In vitro fertilization and advanced maternal age are actually two closely related issues since many (but not all) in vitro patients are older women.
In Vitro Fertilization
This is an in-depth topic, so here's a quick run-down on the basics.
To sum up, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is a process in which eggs are removed from a woman's ovary. The eggs are then combined with sperm and fertilized outside of the body. The desired result is a formed embryo that can then be frozen or placed in a woman's uterus. IVF is not always successful at various stages. The embryo may not form or the pregnancy may not become viable after the embryo is placed in a woman's uterus.
One downside of IVF is that it's costly and few health insurance plans cover the procedure. Another downside is that multiple births are more common among IVF patients. While multiples sound cute, the problem here is that whenever a multiple birth is present, the risks to both the mother and babies go up.
To learn more about IVF in general, visit the following helpful resources:
- IVF: In Vitro Fertilization
- American Pregnancy Association: In Vitro Fertilization
- E-Medicine Health IVF
In Vitro Fertilization and Advanced Maternal Age Statistics
While women of all ages do go through IVF, it's still more common among older women. The main problem with this term is what your definition of old is. Some studies note older women as 30 years and up while some say anywhere from 35-40 years and up. Still, none of those ages seem old. However, in terms of biological clocks, these ages are more problematic than ages under 30 years.
Of all the factors that can create fertility problems, the largest by far is age. Biological clocks are sadly real with the ideal child bearing years thought by many researchers to be from age 20 to 30. Women around the age of 35 have a decline in fertility. Some studies note that by the age of 40, a woman will have a 50 percent decreased chance of conceiving.
The Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine, the oldest center of it's kind in the U.S. notes that actual IVF success statistics are hard to come by, no matter your age.
The problem, according to the Jones Institute, are all the little variables that any one woman and couple may face. Some of these variables include:
- Age of the woman
- Health of the woman
- Semen quality
- Number of embryos placed
- Uterus factors such as health and shape
- Number of IVF cycles
- Cause of conception problems
- Quality of eggs retrieved from the woman
- And many other smaller hormone factors
Plus, you have to consider that various clinics have different procedures, techniques, and success rates. All of the above makes stating an average success rate related to in vitro fertilization and advanced maternal age difficult if not impossible. The best that scientists and doctors can do is make educated guesses.
Advanced Maternal Age and Multiple Births
As noted above, a downside of IVF are the increased instances of multiple births. Pregnancies with multiples and multiple births result in multiple risk factors. In vitro fertilization and advanced maternal age, when combined, increase the risk of multiples.
The Sanford School of Medicine completed a study that shows women over the age of 35 may be able to have an IVF pregnancy with a reduced chance of multiples by taking part in a specific form of IVF known as a single blastocyst transfer. In the past, the problem has been that IVF is expensive so doctors tend to transfer more embryos in the hope that one will become a viable pregnancy. When too few are transferred, the chances of becoming pregnant are reduced. However, because rates of IVF are better the younger you are, a single embryo is transferred if you're under 30 and multiples are transferred if you're over 40. No one has ever been sure how many embryos to transfer if a woman is 35 years of age.
This new study found that using the single transfer of one five day old embryo worked well for some women over the age of 35 but younger than 40. This is good news because this means fewer IVF pregnancies and births with multiple babies for women aged 35-40.
To learn more about IVF, make an appointment with your doctor or visit some fertility clinics.