There’s one reason, and one reason alone to explain why getting pregnant after the age of 40 is so difficult to achieve, and it’s all about the eggs; specifically the quantity and the quality, both of which are greatly diminished by mid-life.
According to Dr David Wilkinson, an Infertility Specialist and Medical Director at City Fertility in Melbourne, it’s a reality that is “pretty depressing”.
“Even though an egg has never been released there’s a constant turnover of eggs in the ovaries from puberty to the menopause – menopause occurs when all the eggs have gone essentially – there’s a decreasing number of eggs.”
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Wilkinson says women are born with around two million eggs, but by the time we reach puberty there are just 300,000. By the age of 40, there are very few left. By 45, there could be none left at all. It’s here that fertility services come in.
And while falling pregnant at 60 is not something Wilkinson and his colleagues recommend, thanks to advances in technology, it’s now sometimes possible.
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“If you start trying for the first time at 40, rather than waiting for three or six months to get some basic tests done I’d probably do the basic investigations straight away to make sure we’re not missing anything. A sperm test for the male, maybe a check of egg reserve on the female side and I certainly wouldn’t recommend trying for a year or two years because IVF success rates go down sadly too beyond 40,” Wilkinson tells Mamamia, adding that while the eggs do age, the uterus doesn’t, which is why older women have so much success when they use donor eggs.
“If you take a donor egg from a woman in her twenties and put it in the uterus of somebody who’s in her fifties or forties anyway, the pregnancy rates are just about the same,” he says.