Irish Journal of Medical Science (1971 -)

, Volume 188, Issue 1, pp 161–167 | Cite as

Reproductive ageing—turning back the clock?

  • Yvonne O’BrienEmail author
  • Mary B. Wingfield
Review Article



Unintended childlessness is a distressing, and often unintended, consequence of delayed childbearing and reproductive ageing. The average maternal age at first birth has risen steadily in many industrialised countries since the 1980s. There are many societal factors involved in the decision to postpone motherhood. As a result, many women are postponing having children until it is too late. In this review, we aim to summarise the reasons behind delayed childbearing, the impact of delayed childbearing and the scientific advances that seek to reverse reproductive ageing and ensure reproductive autonomy for women.


An extensive literature search of PubMed was conducted to include all published articles on delayed childbearing and the consequences of reproductive ageing. Secondary articles were identified from key paper reference listings.


If the current reproductive trends continue, many women will find themselves in the harrowing position of being unintentionally childless. In addition, many will inevitably turn to assisted reproductive technologies in an effort to protect and preserve their reproductive autonomy. However, it is not always possible to reverse the effects of reproductive ageing.


Assisted reproductive technology Fertility Oocyte vitrification Ovarian reserve Reproduction 


Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Merrion Fertility ClinicNational Maternity HospitalDublin 2Ireland
  2. 2.National Maternity HospitalDublin 2Ireland
  3. 3.School of MedicineUniversity College DublinDublin 4Ireland

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