Because so many women hold giving birth as one of their ultimate lifetime experiences, they don’t want to miss out on it because of infertility or the aging process. Unfortunately though, as women get older, their ability to reproduce decreases. With so many American women waiting until later in life to start their families, these upwardly mobile women are finding problems with fertility issues to be more common than they had expected. For this reason, doctors have been working on adding to their various fertility treatments to help these older women give birth. In vitro fertilization is one method that has gained a new strategy that seems to be reversing the biological clock of women over 40 years of age.
For women who are 43 years or older, the likelihood of getting pregnant, even with the help of three cycles of in vitro fertilization, is only 10 percent. This is because a woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have and over time, the number of eggs of a woman significantly decreases from 1 million at her birth down to 34,000 at 36 years of age. Not only are there less in numbers but the likelihood of the remaining eggs to function normally in the reproductive process becomes less. However, researchers have found that when one uses a “donor” egg, i.e., when a young woman’s eggs are donated and in vitro fertilization is used in combination with these younger eggs, the chances of pregnancy increase to 60 or even 80%. Nearly 250,000 women participated in this reproductive study by researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine and what they found was quite promising. Even infertile, older women using donated eggs and in vitro fertilization had the same chances of getting pregnant as fertile young women using natural means.
Although these findings are exciting for those desperate to have a baby later in life, the process is not as easy as it sounds. It is an expensive, unpleasant process, and not without its drawbacks. It’s important to remember that the baby is not genetically related to the mother. Some women find that less appealing (to be carrying a child that does not have her DNA). Moreover, sometimes infertility is a sign of other reproductive problems that can cause issues during a pregnancy and long-term concerns for a child born in this manner. For this reason, it is extremely important to consult with your OB/GYN before proceeding with such a program. Many “older” celebrities have become mothers in this fashion. But, keep in mind, healthy babies come from healthy mothers, so one should consider all other options before traveling down this path to motherhood.
You can read more about infertility in the chapter, “I’m not pregnant—and I want to be” in my health book, “INSIDE INFORMATION FOR WOMEN”.
- Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.