Expert: Start your family soon after graduation
Women should consider starting a family not long after graduating from university as they risk a ticking fertility time bomb otherwise, according to an expert.
Focusing on a career, paying off student debts, finding a partner and getting on the housing ladder have all contributed to the age that women first conceive rising to almost 30.
Dr Gillian Lockwood, medical director of the Midland Fertility Clinic, said the optimum age for a woman to fall pregnant was 25 as fertility was at its peak and the risk of miscarriage and genetic conditions like Down's syndrome were at their lowest.
"It may not be true that women should be having babies at the time of the GCSEs but they shouldn't leave it much later than graduation," Dr Lockwood said.
Speaking at an event discussing fertility at the Cheltenham Science Festival, she said many women think IVF is the answer if they wish to have a child in later life, but that has a rapidly decreasing success rate once a woman hits 40.
Research has shown that by the age of 40 there is a 12.1% chance of IVF with a woman's own egg working and that decreases to 1.6% by the age of 45.
"But the bleak reality is that the chance of IVF working with your own eggs once you are 40 is absolutely abysmal and in what other branch of medicine would we let, let alone encourage, patients to pay for an elective operation with a less than 5% chance of working?
"The problem we have here is that women on the outside are shiny, young and youthful and on the inside their ovaries know exactly what it says on their birth certificate.
"As I always tell my patients - you cannot Botox your ovaries," Dr Lockwood added.