News / Vancouver

UBC study reveals most people don't know a woman's eggs are as old as she is

Like sands through the hourglass, these are the eggs of our lives — but chances are you didn't know that.

A recent UBC study reveals that more than half of women and 66 per cent of men don't realize a woman's eggs are as old as she is, and men's particular lack of knowledge about fertility may be contributing to the trend of delayed childbearing.

UBC counselling psychology professor Dr. Judith Daniluk said her findings are troubling considering the birth rate for women over 40 has more than tripled in the last 10 years, and the average age a Canadian woman has her first child is now 30.

"We're talking about more people having babies at that age, but also more people having to rely on third-party reproduction — donor egg or donor sperm — and in vitro fertilization," she said.

"Women and men look at these movie stars who are in their 40s and even their 50s and they say 'Look at them, they're in good health, and they're having kids,' but they don't realize that those movie stars are using donor eggs: The eggs of a young woman."

Fewer than half the people surveyed knew that a man's age is also an important factor in a couple's chances of becoming pregnant. Sperm count decreases with age along with motility, while the number of abnormal sperm increases.

So how old is too old?

It's not an exact science, but Daniluk said a women's fertility drops dramatically after age 37, to just over 10 per cent per month. There is also a growing body of evidence that rates of autism, learning disabilities and schizophrenia increase among babies fathered by men older than 45.

Daniluk has a website, myfertilitychoices.com, dedicated to helping people navigate the tricky questions surrounding fertility and conception, including what to do when a couple is at odds about when or if to have them.

Daniluk has a website, myfertilitychoices.com, dedicated to helping people navigate the tricky questions surrounding fertility and conception, including what to do when a couple is at odds about when or if to have them.

Her key message is that knowledge is power: Fertility tests for both women and men can help inform decisions around timing and avoid later costly procedures, complications, birth defects and heartache.

More on Metronews.ca