for which the upper age limit is 35.
Whilst fertility problems are thought to be due to female issues, HFEA figures show that 37 percent of cases are due to male fertility problems, 31 percent due to female problems and in 32 percent of cases the cause is unknown.
It is well understood that anxiety and stress adversely affects fertility in both men and women. For women, we know for example that ovulation is suppressed when the stress hormone cortisol is high. A recent study of 23,000 Swedish women, links Anxiety & Depression with reduced IVF Success. Reflexology is proven to reduce stress and anxiety and it is believed that this is one way in which Reflexology can help to improve fertility and is thought to help balance the hormones to work optimally. Above all it is an extremely relaxing and nurturing treatment.
Very specific reproductive reflexology – Reproflexology techniques have been developed to support couples with a range of conditions to achieve successful pregnancies and is reported to have a success rate of 68% for natural and assisted fertility combined. Practitioners trained in this technique will ideally treat both partners weekly to optimise success. The treatment is tailored to the individual and for the female, includes charting their cycle to fully understand their body and when they are fertile. Dietary and lifestyle advice is also provided. Ideally a Reproflexology programme runs for 12 weeks, to optimise reproductive health and can subsequently support IVF protocols and pregnancy.
With growing use of technology women are turning to apps to chart their cycles to understand when they are fertile, to plan or limit pregnancy. Naturalcyles.com is the only app to be certified for use as a contraceptive in Europe and now has more than 700,000 users worldwide. For those who are not so tech savvy, the Natural Family Planning Teachers Association (NFPTA) is a charity that provides support to women wishing to chart their cycles manually. Charting enables women to tune into their bodies and not rely on the contraceptive pill, which can carry health risks.
- Stress reduces conception probabilities across the fertile window: Evidence in support of relaxation. Buck Louts GM, et al Fertil Steril July 2010
- Evaluation of anxiety, salivary cortisol and melatonin secretion following reflexology. McVicar AJ,. Complementary Therapy Clinical Practice Aug 2007
- Anxiety, Depression May Reduce Women’s IVF Success J. Fertil Steril Mar 2016.