Age: The Most Important Predictor for Fertility Treatment Success
A woman is born with a finite number of eggs for her lifespan. As she ages, she produces fewer eggs that are of good quality. CHR is here to help women of advanced maternal age conceive with their own eggs, or if that is no longer possible, with donor eggs.Want to Consult Dr. Gleicher?
Hello, I’m Dr. Norbert Gleicher. I’m the medical director and chief scientist at the Center for Human Reproduction in New York. I would like to talk to you today about the importance of age for women who are trying to get pregnant. Age is indeed the single most important predictor of treatment success. This means that the same fertility treatment applied at a younger age will give us much better pregnancy chances than applied at older ages.
The reason for this is quite complex, but yet at the same time also quite simple. It relates to the fact that a woman’s ovaries “age.” And what we mean by that is that, a woman is born with all of her eggs. And she constantly loses some of these eggs. And what is left in her ovaries, we call this the “ovarian reserve,” therefore constantly shrinks. And as the ovarian reserve shrinks, unfortunately the quality of those eggs that remain also declines.
In other words, women experience a double whammy as they get older. They have fewer eggs and those eggs have lower pregnancy potential. So basically at a time where one could compensate for the lower pregnancy potential per egg and embryo by transferring more embryos into the uterus, very frequently we don’t have enough embryos to transfer because the number of eggs that we are able to obtain in an IVF cycle has decreased to significant degrees. It is that double negative that leads to the well-known fact that after age 45, women usually no longer conceive with use of their own eggs unless they go into highly specialized treatments. And between the roughly age 42 and age 45, the chances of conception very quickly decline and many if not most women, even at those ages, do require help from fertility experts.
Now this is in contrast to us males. We have what I call one and only one biological advantage over women and that is that we males constantly produce fresh sperm. This is the reason why Charlie Chaplin in his 80’s could still father his youngest daughter. And as I said before, women, unfortunately after age 45, usually have a very very difficult time conceiving with use of their own eggs.
Of course, there is always the option of using young donor eggs. And with young donor eggs, even women in their early 50’s still have excellent pregnancy chances because suddenly the chances become those of the young (usually twenty-year-old plus) donor and miscarriage rates also drop significantly. And miscarriage rates also increase with advancing age. I hope that this information helps. Thank you.