Reading the headlines of magazines and tabloids in the grocery store checkout line makes it appear as if age and motherhood are unrelated. Pictures of well-known and revered Hollywood starlets, including Celine Dion (who had twins at age 42), Courtney Cox (who gave birth to a baby girl at age 39) and Halle Berry (who became pregnant with a daughter and son at ages 41 and 46, respectively) seem to be the norm these days. There’s just one problem.
Celebrity or Not: Pregnancy over 40 is the Exception, Not the Norm
Conceiving a baby naturally after the age of 40, without the assistance of fertility medications or treatment, is the exception NOT the norm. In most cases, celebrities hide the fact that they used IVF in order to get pregnant, not to mention how many cycles it may have taken for them to deliver a healthy baby, or that some of them have chosen to use donor eggs to increase their chances of having a baby.
Courtney Cox has been forthcoming about her use of IVF cycles, including the repeat miscarriages she experienced along the way. However, other celebrities are much less forthcoming about the Hows of their late-life pregnancies. It’s important that these celebrities do not give women false hope about the likelihood of conceiving a baby on their own after age 35 and certainly after 40.
Here is the reality:
The age-related infertility dip sharpens between ages 32 and 37. As you probably know, healthy women are born with anywhere from 1-2 million egg cells. That sounds like an awful lot but research tells us that only about half of these egg cells remain by the time a woman reaches puberty, and only about half of the remaining eggs are viable at all. Each year, more and more of these cells are dying off. By the time a woman reaches age 32, the ovarian reserves are noticeably lower and egg reserves dip much more dramatically after age 37.
You have a 5% chance of getting pregnant after 40. According to ASRM, your chances of getting pregnant naturally each month declines significantly between ages 30 and 40. A healthy 30-year old – and by healthy, we mean there are no existing conditions that would cause infertility – has about a 20% chance of conceiving each month. By the time that same woman turns 40, her chances dip to just 5% each month. Again, keep in mind that those are best-case scenario statistics – and don’t include situations in which a woman has endometriosis, PCOS or other complications associated with infertility.
Age matters for IVF treatments as well. Many women, especially those who are financially secure, view IVF as their future baby life raft. While IVF success rates continue to slowly, but steadily increase, it is by no means an absolute solution for women who want to use their own eggs from the late-30s and onward. If you view the CDCs IVF statistics for 2012, you will see there is a big difference between the IVF success rates for women who are 32 and younger, versus those that are 40 and older. This is because age is the most important factor that influences fertility rates. For this reason, most fertility experts will recommend that women in their late-30s and 40s seriously consider the use of a donor egg, from a younger woman, in order to increase their chances of fertility.
What does this mean for you?
If you are headed into your 30s and are planning to delay motherhood, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of getting pregnant:
- Have a fertility workup. It might be worthwhile to pay for a full fertility workup on yourself and your mate so you know what – if anything – you are up against. Some infertility diagnoses can be treated, others cannot. Knowing you have an existing condition can help you make a better plan for the future.
- Life a healthy lifestyle. Everyday chemicals are continuously linked to infertility so the more you know, the more you can change the cleaning products and health and beauty products you use on a regular basis. You will also be able to make better choices about the foods you eat and the lifestyle choices you make, all of which have an effect on your ability to conceive.
- Consider freezing your eggs. If you are adverse to the idea of using donor eggs, consider freezing your eggs before you turn 32. This can increase your chances of IVF success using your own eggs if you wait until your later 30s or 40s to get pregnant.
Have questions about getting pregnant over 40? Contact RRC to learn more about your fertility options so you can conceive your own miracle baby.
Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius at Freedigitalphotos.net