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All About Pregnancy

How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby?

Fertility declines as women get older, making it harder to get pregnant

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When it comes to big decisions, one of the trickiest is figuring out the right time to have a baby (or another baby). While there are many factors you need to consider-from the state of your finances to the strength of your relationship-you can't ignore biology, either.

Still, you have more time than you think. Contrary to popular belief, women ages 30 to 34 are as fertile as those in their late 20s, according to a 2004 study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Fertility stars to taper off around age 35; a study done in 2013 found that 72 percent of women ages 35 to 40 got pregnant in the first year of trying, compared to 87 percent of women in their early 30s.

After 40, however, fertility really drops off; the chances of conceiving within any given month is less than 5 percent, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). To maximize the odds of getting pregnant, here's what you need to know:

Decide how many kids you want. There's a difference between a woman at 30 who wants one child and a woman at 30 who wants five, says Francisco Arredondo, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist in San Antonio, TX. The more kids you want, the younger you need to start.

Stay a healthy weight. Women who weigh too much or too little account for 12 percent of infertility cases, according to the ASRM. Body fat produces estrogen, and having too much or too little can play havoc with your cycle. To increase your odds of conceiving, eat right and stay fit.

Don't smoke. Men and women who smoke have twice the infertility rate as non-smokers. So ditch cigarettes-and tell your partner to stop puffing, too.

Practice safe sex. Another major cause of infertility is tubal damage from STDs, so be sure to take steps to protect yourself and get treatment if needed.

Don't ignore your partner's health. "It takes two to tango," says Dr. Arredondo, who points out that men's health issues play a role in 40 percent of all infertility cases. If you're having trouble getting pregnant, make sure you both get checked out.

Don't be afraid. "Reaching 30 can be scary for some who aren't on the path to starting a family and worry that it will be too late," says Jane Frederick, M.D., a board-certified gynecologist and fertility specialist in Orange County, CA. "Thankfully we have many options for women who want to preserve their fertility, such as egg freezing." For women who are having trouble conceiving, there are interventions such as IVF that can help.

Know the facts. Just because you have one child doesn't mean conception will be as easy the second time around, says Dr. Frederick. "More than one million couples are struggling with secondary infertility," she says. "It's important for both men and women to have a complete workup as soon as they feel they're having trouble getting pregnant."