What is infertility?
Pregnancy rates and age
Why do success rates decline with age? There’s no simple answer, but it seems likely that the most important reason is the quality of the egg – and therefore the quality of the embryo after fertilisation.
Studies analysing the genetic and chromosome make-up of eggs and embryos have consistently found that the rate of defects increases with age. This is most clearly illustrated in the increasing risk of Down’s syndrome seen in older mothers.
Down’s syndrome is a condition caused only by an abnormality in which there are three copies of chromosome 21, not two as there ought to be. In some rare cases the result is an inherited disease or abnormality, in others these chromosomal defects prevent the embryo from implanting in the uterus (whether in natural or assisted conception).
As seen in the graph below, the rate of chromosome abnormality increases as the implantation rate decreases.
It is for these reasons that embryo screening for chromosome abnormalities has become more and more important, especially in women of an older maternal age. The London Women's Clinic is able to provide a full range of embryo screening services.