Researchers are trying to develop a pill that would allow women to put off having children until their 40s by preserving their eggs, according to WA in-vitro fertilisation pioneer John Yovich.
Dr Yovich, medical director of the PIVET fertility clinic and a former president of the Fertility Society of Australia, said infertility now affected one in five couples and would continue to increase as more older women and men tried to have children.
Infertility was the end point of modern life and it was simplistic to tell women to have their children in their 20s when they were most fertile.
Dr Yovich said he was working with researchers at Curtin University to find a medicine that could delay a woman losing her "ovarian reserve", by targeting the receptors which release the hormones that trigger the release of eggs.
Unlike men who continue to produce sperm throughout their lives, a woman is born with all the egg-containing follicles in her ovaries that she will ever have.
At birth there are about one million follicles and by a female's mid-30s the number falls to 30,000. By menopause, the number is down to fewer than 1000.
Ovarian suppression - using a medicine to stop the ovaries functioning to protect a woman's store of eggs - would act in the opposite way to fertility treatments that stimulate the release of eggs.
Dr Yovich said a drug could be given by injection but a pill would be more convenient, particularly for women accustomed to taking the contraceptive pill each day.
"Age is now a big factor in IVF and we are faced increasingly with the dilemma of what we can do for women aged over 40 who want to use their eggs to have a baby," he said.
"We know that by then women have lost most of their eggs but we may be able to find an antidote to stop the loss. For a lot of women today having babies in their 20s is not feasible and we have to find some answers for them."
But Dr Yovich said the role of male infertility had also been greatly underestimated, and older men were increasingly having trouble having children.
"When men are younger they are having sex a lot and that keeps them functioning well but older men lose their libido and have less sex, and . . . the chances of a pregnancy are obviously reduced," he said.