New research on how late you can leave it

One question many women ask when they’re thinking about starting a family is “How late can I leave it?”. Many of us are simply not ready to try to conceive when we’re at our most fertile in our twenties, but leaving it until our thirties or forties can lead to worries that maybe we’re going to encounter problems along the way.

Now, researchers have come up with a computer model which suggests when you should start trying to have children based on the size of family you’d like (yes, I know – just one would make most fertility patients very happy…).  Anyway, according to this model if you want to have three children, you should start trying by 23 to have a 90% chance of success, or by the age of 32 if you’d like just one child. They factor in IVF separately in their tables, which gives a slightly higher chance of success and it is presented in a table which makes it very easy to understand.

These figures are general and can’t be used to show your individual chances of success, but at the same time they do raise the realities of the difference that age makes when considering pregnancy and parenthood. There’s often criticism about this kind of research from people who say that it puts pressure on women – and no one wants to worry people unnecessarily – but at the same time, we can’t ignore factual information because we don’t like it. I’ve seen so many women in their mid forties who assume that they must still be fertile because they are fit and healthy, look much younger and are still having periods – but none of those things guarantee that you are still fertile. The oldest person to get pregnant using IVF with her own eggs was 46, but this was such a remarkable and extraordinary case that it was reported in a scientific journal – see here 

Although this new research can’t be used as a certain predictor for any individual, it does give a clearer picture of the difficulties women can face. It is true that many will go on to have children if they start trying for a family in their late 30s, but others won’t and it is important that everyone is aware of the realities of age and fertility. You can read more about the research in New Scientist here 




Is an egg-freezing party really the best place to inform yourself?

120px-2_eggsApparently it’s the latest thing in the States and is set to arrive on our shores soon – the egg-freezing party hosted by a doctor who calls herself the “egg whisperer” who will tell you all you need to know about freezing – and offer you discounts on her freezing service if you go along to a party, or host one yourself.

I’m all in favour of people knowing more about the realities of egg freezing, but I’m not entirely convinced that a party organised by someone who is trying to sell her egg freezing service is the best way to do that.  What women really need is impartial advice about this, a real assessment of their chances of producing viable eggs and honesty about the age-related decline in egg quality as well as quantity. The truth is that egg freezing is not likely to be able to offer a successful “extension” to your fertility if you are already in your forties, and yet many of the women who look into this as an option are older – apart from anything else they are more likely to be able to afford to pay for it as egg freezing is a costly business.

There’s a growing debate about companies providing egg freezing for employees after a couple of US companies offered this to staff – but what hasn’t been so widely reported is that this move was an extension of existing fertility packages which also offered funding for IVF. Perhaps that might be a more welcome move…

If you’re interested, you can read more about egg freezing parties in this article from the Evening Standard