I’m Over 40, Is IVF It?

In the US, 2.1% of babies born are conceived using assisted reproductive technology (ART), with an estimated 77,998 live births every year. In vitro fertilization, (IVF) is a method of assisted reproduction in which the intended parents’ sperm and eggs are combined outside of the body in a laboratory dish. One or more embryos are then transferred into the woman’s uterus, where the fertilized eggs implant in the uterine lining and develop. As a result, IVF helps countless women achieve pregnancy past age 40. While overall rates depend on patient background and health history, countless families across the country rely on ART to conceive. However, as a woman ages, the chances of conception go down. Advanced reproductive technology such as elective single embryo transfer (eSET), ovarian reserve testing, and IVF can help women over age 40 get pregnant.

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How Does ART work?

Advanced reproductive technology is utilized to manage infertility. The treatment incorporates fertility medicines focusing on at least 2 eggs and sperm. Reproductive technology works by independently fertilizing eggs taken from the ovaries with the selected sperm. The viable embryos are then returned to the parent or surrogate's body. Some experts note that IVF is the most well-known and successful type of ART. However, the success of the procedure largely depends on the individual patient. Other common procedures include surrogates, donor eggs, sperm, or previously frozen embryos. For women unable to carry a pregnancy to term but able to produce viable eggs, a gestational carrier helps bridge the gap. Distinct from surrogacy, a gestational carrier carries and delivers a baby for the intended parents. Eggs from an egg donor are fertilized in the laboratory with sperm from a sperm donor to make an embryo. Unlike surrogacy, a gestational carrier has no biological connection to the child.

Elective single-embryo transfer

While some ART procedures risk multiple pregnancies, one specific strategy helps minimize the risk of multiple fetuses. With eSET a pre-selected embryo is placed either in the uterus or directly into the fallopian tube. Depending on patient needs, the selected embryo could be from a previous IVF cycle or a current IVF cycle that provided more than 1 viable embryo. What's more, any additional embryos may be frozen in preservation for future pregnancies.

What's in your tree?

Overall, heredity determines a woman's fertility. Female patients with a family history of conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), functional hypothalamic amenorrhea, or premature ovarian insufficiency are at a higher risk of trouble with pregnancy. Specific preexisting health conditions cause women to have periods without ovulation, known as anovulation. To address any additional challenges, patients should plan to meet with primary care doctors to map out a plan for fertility treatments.

Options for pregnancy over 40

Treatments that typically work for a woman may fail for another depending on age, health history, and many other factors. As women age, the number and quality of viable eggs decrease, elevating the importance of strategic planning and assisted reproductive technology. Small lifestyle changes such as maintaining healthy habits, and minimizing exposure to toxins can help boost fertility past age 40. While patients are not identical, tailoring treatments to the individual patient raises the likelihood of conception.

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