It seems as though age has little to do with getting pregnant these days. After all, 40 is the new 30-or is it 20? Celebrities, and even your friends and family members, appear to have no problem pushing motherhood off until well into their 40’s. And they make it look so easy. Odds are, if it was a planned pregnancy, it wasn’t exactly easy.
The truth is it’s extremely rare to become pregnant in your peri-menopausal years without some sort of fertility intervention. In fact, if you’re over the age of 35, and you’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to become pregnant the old-fashioned way, you need to consult a fertility specialist. Although not impossible, naturally occurring pregnancy is very difficult once you cross into your mid 40’s. No matter how young your body feels, your eggs are past their prime.
Why Pregnancy Really is Difficult After 40
For women, fertility begins to decline around age 30. After the age of 35, this decline picks up speed, and by age 40, your odds of conceiving naturally are about 5% per cycle. The main reason for your post-40 fertility odds? Only about half the number of eggs you hold in reserve are viable, chromosomal, to result in pregnancy.
The good news is that you do have options. While you may not get pregnant as easily as women in their 20’s, medical science can assist you in your endeavors. Through fertility intervention, it is very possible for you to conceive, and deliver, a healthy baby. Here are the best options for getting pregnant after age 40.
Your Best Options
IVF for women over 40 is the most reliable treatment option. In order for IVF to be successful, at any age, you must begin with ovarian stimulation. This is the process by which your physician can control the release of your eggs, so retrieval will be successful.
Once the eggs are retrieved, fertilization will occur in the lab, using your partner’s sperm, or donor sperm, if need be. Upon fertilization, the embryos will be tested for any chromosomal or genetic abnormalities, then implanted in the uterus. After successful implantation, you will be given hormones to help support the pregnancy.
When pregnancy has been confirmed as healthy, after 10-12 weeks, you will be referred to your general obstetrician for continued pregnancy care and delivery. Of course, every case is unique, and these treatments will be customized for your individual success. The quality of your eggs is crucial to the success of your IVF. You may need to discuss the use of donor eggs with your physician.
The unfortunate truth is as you get older, so do your eggs. The eggs of a woman over 40 are of diminished quality. Life, stress, environmental toxins, all take a toll on your body, and thus, your eggs. Although it is possible to use your own eggs, you may want to investigate using donor eggs at some point in your treatment.
Most donor eggs are solicited by agencies that specialize in egg donation. These doors remain anonymous, are of excellent health, physically and emotionally, and typically in their early 20’s. Sometimes women use eggs of their relatives or friends, in order to maintain common qualities in background, appearance, personal history, and the like. Of course, donor agencies screen so thoroughly that you will be given as complete a picture of your anonymous egg donor as possible.
For women over 40, your IVF success can be skewed because of the age of your eggs. The age of your eggs can also increase your chances of miscarrying, once successful fertilization does occur. These young donor eggs minimize the risk of miscarriage, and improve the outcome of your IVF.
Gestational carriers are a worthwhile option for those women for whom carrying a pregnancy to term is unlikely, impossible, or ill-advised due to health. The biological parents who are considering surrogacy will go through the same pre-treatment counseling as anyone beginning IVF. If you are concerned about the legal aspects of using a surrogate to carry your biological child, you, and your surrogate should consult with attorneys, separately, and iron out any confusion prior to pregnancy.
You, and your surrogate will begin by synchronizing your cycles. This ensures the surrogate will be ready for implantation at the right time. The embryo transfer, and hormonal support, will be similar to the standard protocols for IVF, as mentioned above.
With surrogates under the age of 35, success rates are excellent. Surrogacy is not legal in all 50 states, and the laws vary from state to state, so do your homework if you want to use a gestational carrier.
When Dad is Over 40
Of course your partner needs to do his part to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Although age doesn’t severely affect the man’s ability to produce sperm, it can have some bearing starting at age 45 and more significantly after 50. Your partner should be checked for sperm count and motility. He needs to partake in the same healthy lifestyle changes you do-stop smoking, limit alcohol and recreational marijuana, exercise, and eat a healthy diet. Together you can experience a healthy pregnancy, and the fulfilling experience of becoming parents.