Evolution keeping pace…. NO!

I was having a conversation with my students this week as we discussed the fact that the maternal age of the first child has significantly increased in the last 30 years as social expectations change. Indeed the average age that women had their first child in the 1970s was 23 years old. In this decade the average age is 30 years old. Seven years may not seem a long time but in reproductive terms this is a huge difference. The fertility of a 30 year old women is significantly lower than that of a 23 year old. This is because a women is born with all of her eggs, so as she ages so do her eggs and the genetic material within them. This is why infertility and miscarriage rates increase as women age.

One of my students commented that perhaps we will/are evolving to take account of our changing requirements from our reproductively biology. It was my sad duty to inform her that we are certainly NOT. Evolution takes place over the course of hundreds of thousands of years and the last 100 years are a mere blink of an eye in evolutionary terms. We evolve so slowly due to our life span and the relatively low number of offspring we have. Indeed our bodies and biology have not evolved much past the era of cavemen. It may surprise you to know that if we were to go back in time and meet our cavemen ancestors they, would be indistinguishable from modern day man. Our biology is just not designed for pregnancy.

This is why it is important when you are trying to conceive in your 30’s not to leave it too long before you consider checking your fertility. Statistically 89% of couples with no underlying fertility problems will conceive in the first year of trying. Male fertility testing is a good place to start, as half of all fertility problems are due to low sperm counts and abnormal semen parameters.

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