The Older a Woman Gets, the More Eggs She Loses
As a little girl, I was made to believe that once a woman reaches the age of 45 she immediately stops bearing children. She reaches the age of menopause, where she’s unable to conceive anymore. But Growing into an adult, I’ve realized that such is not the case. Menopause doesn’t apply to a specific age.
WHAT IS MENOPAUSE?
Menopause is a stage in a woman’s life when she stops having her monthly period. It’s a normal part of aging and marks the end of her fertile and reproductive years. She goes through a whole year without menstrual bleeding. As a woman ages, her reproductive cycle begins to slow down and her ovaries produce less of the hormones responsible for ovulation and mensuration.
Ovulation is the process in which a mature egg is released from the ovary In a woman’s body. After it’s released, the egg moves down the fallopian tube and stays there for 12 to 24 hours, where it can be fertilized.
During this period, a woman can conceive if she has unprotected sex with a man and sperm is released into her. Healthy sperm can live inside a woman’s reproductive tract for as long as 5days, under the right condition.
The ovaries are small, oval-shaped glands located on either side of your uterus. They produce and store your eggs (also called ovum/Oocyte) and make hormones (Estrogen and Progesterone) that control your menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Each month your ovaries release an egg for fertilization. In most cases, as we know, the ovaries release more than one egg, resulting in twins and multiples.
Estrogen is a hormone that helps to stimulate the growth of the egg follicle.
Progesterone is the hormone that helps in regulating your cycle. It helps in getting your uterus ready for pregnancy by thickening the lining of the uterus to prepare for a fertilized egg. If there is no fertilized egg, progesterone levels drop and menstruation begins.
Menstruation/period is vaginal bleeding from a woman’s body. Every month, her body prepares for pregnancy. If no pregnancy occurs, the uterus/womb sheds its lining. The menstrual blood is partly blood and partly tissue from inside the uterus. It passes out of the body through the vagina.
Having understood how all this work, brings us back to menopause.
Every woman is born with a “biological clock” that ticks. That is to say that every female has a limited number of eggs ranging from 5 million to 6 million eggs stored in her ovaries from the time they form as fetuses in the womb. Around birth, the eggs reduce to about 1 million to 2 million. These eggs present at birth are the only supply she has left in her lifetime.
The Older a Woman Gets, the More Eggs She Loses.
During the early stages of a girl’s life, there is a continuous decline in the number of her eggs each month. Before puberty, about 10,000 eggs die each month, and by the time she gets to the age of puberty, only about 30% of her eggs are left which is about 300,000 to 400,000 eggs. This continues over the course of her years, and as she advances, the number of her eggs keeps depleting each month(ovulation and mensuration).
It has been stated many times that a woman’s best reproductive years are in her 20s because her body releases a lot of healthy and mature eggs then. By age 30 fertility gradually begins to decline and by 40, pregnancy becomes a struggle. This is so because her eggs have declined in number. And by the late 40s/early 50s, menopause kicks in because she has run out of eggs or the remaining eggs are not healthy enough.
There is no definite number of how many eggs a woman is born with (only an estimate) as everyone differs from the other. This also applies when a woman would reach menopause. Some start at age 45, while others start at age 52. Each woman’s body varies from the other. Menopause doesn’t apply to a particular age. You only reach when you run out of eggs.
Some may ask, why doesn’t menstruation start at birth, since the eggs have been formed already?
It’s simple, menstruation is on hold until you reach puberty. Puberty begins when the hypothalamus in your brain starts to produce gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).
In turn, GnRH stimulates the pituitary gland to produce follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH begins the process of egg development and causes estrogen levels to rise.
Every month, the body selects one egg out of the group to become the dominant follicle. This follicle contains the one egg that is ovulated that month and represents your one chance to conceive.
All the others eggs present in that cycle that have not been selected undergo atresia, which means that they die. This happens every month: You ovulate one egg and the rest dies, and that cycle continues until menopause when there are no eggs left.
Technology has come up with a way for women who are not ready to give birth to store some of their eggs for later use. This process is known as egg freezing. Egg freezing can be performed to preserve a number of mature eggs. This involves a process of 10 to 12 days of hormone administration to stimulate the development of multiple follicles.
While some other women who are age advanced and can no longer produce eggs, have also sort other means such as egg donation (having a younger woman donate mature eggs to them) and IVF (In vitro fertilization), to help them bear children.
Fertility naturally declines as women get older. However, the time decline begins and the rate at which it progresses, vary widely in women, but always begin well before menopause. Generally, fertility begins to drop in your late 20s or early 30s and falls more rapidly after the age of 35.
Women who decide to delay pregnancy until after age 35 should obtain information on appropriate testing and treatment while remaining realistic about the chances for success with infertility therapy.
By learning about all of the options and being aware of their own needs and goals, a woman and her partner will be prepared to make the best decisions.
It is believed that knowledge is power. Every woman (both old and young) who dreams of starting her own family someday should form a habit of talking with their gynecologists/doctors early and often about fertility plans.
Written by Peace Oluchi Nwoke