Your reproductive system through the decades

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My body is changing, am I normal? The main function of the female reproductive system is to produce hormones and sex cells, but as we age a number of natural changes occur.

Even though you might be familiar with how your body looks and feels, many women are unaware of what actually happens to the reproductive system as they age.

Here’s a guide to what you can expect:

Teens

Puberty normally kicks in between the ages of 8 and 13. During the puberty cycle, your body releases hormones that stimulate the ovaries, enabling them to start producing oestrogen. The release of oestrogen results in a girl’s body changing into a woman’s body. Most women will have developed breasts and started having periods by 16.

Did you know? As your body produces more oestrogen, it begins the process of sexual maturity, meaning that your breasts start to grow, your periods will start and you’re also prone to spot outbreaks and mood swings.

Early 20s

Now that puberty has passed, things get a little easier for a while. Periods become more regulated, but of the 1-2 million eggs you were born with, you now have 100 -200 thousand eggs remaining. Don’t worry though, as when it comes to reproducing it’s about quality over quantity, and in your early 20s egg quality is still very high.

Did you know? You are at your most fertile in your early 20s, so it is imperative to be extra cautious when it comes to contraception.

Late 20s

As you get closer to the 30 mark, you will experience a slight dip in fertility. Egg quality is still high, but the chance of getting pregnant within a year is around 75%.

Did you know? Due to an increased level of the hormone prostaglandin in your body, period cramps can become more intense at this age.

 30s

Reproduction opportunities slow down when women head into their 30s, as we produce fewer eggs than in the 20s. As women move into their late 30s, the odds of conceiving within 12 months reduces and the odds of miscarriage can increase.

Did you know? While your fertility begins to decrease your libido will do the exact opposite. Studies* have shown that women reach their sexual prime in their 30s, while men reach theirs in their 20s.

Early 40s

A woman’s odds of conceiving a child with the chromosomal disorder Down Syndrome increases to one in 100 when in the 40s.

Did you know? Lower oestrogen levels in your early 40s mean that you’ll be prone to vaginal dryness and UTI’s. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as the lower levels of oestrogen also mean that your periods become less frequent.

After 45

Although not impossible, fewer women will have a successful full-term pregnancy and the odds of conceiving a child with Down Syndrome jump to 1 in 30.  This is also the age when menopausal changes can begin, which can carry on until 65. Oestrogen and progesterone levels drop which results in a thinning of the urethral and vaginal walls.

Did you know? The menopause is responsible for many changes happening to your body after 45.  These include hot flushes, mood swings and decreased libido.

 

*Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, Institute for Sex