Too late to get pregnant. She beat the odds, but when is it too late to get pregnant?
Janet Jackson is 49 and pregnant. What are the odds that a similar outcome can happen for you? Unfortunately, a woman’s fertility starts to decline after 30, with more significant changes after the age of 35. However, the most dramatic decline occurs after the age of 37, and continues until the age of 45 when the likelihood of pregnancy is exceedingly rare.
This is a hard concept for women to grasp. They don’t feel old when they are 40, so it seems hard to believe that their eggs are so bad that pregnancy is unlikely and that the chance for conceiving may be only 1 in 5.
After the age of 40, not only does the chance for pregnancy decline precipitously each year, but the chance for miscarriage also rises significantly each year. Even with the use of IVF, by the time a woman is 45 her chance for conceiving with one embryo is 1-2%, and her chance for miscarriage exceeds 50%.
Why can’t IVF overcome age?
IVF is not a total cure for infertility. IVF can help women ovulate more eggs in one cycle to optimize fertility. However IVF cannot reverse the aging process. We can’t make a 45-year-old egg act like a 30-year-old egg. A 45-year-old egg is a 45-year-old egg no matter if the woman is trying to get pregnant on her own or through IVF. Each month, a woman is getting older and older … and eggs are getting older and older, too.
With IVF we can cheat time, but it has its limits
By making multiple eggs ovulate when women are younger (instead of letting one egg ovulate each month) we optimize fertility with IVF. That is helpful, but it doesn’t make the eggs younger.
One of the biggest constraints with IVF is that the number of eggs that grow in response to the stimulation medication will decrease as a woman ages because the number of eggs that are available decreases with age.
So in a woman who is 45, when you really need lots of eggs to compensate for their poor quality due to age, that is also the time when she doesn’t have a lot of eggs. No matter what we do, we can only get a few eggs to grow because the ovary stops responding to medication. The benefit of the stimulation portion of IVF no longer exists.
We can help women over 40 who are unable to get pregnant on their own or with IVF with the use of donor egg IVF. We also educate younger women who believe they will wait until later in life to get pregnant to consider egg freezing.
To schedule a consultation with Dr. Kristin Bendikson, please contact our Los Angeles fertility center.