Increasingly, women are finding themselves wishing to conceive later in life. This can be challenging, especially because of the reduction in fertility that occurs as women reach their 40s. Indeed, many women in this age group will simply be unable to have a baby in the natural way.
Why does fertility decline with age?
Women are born with a fixed store of eggs in the ovaries which begins to deplete in number right from early life. Eventually, the store of eggs (the ‘ovarian reserve’) runs down leading to the menopause, which signals the end of a woman's fertile life. However, even in the years preceding the menopause her ovarian reserve is declining so markedly that cycles become irregular and fertility much less predictable. Even those eggs which are released from the ovaries might not be as good as they once were. Studies in recent years have shown beyond doubt that the chromosome arrangements of many eggs (and the embryos which they form) are not perfectly correct, and that this problem increases as we get older
How can we help?
Our Fertility for the Over-40s programme brings together four established techniques that together have been shown to help obtain good quality eggs when the odds are against it.
If you are over 40 and would like to understand more about your fertility, the first step would be to arrange a Fertility MOT. This includes a pelvic ultrasound scan to check for polyps, fibroids and cysts and an Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) blood test which will give an idea about your ovarian reserve. After the tests, your results will be discussed alongside your medical history during a consultation with a fertility specialist. At this point the specialist will be able to discuss your fertility and the best treatment options for you.
Success rates over 40
The chances of conception over 40 for many may still be quite good. Indeed, the number of women over 40 having a baby has risen four-fold in the past 30 years - and in Britain births to women over 35 now represent one in five of all babies born. The wish to have a baby is a strong emotion, whatever the particular circumstances; some might be single women hoping to fulfil a lifelong desire, and some might be looking to complete a family which they started several years ago.
But it's a fact that many women in this age group have difficulty conceiving spontaneously, and are turning more and more to fertility treatment. They are not alone. In the UK around one in three of all women having fertility treatments were aged 38 or over. Depending on the results of your tests, a fertility specialist will be able to advise you on your treatment options. All of these options vary in success for women over 40 and your doctor can discuss with you what treatment will lead to the most successful outcome for you.