I know a number of women who are in their mid-to-late 40s who don’t have kids. They’ve either focused on their careers or just plain lost track the years as they passed by. I’m not sure whether these women have realized that their biological clock is running out or if they’re having angst for not bringing forth a new generation.
For these women, some recent headlines seem to indicate that there still may be time on the clock. First of all, Fox News recently reported that a 61-year-old Brazilian woman who is post-menopausal has become pregnant using in vitro fertilization. And the French Tribune reported that a 58-year-old woman (who has entered menopause and who has been infertile for 27 years), has given birth to fraternal twins using the same procedure. And some policymakers periodically step in and want to have a say on this issue. For instance, in 1994 France’s government introduced legislation to ban artificial impregnation of post-menopausal women, according to the New York Times.
Don’t these media stories make you think you can get pregnant at any age and whenever you’re ready? Well, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) is here to splash cold water on those hopes. Its report, Age and Fertility: A Guide for Patients, points out that age is a factor in the success of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) as well as a woman’s natural ability to get pregnant. "For example, if you are a health 30-year-old woman, you have about a 20% chance per month to get pregnant," the ASRM authors note. "By age 40, however, your chance is only about 5% per month. In many cases, these percentages are true for natural conception as well as conception using ART."
The report states that women over 40 who have been unsuccessful in getting pregnant using other therapies or who have premature ovarian failure (which is also known as early menopause) have limited treatment options. One of these options involves in vitro fertilization (IVF) in which the older woman is inseminated with eggs donated by another woman who is in her 20s or early 30s. "If you are over 40, eggs from a younger woman are more likely to result in pregnancy and are less likely to end in miscarriage," the report states that an older woman who undergoes IVF using donor eggs has a significantly higher chance of becoming pregnant.
Here’s how an IVF procedure works. The older woman is given hormone therapy to prepare the uterus for the fertilized embryos. Meanwhile, the donor takes fertility medications that stimulate her ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Once obtained from the donor, the laboratory technicians fertilize the embryos using the sperm of the older woman’s partner or another appropriate partner. Several days later, the embryos can be transferred to the older woman’s uterus. Embryos that aren’t implanted can be frozen for use in a future IVF effort.
If you just feel like you want to try some type of ART to have a baby, you need to realize that there are some actors you may face. According to Livestrong.com, these can include: pain caused by the insemination process; limited success using the insemination process; cost, which can range between $1,500 and $4,000 per cycle; and multiple births.
If you do opt to try IVF, there are some other questions you may want to consider asking when you meet with the doctor. The ASRM suggests that you learn:
- How the donors are recruited;
- What types of screening are required;
- What type of information about the donor will you receive;
- The average cost of a treatment cycle; and
- The program’s success rate.
So if you haven’t gotten around to having children yet, IVF may work for you. And don’t forget another option - adoption
Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter at @dorianmartin, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.