Yes, some can. Does in vitro fertilization (I.V.F.) help if you have problems? It depends.
CAN A WOMAN 40+ HAVE A BABY?
FERTILITY FACTS OF LIFE
Sperm vs eggs
Starting with puberty, a man will make sperm for the rest of his life. The quality of a man’s sperm may deteriorate as he ages, but he will produce it as long as he lives. A woman has the most eggs she will ever have while she is still in her mother’s womb—about 7 million. From that point on, the number of her eggs will diminish.
At birth, a woman has about 2 million eggs. By the time she begins to menstruate, she’s got 300,000 left. By age 28-30 her eggs are dying fast. By age 35 to 40 her eggs are not only dying very fast, but their quality is deteriorating. By age 40 a woman’s chances of conceiving are down to 10 to 15% and her risk of having an abnormal child has risen significantly.
WHAT IS “IN VITRO FERTILIZATION” (I.V.F.)?
I.V.F. is the joining of a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm in a laboratory dish. It is preceded by giving the woman fertility drugs to boost egg production, and then removing the eggs from her body. The man’s sperm is placed with the best of the retrieved eggs for insemination, or fertilization. When a fertilized egg divides, it becomes an embryo. The embryo is placed into the woman’s womb 3 to 5 days after fertilization takes place.
WHEN IS I.V.F. USED?
I.V.F. is used to help a woman get pregnant when she is infertile for one or more reasons, such as advanced maternal age (over 40), damaged or blocked Fallopian tubes, endometriosis, and more. It can also be used when her male partner is infertile.
HOW SUCCESSFUL IS I.V.F. WITH WOMEN OVER 40?
Not as much as some promotional material would have you think, according to the latest federally mandated statistics gathered by the Centers for Disease and Prevention from the nation’s almost 500 fertility clinics on I.V.F. procedures done in 2013. Using fresh eggs from 40-year-old women trying to conceive, fewer than 30% became pregnant and fewer than 20% gave birth to live babies as a result.
Addition to infertility, aging increases risks such as pregnancy loss, fetal anomalies, still birth, and other obstetric problems.
WHY DO SO MANY OLDER WOMEN BELIEVE IN I.V.F.?
According to Dr. Mark V. Sauer—former director of the I.V.F. clinic at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center—I.V.F. clinics tend to promote their services by massaging the facts, “often combining data from several years to make the results look better.”
FOUR IMPORTANT CONCLUSIONS
1. Reasons for delaying getting pregnant always need to be weighed against the facts of your biological clock.
2. Do your own research even before you visit an I.V.F. clinic.
3. In choosing a clinic, get a recommendation from someone you trust, like your own doctor.
4. When you have selected a clinic, ask the intake doctor lots of questions about expected results. The bottom line is what percentage of their patients in your circumstances gave birth to healthy babies.
For more information:
• nytimes.com - Basis of article
• fertilitytoday.org - Explains female fertility issues
• medlineplus.gov - Explains I.V.F.
• medlineplus.gov - Explains “endometriosis”
• en.wikipedia.org - Dr. Mark V. Sauer: bio info