Not quite 40, but at the tail end of your 30s — many women who are considering starting a family or adding a baby at age 39 aren’t quite sure of their chances or pregnancy. Decade after decade, women have been told that becoming moms or having babies in their late 30s was difficult, or next to impossible.
But, many women in this third decade of life are still able to conceive either on their own or with a little help from fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). If you’ve been wondering if IVF can help you have a baby at age 39, and what the chances of conceiving a healthy baby are, keep reading to learn more about IVF success rates.
Why IVF is recommended for 39-year-old women
Research by the Centers for Disease Control shows that IVF is commonly used by women around age 39. In fact, women between the ages of 38 and 40 make up the third largest group of women who use assisted reproductive technologies, such as IVF. Many women of this age chose to utilize IVF because:
They have a diminished ovarian reserve. Unfortunately, as women age, so do their eggs. This means that the quantity of eggs is deeply lessened, and for many women, the quality of their eggs also decreases.
Having a diminished ovarian reserve (also known as having fewer eggs) means that getting pregnant can become more difficult. To make matters more complicated, many women see a shift in their fertility cycle as they approach menopause, making it difficult to time their fertile window and increasing the chances they’ll miss out on ovulation.
Their partner has fertility issues. Couples face infertility caused by low sperm motility can utilize IVF ensure they get pregnant faster. This can help women who are “running out of time” to conceive while allowing the baby to have DNA from both parents, instead of relying on donor sperm.
They are looking to prevent a genetic condition. Some women and couples identify that they have a family health history that includes a genetic condition. Some choose to use IVF to prevent a future child from having that condition. Because IVF allows eggs and sperm to be tested for a variety of potential health issues caused by certain chromosomal markers, couples can be assured that their children likely won’t have a hereditary disease.
How successful will IVF be for me?
IVF statistics can give you some insight into how successful this form of fertility treatment may be for you — but they’re not a definitive answer to whether or not you can get pregnant. Because 39-year-old women are closing in on 40 but not quite there, how quickly you can get pregnant is heavily based on your lifestyle and personal health; age is still a large factor, but at this point, it’s not the sole determinant of whether you can conceive.
According to the CDC, 16 percent of women between the ages of 38 and 40 who underwent fertility treatment like IVF became first-time moms. The success rate increased to 18 percent for women who had a prior successful pregnancy, and was 17 percent for women who had multiple children before the current IVF attempt. These figures are based on women who used fresh, non-donor eggs or embryos to achieve pregnancy.
In addition, women between the ages of 38 and 40 who had transferred embryos had them implant 21 percent of the time. For this age group, embryos that were transferred on cycle day 5 were much more successful at leading to pregnancy and a live birth — embryos transferred on cycle day 3 lead to a live birth 21.7 percent of the time, compared to 32.4 percent just two days later. Interestingly, 38 to 40-year-old women who chose to use frozen embryos saw an even higher success rate, with 38.3 of transferred embryos implanting.
Research from the CDC and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) is extensive, and sometimes confusing, but isn’t a guarantee for how well IVF will (or won’t) work for you. Variables such as your personal ovarian reserve, how many other children you have, previous miscarriages, and your current health (including hormone levels and existing health conditions) all play a major role in your body’s ability to conceive.
Should I expect IVF to work in the first round?
While a fertility specialist and research can give you an idea of your chances of conceiving with IVF, and specifically with one round, there’s really no way to know if you can get pregnant from one round of IVF. According to the CDC and SART, women between the ages of 38 and 40 have a 36 percent chance of becoming pregnant with the help of one IVF cycle.
Because there are so many variables when it comes to determining how likely you are to get pregnant, it’s good to speak with your healthcare provider for the best idea of how many IVF cycles you may need to conceive.