For many women, age is just a number, and that means our culture is now seeing more and more women enter the world of parenting closer to menopause. For generations, women heard that pregnancy in their 40s just wasn’t a possibility.
But, with further research and developments in assisted reproductive technology (ART), many women are able to become pregnant well into their 40s. While advancements in fertility sciences have helped many women of this age carry their own children, conceiving a baby in your 40s isn’t an easy task for many women.
For those between the ages of 40 and 45 looking to becoming pregnant, may reproductive doctors and fertility specialists recommend in vitro fertilization (IVF) to prospective mothers.
Why IVF is recommended for women between 40 and 45
IVF is most commonly recommended for women trying to conceive past the age of 40 simply because of age, though it isn’t unusual for fertility specialists to recommend IVF based on other factors. Known hereditary health issues can lead to the use of IVF to prevent passing on genetic conditions, and some women in heterosexual relationships discover that their partner’s sperm is the cause for infertility.
While these play into the decision to use IVF treatment to become pregnant, for women between the ages of 40 and 45, age is the largest reason to consider undergoing IVF treatment. If you’re thinking that age isn’t that important, here’s why it makes a large contribution.
As you age, so do your eggs. Unlike men, women are born with all the eggs they’ll ever have, meaning that you won’t produce any new eggs during your lifetime. While the average woman is born with what scientists estimate to be 7 million eggs, a large majority have been reabsorbed by the body by the time you’re born. The number of eggs continues to diminish through puberty — where only about 300,000 remain by a girl’s first period.
The number declines each year thanks to menstruation and changing hormones, and the rate at which those eggs are reabsorbed by the body and lost increases as women approach menopause. For women between the ages of 40 and 45 looking to get pregnant, being diagnosed with a low or diminished ovarian reserve — basically having a low number of eggs — is common.
Additionally, the quality of eggs decreases as you age. In fact, women over the age of 40 have more eggs with chromosomal abnormalities at a rate higher than women 10 to 20 years younger. This means that there are fewer high-quality eggs that provide the best outcomes for a healthy pregnancy and baby.
According to research on fertility as you age, by 40, your chance of becoming pregnant naturally (without any help from fertility drugs or treatments) drops to nearly 5 percent per month, as opposed to 20 percent for a woman under 30. For this reason, IVF is heavily recommended for women between the ages of 40 and 45, and often times, using donor eggs is suggested to help ramp up the chances of conception.
I’m over 40. Have I missed my chance?
If a fertility specialist recommends using IVF to become pregnant, you likely still have a shot at becoming pregnant between the ages of 40 and 45. Additionally, the success rate is impacted by the use of fresh or frozen embryos, along with age. Research compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) suggests that with fresh (non-frozen) embryos:
- For women age 40, 20 percent of IVF cycles lead to a pregnancy, and 14 percent result in a live birth
- At age 41, 15 percent of IVF cycles lead to pregnancy, while 10 percent result in a live birth
- For women age 42, 12 percent of IVF cycles result in a pregnancy, with 7 of those going full-term for a live delivery
- At age 43, the percentage of successful IVF cycles drops to 8 percent, and only 3 perfect of pregnancies end with a healthy delivery
- For women who undergo IVF at age 44, 6 percent of IVF cycles lead to pregnancy, with 3 percent resulting in a live birth
- And for women who are 45 or older who chose to use IVF, only 3 percent of cycles are successful, with 1 percent making it full-term
IVF is expensive. What are my chances of getting pregnant in one round?
Many people question the cost of IVF and if it’s worth multiple rounds. For women 40 and older, the chance of getting pregnant with just one round of IVF is 8 percent. While that means there is a chance you could become pregnant with one round of IVF, it also suggests that you should anticipate undergoing multiple IVF cycles to become pregnant, and may want to speak with your fertility specialist about your person odds and potential success.
Remember that just because statistics show that IVF is less successful for women over the age of 40, doesn’t mean that they’re hard and fast rules. For many women, their personal infertility case, lifestyle, and prior pregnancy history play into how successful IVF can be.