Age and IVF success

A common misconception (no pun intended!) is that IVF can help you have a baby if you put off starting a family until later in life. After all, movie stars seem to have no problems having babies in their forties. Well, in many cases these women use eggs donated by younger women to conceive, although such a fact isn't usually publicised. (I cover donor conception in Chapter 13.)

Age is one of the most important factors in determining your chance of having a baby with IVF. In Chapter 8 I show you exactly how age affects your IVF treatment, but the long and the short of it is that your odds of having a successful pregnancy decrease dramatically as you approach age 40.

Data from Australia and New Zealand show that:

^ The average age of women who have IVF is 35 years.

^ Women under the age of 30 have a 26 per cent chance of having a baby after one IVF cycle.

^ Women over the age of 40 have only a 6 per cent chance of having a baby after one IVF cycle.

Taken together, the best advice if you're contemplating IVF is to get started now.

Reasons for delaying childbearing

In a study at a Melbourne-based IVF clinic, 152 women aged over 35 who were about to start IVF treatment completed a survey about their reasons for delaying childbearing. The women's average age was 38.9 years and the mean length of their current relationship was 7.5 years. From a list of ten reasons they were asked to endorse all those that applied to them. The five most commonly stated reasons for delaying childbearing were

^ I wanted children earlier but I was not in a relationship. (50 per cent)

^ We wanted to be financially secure before having a family. (32 per cent)

^ I haven't been interested in having children until recently. (26 per cent)

^ I wanted to pursue my career before having a family. (19 per cent)

^ I was unaware that my chance of having children is age-related. (18 per cent)

Not having a partner is obviously a reason beyond personal control, but the women who gave this reason had been in their current relationship for five years on average. Lack of awareness of the impact of age on fertility may have contributed to the other common reasons for delaying childbearing.

The take-home message here is that if you meet your partner later in life and you want to have children, don't wait too long; and if you're approaching 35 and your life ambitions include having a family, put baby making at the top of the list!

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