A commonly held view is that age-related infertility can be resolved by IVF. Some women may consider freezing some of their eggs in anticipation of them providing a healthy baby years later. However, results from frozen eggs are still very poor, with only a 10% success rate for live births per embryo transfer (the point at which a fertilised embryo is put back inside the womb), casting a shadow over the great deal of positive media attention that egg freezing has received. Other women will trust to luck or, more likely, to donor eggs. These ideas are fuelled to an extent by the almost daily news of celebrities giving birth in their forties or fifties, many of whom will keep to themselves the fact that they have used donated eggs or sperm or a enlisted the help of a surrogate.
Age is undoubtedly the single most important factor affecting your fertility and frozen or donated eggs should not be considered a guarantee against childlessness. The sooner you can start the baby conversation the more likely you are to have a successful outcome.
A woman’s fertility begins its decline as early as 30 years of age with a marked yearly deterioration from the age of 35. By the age of 40 she has a 5% chance of becoming pregnant (with miscarriage being more likely than a live birth). This is simply because a woman is born with all her supply of eggs, that then diminish in quantity and quality as each year goes by. Age also brings with it a greater risk of complications during pregnancy such as miscarriage and ectopic pregnancies, high blood pressure, diabetes and problems with the placenta.
For men, sperm quality also declines with age. It is considered that this happens most markedly from the age of 40 after which a similar drop in quantity and quality is observed. This decreases the chances of conception and can impact the chances of a successful outcome from IVF treatment. A man becoming a father over the age of 40 also has an increased risk of his child having health problems.
Lifestyle factors that influence fertility at any age such as smoking or weight issues take on greater significance as age increases. For example, it may only take one year for the effects of smoking to be reversed after quitting or to reach an ideal weight, but during that year egg and sperm quality will have decreased due to natural ageing.
When to call us
Our standard recommendation is for couples to seek professional help after a year of trying to conceive. However, for women over 35 years old, investigations should ideally start after six months. The decline in fertility from this age means that each year of delay has a greater impact so the earlier a diagnosis is made and treatment commenced, the better the chances of success. For the best chance of having the family you dream of don’t even wait until you are 35. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and doctors agree that the optimum biological period for child bearing is between 20 and 35 years of age.
For more information about our fertility assessment tests please call us on 01992 78 50 60 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also read about our One-Stop Fertility Assessment here.