How old is too old to get pregnant?

As women age, there is an increased incidence of gynecological problems. These may include Endometriosis, fibroids, and pelvic infections. All of them may reduce fertility; however the natural process of ageing of the eggs is thought to be the major cause of reduced fertility.

Females are born with a reservoir of about 400,000 eggs in their ovaries. The eggs mature and are ovulated during each menstrual cycle. For every egg that is released, many other eggs degenerate and are re-absorbed. Eventually, the ovary does not respond to the natural hormonal maturation process of the eggs and the woman experiences menopause. Because the eggs are present in the ovaries from birth, they age as the woman grows older, and their quality is damaged.

The ageing of the eggs also decreases their ability to be fertilized and to divide properly, Causing chromosomal  abnormalities, genetic disorders and a higher risk of miscarriage. This process of aging of the eggs is confirmed by the fact that older women who receive eggs from a younger donor have a much higher chance of conceiving,

In general, the number of couples in their late 30s and 40s attempting pregnancy is constantly increasing. Currently about 50% of patients at Midwest Fertility center are aged 35 or over. It is common to delay starting a family for different reasons, among them- second relationships, career, educational demands, the search for financial stability, waiting for a stable relationship and more. However it is important to understand that fertility in women declines rapidly with age, especially in the late 30s and 40s. This is a normal part of the ageing process.

As women become older, the chance of getting pregnant is lower, the chance of having a miscarriage from all sorts of reasons is higher and there is an increased risk of chromosomal disorders in the baby. In the general population, the chance of becoming pregnant after the age of 40 is estimated to be only 5% per cycle compared to about 20% per cycle in younger women. One third of couples where the woman is over 35 may encounter fertility problems. Fertility Treatments such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) can at time if not reverse the effects age has on fertility, at least prolong the period that a woman can conceive.

In contrast to women, The male sperm reproduction process is constantly active through life, and as a result, the sperm is manufactured and replaced all the time. As a consequence, when men become older, the chances of achieving a pregnancy are decrease to a lesser degree than in women, as sperm generation continues throughout life. Large scale studies suggest that genetic mistakes do increase with age in males. This is thought to be in the order of 0.5% in males over 40 years of age and increases to 1% at 45, 2% at 50 and 5% at 55. On the contrary, Women are born with a pre-determined number of eggs and do not produce any more during their lifetime.

The relative success of fertility treatments in general and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) in particular can be affected dramatically by age. Parameters such as the number of the eggs being collected and the quality of the embryos- are in a general decline. Higher doses of hormones are usually required in older women and there is also a higher risk of not having an egg collection due to poor or no response to the stimulating drugs.
Unfortunately there is no way to reverse these effects of age on fertility. Although age is not an absolute barrier to pregnancy, such factors as regular menstrual cycles or having had children before, do not necessarily indicate that pregnancy is possible in all age groups.

Contact Midwest Fertility Center and we will assist you on your journey to parenthood.

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