Thursday, March 15, 2012
Conceiving After The Age Of 40: What Are My Chances?
Hi. I am 43 and began my quest for motherhood about two years ago. I have been on Clomid and Femara and have tried IUI about 5 times. I most recently tried Follistem and IUI. Last month I was on oral contraceptives because of a cyst and returned this month to discover the cyst was still there AND I had another cyst on the other side. The doc gave the option of aspiration of cysts or to consult to discuss options such as donor eggs.
I have been pregnant once, with no fertility help, about 3 years ago (at 40 yo) which resulted in miscarriage at 8 weeks. We had a heart beat then lost the pregnancy. What are your thoughts about my fertility history and recommendations for an otherwise healthy 43 year old? The cysts are producing estrogen--level was checked. Thank you for your opinion. I am writing from Iowa....thanks! S.
Hello S. from the U.S. (Iowa),
First you need to understand that you are trying to beat the odds and that statistics is only a reflection of real life, not an exact predictor of it. There are always exceptions. However, we try to make the best decision based on the information that we have.
It is well known and scientifically proven that a woman's fertility decreases with age beginning at 30 years old. This is due to the fact that a woman is born with all the eggs she has for her entire life and those eggs age with her. In addition, she is using up lots of eggs with each cycle so there is also a reduction in the number of eggs available.
We also know that by 40 years old, the remaining eggs will be of poor quality. This leads to a reduction in pregnancy rate or a significant increase in miscarriages, and was probably the reason you miscarried at 40 years old. Your statistical chances of pregnancy with IUI (intra uterine insemination) at 43 years old is less than 0.5% per cycle. This is due to the fact that IUI is still a "natural" treatment method and requires that your body go through the normal steps to achieve pregnancy. As you can see, your chances are not zero, but are pretty slim. (A 20 year old woman has instead a 20% chance of pregnancy per cycle.) At your age, with IVF (in vitro fertilization) using your own eggs, the chances of pregnancy rise to 33% per cycle. Unfortunately, because of pregnancy and miscarriage losses the delivery rate is 13%. It is still significantly better than IUI because most of the steps required are performed by the IVF and only two steps are left to natural processes. With donor eggs and IVF, the chances increase dramatically due to younger and healthier eggs, to 75% with 59% delivering.
Most fertility specialists would recommend donor IVF, but it is a personal choice that you have to make. Most of my older patients want to try at least once with their own eggs and I will give them the chance to try because as I said up above, there are always exceptions!
Dr. Edward J. Ramirez, M.D., FACOG
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility and Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF Program
Monterey, California, U.S.A.