As women seek fertility treatments later and later in life, medical practice and society at large face new challenges. Securing access to fertility treatment for women over 40 becomes ever more essential, while healthcare professionals must be on the lookout for preventable complications. With the technologies currently under development, women in their 50s and even 60s may start having biological children in the near future.
For immediate release
July 25, 2014 (New York, NY) – As women seek fertility treatment later and later in life, even in their 50s, medical practice and society at large face new challenges, according to a new study published by investigators from the Center for Human Reproduction (CHR), a leading clinical and research center in reproductive endocrinology and infertility in New York City, likely serving the oldest patient population of any fertility center in the United States.
Having children later in life has become a common trend in developed countries in recent decades. In the United States, women over 40 are now the fastest-growing age group having children. In this study CHR investigators examined demographic changes in fertility patients at their own center and in the United States as a whole.
Just published electronically in the journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, the study first examined the changes in CHR’s patient population: 47% of all IVF cycles in 2012, using the patients’ own eggs, were for women above age 41, with 33.2% performed for women above age 43. CHR’s patient population was found to be the oldest among the US IVF centers reporting outcomes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies (SART).
While CHR’s patient population is at an extreme, national trends in reproductive medicine uniformly points into the same direction. Between 1997 and 2010, among women undergoing IVF, the ratio of women younger than 35 dropped to 41.4% from 44.7%, while the number of egg donation cycles, which are typically performed for older women, more than doubled.
The study points out that, as women seek fertility treatments later in life, limited access to care becomes an increasingly important issue, as insurance companies, government policies and even individual IVF centers often impose age restrictions on access to fertility treatments. The paper argues that many of these restrictions are arbitrary, and not based on best or most up-to-date evidence, depriving many women in their 40s of their right to make informed decisions about their healthcare and family-building efforts.
The study predicts that continued outcome improvements of infertility treatments with newly developing technologies will further accelerate these demographic trends, likely allowing women to have children into their 50s and beyond. Because of greatly expanding life expectancy, the postmenopausal lifespan of women today, the study authors point out, is longer than the total life expectancy of women at the beginning of the 20th century. It is no wonder that older and older women are wanting to have children.
These coalescing trends, resulting in older and older mothers, will bring new challenges for medical practice and society in general, the study points out. “Prospective risk management for pregnancy becomes essential in older women,” explains Norbert Gleicher, MD, Medical Director and Chief Scientist at CHR and lead author of the study. “Progress in fertility treatments in the last 10-20 years brought a pregnancy boom to women in their 40s. Technological developments currently under investigation may, in turn, bring a similar boom to women in their 50s and possibly even 60s. Medicine and society better get ready!”
About Center for Human Reproduction
The Center for Human Reproduction (CHR) is a leading clinical and research center in reproductive endocrinology and infertility in New York City, with a worldwide reputation as a “fertility center of last resort,” specializing in treatment of women with very low ovarian reserve. Dr. Gleicher is available for additional comments.