Age definitely makes a difference when it comes to natural conception. Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have and the quantity and quality of the eggs becomes lower every year until they hit menopause.
During puberty, you may have about 500,000 eggs and this amount drops to about 25,000 in your mid-30s. This means that as you age, your ability to conceive naturally drops. However, reproductive technologies make it possible for women of 50 to have babies.
Less natural ability to conceive
If you want to have a baby when you’re older, you’re likely to need a fertility specialist. The specialist may give you fertility drugs to make sure that you ovulate. The drugs will increase the number of mature eggs you release during a cycle.
If this is unsuccessful, your fertility specialist is likely to recommend in vitro fertilization (IVF). This method involves retrieving your eggs, fertilizing them with sperm in a lab, cultivating embryos and transferring them into your uterus. According to IVF Authority, women over 35 will have the best likelihood of IVF success rates when using donor eggs or their own frozen eggs.
Drop in egg quality
When you age, the quality of your eggs also drops and this can affect the success rates of IVF. Egg quality can make conception more difficult and increase the risks of chromosomal abnormalities. This is why using donor eggs or eggs you had frozen when you were younger can improve the chances of success.
Frozen donor eggs have to go through a thawing process before they are injected with sperm and incubated as embryos. To prepare your uterus for transfer of the embryo, you will be given medication.
Transfer of more than one embryo
If you are 50 or over, your doctor may suggest transferring more than one embryo to increase your chances of falling pregnant. However, it is possible for more than one embryo to implant, resulting in a multiple pregnancy.
The risk of pregnancy complications, such as high blood pressure, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, increases. The risk of premature birth or low birth weight also shoots up when this happens.
Deciding between single or multiple embryo transfer is often a difficult decision to make and may depend on whether you can use frozen eggs that were harvested when you were younger. This gives you a higher success rate with single embryo transfer.
Using frozen eggs
Freezing your eggs when you’re younger is an option. Once your eggs are frozen, they are safely stored in a highly secure facility and preserved until you are ready to use them. The reasoning behind this is that egg quality is higher when you’re younger but you may want to have children later in life. However, live birth rates are slightly lower when using frozen rather than fresh eggs.
Given that frozen eggs offer many benefits in terms of cost and speed, the decision to use them or fresh donor eggs is usually up to the individual after consulting with a specialist.
Using a gestational carrier
When you’re 50 or older, you are likely to experience conception issues, pregnancy risks and a higher risk of miscarriages. You might decide to use a gestational carrier to reduce the risks. IVF using your own frozen eggs or embryos from donor eggs results in pregnancy for the carrier.
The options you decide on will depend on your fertility health and preferences. Some women have a family member who is prepared to help but it is also possible to use an agency to find a suitable and well-screened gestational carrier.