There are many reasons why people wait until they are older to have kids. It could be they want to be more financially secure, find that desired partner, or even just travel the world and now want to settle down. Whatever the reason, it is no longer as unusual as it used to be to see couples and singles having their first child well into their thirties.
Many however feel uncertain about proceeding to try for a baby when they have already reached the age of 40 years. So, is 40 years old too late for IVF treatment?
What Is IVF Treatment
IVF stands for in vitro fertilisation. This is a form of assisted reproductive technology (ART) that takes a couple through a series of medical procedures designed to boost fertility and aid in the conception of a baby. It is mainly used where one or both partners have fertility problems that hinder normal conception.
The treatment involves procedures to retrieve sperm and eggs, mix the two for fertilisation to occur, screen the embryos for genetic conditions, select the best quality embryos, and transfer them into the woman’s uterus for implantation to hopefully occur. Successful IVF treatments result when the woman is confirmed to be pregnant.
IVF Outcomes in Your 40s
Multiple factors can impact the chances of successful conception through IVF. One of the most important is that of maternal age. The younger a woman is, the better chances she has of conceiving quickly and having a healthy pregnancy and baby. Women that reach the age of 40 years face a decline in their fertility that reduces their chances of successful conception.
Statistically, women over the age of 40 have about a 5% chance of becoming pregnant during a menstrual cycle versus a 20% chance while under the age of 30. While fertility in women does decline with age, the steepest decline tends to happen after a woman reaches 40 years of age.
Women are born with a finite supply of eggs or ovarian reserve. As they get older, this egg supply steadily declines. By the time a woman is 40 years old, she will have an ovarian reserve of about 5,000 eggs. Those that suffer certain conditions like endometriosis, autoimmune diseases, undergo chemotherapy, and smoke may have even less of a reserve to work with. By the time most reach their early fifties, they will enter into menopause which marks the end of their reproductive life.
Besides the issue of egg supply, there is also the concern of quality. Women in their 40s are at an increased risk of having children with genetic abnormalities like Downs Syndrome. About 60% of eggs at the age of 40 years are likely to have genetic abnormalities, with the rate increasing to as much as 80-90% for women that reach 44 years of age.
Women over the age of 40 years are also at increased risk of suffering pregnancy-related conditions like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and premature births. They are also unfortunately at greater risk of suffering a miscarriage. This may however be partially attributed to conceiving a foetus with abnormal chromosomal conditions.
IVF can however help improve chances of successfully conceiving a healthy baby, even after 40 years. the procedures of egg retrieval and screening of embryos can help improve pregnancy outcomes. Since fertility drugs are used to stimulate the production and maturity of eggs during retrieval, many can be extracted and cryogenically stored. This means you can try more than once to have a baby, increasing the likelihood that you will conceive a baby.
Note that even advanced paternal age can affect pregnancy outcomes. Male fertility and quality of sperm also decline from the age of 40 years. There is also an increased risk of genetic abnormalities in the foetuses conceived from men over this age
So, time is of the essence, for both men and women. It is advisable to consult with a fertility clinic or specialist the closer you are to the age of 40 years to discuss your options. Whether you are ready to have a baby now or plan to wait till later.
Tips to Conceiving Through IVF While Over 40
Visit your doctor immediately if you want to get pregnant and have already reached 40 years of age. Those under 40 years can afford to wait a few months as they try for natural conception, but at this point, it is better not to wait further due to declining fertility.
You will likely be referred to a fertility specialist for consultation and examination. This is to determine if you have any fertility concerns that need to be addressed and discussion about any possible genetic conditions.
Most women in their early forties are still ovulating so egg retrieval can be done even at 40 years. The eggs are then combined with sperm from the male partner to create embryos. Once screened, the best embryos will then be transferred into the uterus of the woman. In many countries, it is allowed for more than one embryo can be transferred to maximise chances of conception. this however may increase the risk of conceiving multiples which can mean a higher risk pregnancy.
If there is a failure to retrieve quality eggs from the woman because she is older or has some fertility issue, then a donor may be considered. If the woman had earlier frozen eggs to facilitate IVF treatment later in life, then they can be retrieved and used to try and conceive a baby.
It is recommended to take measures to improve one’s overall health when looking to retrieve eggs and carry a pregnancy. Most women are not at their peak health-wise at this age, so must work hard to diet and exercise for optimal outcomes.
So while the reality is that it is harder to conceive when over the age of 40 years, it is not impossible. Many women do go ahead to have children well past this age. However, if you have yet to have any child, it is advisable to consult with a fertility specialist or clinic sooner rather than later to improve your chances of having the baby that you desire.