Is age a problem in In Vitro Fertilisation?

The advancements made in the field of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) are breaking the boundaries of biological reproduction, emerging as one of the most successful medical technologies in the last century. One of the most common ART is In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). 

What is IVF?

For couples with problems conceiving or where getting pregnant is not feasible, IVF is one of the most effective solutions. IVF assists with fertilising the woman’s eggs and man’s sperm through medical procedures in a laboratory, and the embryo would be transported to the woman’s uterus for pregnancy. 


Does Age Matter?

While it seems like there are no more biological constraints to pregnancy at a later age, IVF is not a solution for infertility as a result of ageing, despite being the most effective fertility treatment available. Age impacts IVF success rates in many ways. 

Reduced Quality of Eggs & Sperm


As a woman ages, there will be lesser eggs available to recruit for IVF. More importantly, the quality of the woman’s eggs will be affected – there will be lesser genetically normal eggs. This affects the success rate of IVF and the future baby, as genetically abnormal eggs are usually unable to be fertilised or develop into a healthy embryo. 

It is estimated that approximately 50% of a woman’s eggs are normal in her 30s, but only 10-20% in her 40s. Although IVF treatments can prompt your body to produce more eggs in a cycle to increase the chances of finding more normal eggs, it cannot guarantee the quality of the eggs. 

Similar to egg quality, older men’s sperm are usually decreased in vitality and have a higher chance of abnormal chromosomes, which would also result in an unsuccessful fertilisation, or a foetus with abnormalities. 

Lower Chances for Successful IVF Treatment

 
The success rate of IVF has the same downward trend as the chance of natural pregnancies, as a woman ages. According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology statistics, women from the age of 34 and below have a 49% chance of live birth after an IVF attempt, but only a 4% success rate for women from the age of 43 and above. Statistically, 1 in 2 women below the age of 35 will have a successful IVF attempt, while only 1 in 25 women will be successful after the age of 43. 

This means that the older you are, the less likely you are to be able to conceive and give birth to a healthy baby using your own eggs and sperm, through IVF. Women above the age of 41 are advised to consider using donor eggs during IVF, to increase the success rate. 

Conclusion

IVF cannot reverse infertility that comes with increased age. The older you get, the quality and quantity of your eggs and sperm will decline. You should also take into account the significant emotional, physical and financial stress that comes with multiple tries of IVF treatments, which could take a larger toll on you over time. 

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