How many eggs does a woman have? At birth, 30s, and menopause

Females are born with all the eggs they will ever have in their lifetime. The amount decreases until a person stops ovulating and reaches menopause.

A female’s egg quality and quantity determine their likelihood of becoming pregnant. Unlike other cells in the body, eggs cannot regenerate.

A person’s life stage and the presence of various health conditions also affect the number and quality of their eggs.

This article examines how many eggs a female has and their role at different stages of their lives. We also discuss tests to measure egg count, fertility options, conditions that can affect eggs, and more.

While females have millions of eggs in their ovaries, they do not mature until puberty. Puberty begins when the hypothalamus, an area of ​​the brain that plays a role in hormone production, produces the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).

Menstruation usually begins when a woman is 12-13 years old. However, some can start as early as 8 years old.

A female typically lays about 300,000–500,000 eggs when puberty begins and rapidly loses more eggs each month. Apart from their monthly cycles, many factors affect how many eggs a person loses each cycle.

The GnRH regulates the onset of puberty, sexual development, egg development and ovulation by indicating the release of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).

The FSH activates several immature eggs in fluid-filled sacs called follicles to mature during each menstrual cycle. Known as the follicular phase, this process begins on the first day of a person’s period.

The ovulation phase begins when the LH stimulates the ovaries to release an ovum. However, the ovaries are programmed to allow only one egg to fully mature and be released each cycle. The body reabsorbs the rest.

The chance of fertilization depends on the release of an adult egg from the ovary in a particular menstrual cycle.

Learn more about ovulation here.

A female is most fertile in their mid-20s, with a 25-30% chance of becoming pregnant each month.

ACOG says that a female’s fertility decreases gradually and significantly around age 32. They will have about 120,000 eggs, with a 20% chance of getting pregnant per cycle.

ACOG further says that a female will experience a rapid decline by age 37, when the egg count drops to about 25,000.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 out of 5 couples where the female partner is 30–39 years old have difficulty conceiving their first child. However, both men and women can experience infertility.

Learn more about fertility in a person’s 30’s here.

At 40, a woman’s chance of getting pregnant drops to 5%.

Older females generally have a lower success rate with fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).

However, more people are successfully getting pregnant in their 40s. The number of births in women between 40-44 years old rose almost continuously from 1985 to 2019. There was a slight decrease in birth rates in 2020 across all age groups.

The use of eggs donated by younger females increases the chances of success with IVF for older females.

Learn more here about how to have a baby at 40.

By the time a female reaches menopause, they may have less than 1,000 eggs.

As a person gets older, immature eggs become increasingly resistant to the FSH. As the number of viable eggs decreases, the ovaries also begin to produce significantly less estrogen and progesterone.

This leads to menopause, when a person’s menstrual cycle ends and they no longer ovulate.

The average age a person reaches menopause in the United States is 52 years. It varies depending on how many eggs a person has at birth and other factors, such as medical conditions and treatment.

Apart from the decrease in number, eggs also decrease in quality as a person gets older.

A few hours before ovulation, the oocyte divides, resulting in an egg containing 23 chromosomes. Older age is highly associated with oocyte disorders.

These older eggs are more likely to contain abnormal chromosomes. This is why the risk of having a child with Down Syndrome and other abnormalities is greater as a person gets older.

This tendency to have extra or missing chromosomes is also responsible for the increased miscarriage and low birth rates among older adult women.

There are tests that a person can take to estimate their egg count.

Antral follicle count

The antral follicle test involves a medical practitioner using ultrasound to count visible follicles. It gives them an idea of ​​a person’s total egg count and how many eggs a person could possibly freeze during one cycle.

Anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) test

The anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) is a protein hormone produced by special follicular cells. The AMH level in the blood can help health professionals estimate the number of follicles in a person’s ovaries, giving them an idea of ​​their total egg count.

Because AMH levels are stable during the menstrual cycle, a doctor may perform this test at any time.

There are several options that a person can consider to improve their chances of pregnancy.

Egg donation

Older people or those who have premature ovarian failure (RAF) that causes early menopause may consider egg donation. It involves the use of eggs donated by another woman, usually someone in their 20s or early 30s.

In an egg donation cycle, a donor takes medication to stimulate the production of multiple eggs. At the same time, the recipient undergoes hormone therapy to prepare the uterus for pregnancy.

After the donor’s eggs are fertilized in a laboratory, a doctor inserts one or more embryos into the recipient’s uterus.

Egg freezing or fertility preservation

Individuals who want to delay childbirth may consider preserving their healthy eggs in a process known as egg freezing. A doctor can extract the eggs while the person is younger and use them when they want to get pregnant.

The process involves taking medication to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. These eggs are retrieved and kept in a laboratory at temperatures below zero.

When a person is ready to conceive, a doctor thaws the eggs and injects surviving eggs with a partner or a donor’s sperm for fertilization.

Supported reproduction technologies

People with unexplained infertility, or when traditional options have failed, may try more advanced therapies. This may include IVF and superovulation with timely intrauterine insemination (IUI).

In superovulation and IUI, a female takes medication to stimulate the growth of multiple eggs in the ovaries. When the eggs are ready to ovulate, a donor or partner’s washed sperm is injected directly into the uterus. Sometimes an additional medication is given to stimulate ovulation so that timing is more secure.

In contrast, IVF involves the removal of a person’s egg that a doctor fertilizes with a donor’s or partner’s sperm in a laboratory. Once successful with fertilization, the doctor transfers the embryo to the uterus.

Most information on egg supply and fertility options is for cisgender and heterosexual women. However, fertility issues can affect anyone born with ovaries.

A person who transitions to male can freeze their eggs, embryos or ovarian tissue before hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery.

People who are assigned female at birth (AFAB) and take the male hormone testosterone may experience amenorrhea, the absence of menstruation due to the hormone that suppresses ovulation.

The effect of taking testosterone on egg supply is unclear. But a recent small study found that functional ovarian reserve was maintained in transgender men who received testosterone therapy over a long period of time.

A case study from 2020 documented a person taking testosterone who could fetch eggs to freeze. They discontinued testosterone treatment for only 24 days around the time of ovarian stimulation. This compares with cases where hormone treatment was discontinued for up to 6 months before egg recovery.

Another case study from 2019 reports a 20-year-old transgender man who becomes pregnant 2 months after stopping testosterone therapy.

More research is needed to provide accurate fertility guidance to transmense.

A person who wants to discuss their fertility options before or after menopause should talk to a medical professional.

Learn more about testosterone therapy and pregnancy here.

Age is the most important factor influencing a female’s egg quality. However, some conditions may also contribute, including:

A 2017 study found that oxidative stress damages oocytes and impairs their fertilization capacity. Smoking, drinking, drug use and inadequate diet can increase free radicals in the body and damage the egg.

According to the CDC, medical specialists recommend that women younger than 35 years with no health or fertility issues and regular periods try to conceive for at least 1 year before consulting a doctor. However, women 35 years or older should contact a doctor after 6 months and even earlier for those older than 40 years.

People who have other health issues or conditions, such as irregular periods or receiving chemotherapy, should also consider discussing their fertility options earlier.

A person’s biological clock affects their fertility. Age not only reduces the amount of eggs, but can also affect their quality.

People who are worried about their egg supply due to factors such as aging, different priorities, sex reassignment surgery or hormone therapy, or preparation for cancer treatment, have several fertility options to consider.

A person should discuss these options with a healthcare professional to determine which options are most appropriate.

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