Age and fertility

I happened to come across two articles about age and fertility recently; one focusing on a male fertility specialist who was freezing sperm for men who were worried about the age-related decline in male fertility and the other quoting a fertility author and psychologist who insisted that claims about an age-related decline in female fertility were false and outdated.  They were both rather depressing, albeit for very different reasons.

There is really no need for men to be freezing their sperm at the age of 30 as the first article suggested Yes, it is true that male fertility does decline with age but not in remotely the same way that female fertility does.  The specialist quoted in the article implied that men were rushing to his clinic to freeze their sperm because they were so worried about this – rather useful PR for his sperm freezing business, but whether it’s entirely true is another matter…

The second article, denying the age-related decline in female fertility, was far more worrying as it appeared to be based partly on the fact that the author herself had given birth in her forties.   She claimed that the decline in fertility after the age of 35 was a “myth”  and “outdated” as fertility did not really drop off until women were in their forties.

I’m sure many of us would love to believe that female age-related fertility is a myth, but the fact that some women successfully get pregnant and give birth in their forties doesn’t alter what happens to our ovaries. You need only to look at the most recent IVF success rates published by the HFEA to see very clearly how age affects fertility – should you have any doubts, I’ve included them below.

 IVF SUCCESS RATES BROKEN DOWN BY AGE 

  • 32.2% for women under 35  (32.3%)
  • 27.7% for women aged 35-37  (27.2%)
  • 20.8% for women aged 38-39  (19.1%)
  • 13.6% for women aged 40-42  (12.7%)
  • 5.0% for women aged 43-44  (5.1%) 
  • 1.9% for women aged 45+  (1.5%)

 

2 thoughts on “Age and fertility

  1. Oh well said Kate. I think this is probably the woman I heard on Woman’s Hour (pregnant with 3rd child at 45) recently talking about experiments with mice in China that showed that new eggs were capable of growing in exceptionally healthy animals. She also felt that the ‘epigenetic revolution’ was going to influence the prolongation of women’s ability to continue to have children into late forties and onwards. Thank goodness there was another woman present who had had a child at 40 and 42 but couldn’t conceive a third at 44. She was advocating women starting their families earlier.
    There does seem to be something about it being possible for some women (aka Cherie Blair) to continue to conceive late into their forties if they have had several previous children. I have tried asking fertility doctors about this but never had a satisfactory answer. You could try asking someone at ESHRE about it.

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