Facing Infertility after 35
Declines in egg quality and quantity beginning at age 32 can make becoming pregnant naturally more challenging for women in their late thirties and early forties. Fortunately for these women, motherhood is still attainable thanks to egg banks, like Donor Egg Bank USA, partnering with altruistic egg donors.
Why pregnancy chances drop in mid to late thirties
Facing infertility after 35 isn’t easy.
Unlike men, who produce fresh sperm throughout their lifetimes, women become less likely to get pregnant as they age due to their limited supply of eggs. The number of eggs women have is finite, and with each ovulatory cycle, their number decreases. Additionally, structural abnormalities like uterine fibroids, endometriosis, or the growth of uterine tissue outside of its natural environment can impede pregnancy.
As women age, the rate of miscarriage also increases. Poor egg quantity or quality can make traditional IVF treatment for infertility ineffective for women over 35. Clinicians recommend these women to have an infertility evaluation after six cycles of unprotected sexual intercourse with unsuccessful pregnancy results.
Why use donor eggs over 35?
The success rate for live births per embryo transfer for women in their early to mid-thirties undergoing in vitro fertilization is high at 40-49%. However, this live-birth rate drops by up to 6% with each passing year. In comparison, donor eggs from younger donors increase the average live birth rate per embryo transfer to 50%. Success rates clearly benefit from younger donated eggs.
Using older eggs increases chance of birth defects
The risk of birth defects caused by missing, damaged, or extra chromosomes increases in eggs 35 years and older. Chances of birth defects double from 1 in 525 at age 20 to 1 in 200 at age 35, and again at age 40 to 1 in 65. This caveat should be considered in favor of using donor eggs.
Testing your ovarian reserve before IVF
You’ve probably heard of women who don’t have any trouble getting pregnant in their mid to late thirties. How do you know whether to keep trying, or start considering a donor?
Your ovarian reserve can offer information about your chances. It’s not commonly known, but ovarian responsiveness in women of similar ages greatly varies. Testing this reserve should occur before any final decisions are made regarding traditional or donor egg IVF.
Physicians assess diminished reserve by measuring the response to medications/hormones in ovarian stimulation. After the administration of medications or hormones, retrieval of eggs can be attempted. Ovarian responsiveness is determined based on the amount of eggs retrieved. After your procedure, your doctor will discuss your chances of natural conception. If your egg retrieval is low, your doctor will possibly recommend using donor eggs.
What to expect before IVF
The initial visit consists of an infertility evaluation. The male partner’s sperm is analyzed for abnormalities. The mom-to-be undergoes testing herself, including a hysterosalpingograph, a transvaginal ultrasonograph, or both. These are simply imaging tests to assess for structural abnormalities in the uterus. Also, there will be blood tests to detect any abnormalities in the ovulation pattern.
The IVF process
In vitro fertilization involves stimulating the ovaries to grow mature eggs, followed by egg retrieval. Eggs and sperm are then fertilized in a culture for 3-5 days, with 1-2 resulting viable embryos being transferred to the uterus. Often, the sperm is injected directly into the egg using intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), which has been proven to increase the success rate of pregnancy.
The IVF process using donor eggs is similar, but the donor is the one who undergoes ovarian stimulation and egg extraction, while the 1-2 resulting embryos are transferred into the recipient mother’s uterus.
Helping couples talk about it
Psychology specialists can help you navigate through the decisions and overall process. Infertility is not an identity, but a medical condition – seeking the help of a licensed professional can help couples reconnect and normalize the experience of using a donor to conceive.
Donor egg offers hope
Whichever side of thirty you’re on, chances are you’ve thought about motherhood. Biologically speaking, age is more than “just a number” when considering your ability to naturally get pregnant. The good news is there are successful options available to you – like using frozen donor eggs – that are quickly becoming the norm and more affordable than ever.