Survey calls for IVF to be banned for women over the age of 40.

Shauna Anderson.



IVF should be banned for women over the age of 40.

Wow – there it is. What a call. What a controversial statement.

What a kick in the guts for anyone with that blinding, aching, empty need for a baby or who is emotionally and mentally exhausted from the strain of IVF.

But the call has been made now, in the UK at least, for IVF to be formally unavailable for women once they are past their “natural child-bearing years”.

It’s come off the back of a survey, which shows that almost three-quarters of people said they did not think women should receive IVF to help them conceive beyond their natural childbearing years.

One-quarter believe women should stop trying to bring babies into the world past the age of 40. They feel that the age of 43 should be the cut-off for men.

Two-thirds of those surveyed said they thought children born to women aged 50 to 55 were negatively affected by having an older mother. This figure rose to 73 per cent of over-50s surveyed. Some 52 per cent said women who are 50 can not be a good parent for a child through to adulthood.

Is it selfish to want kids after the age of 40? Yes, it is. But surely it’s selfish as well to want kids at any age. Look at the reasons any of us want children:

‘Having a baby is a basic human need’.

To fulfill my life. To have someone to love. To continue my family name. As an expression of the love my partner and I feel for each other. Because I always wanted to have kids.

In my book? They’re all pretty selfish reasons. But that doesn’t make them wrong either. So rather than sinking into judgement and confusion and value-laden statements, let’s focus on facts.

And the facts are:

1. Despite the media hype, despite the incessant parade of celebrity after celebrity falling pregnant after the age of 40 – IVF is an incredibly tough process.


2. Over 40, the risks are high – you are more likely to have an abnormal pregnancy, miscarriage is more common and the risk of Down Syndrome is higher. According to Mianna Lotz writing on The Conversation, the “live delivery” rate per IVF cycle is about 20 to 26 per cent for women aged 30 to 34 years; those figures decrease dramatically to between 1 and 2.4 per cent per cycle for women aged over 44 years.

In fact, according to Professor Peter Illingworth from IVF Australia, IVF success rates by the time a woman is 45 are close to zero.

So if the chances of a woman conceiving after 40 are so low anyway, why are people bothering to call for a ban?

IVF success rates by the time a woman is 45 are close to zero.

Well, let’s go back to the survey and find out.

According to 73 per cent of the respondents, ‘good mothers’ are ‘young’. And that’s where the problem lies. This is not about a potential drain on the public health system. It’s not about concerns over the mothers’ health during pregnancy. It’s nothing financial, medical or ethical at all.

The main reasons people are concerned about IVF access over 40 is because they think older equates to worse mother.

But this mental correlation people make between “good mothers” and youth (and the associated assumption that an older parent will not be there for a teenager, nor around for their grandkids),  doesn’t take into account one over-riding factor that I believe makes for a good parent: love.

And surely THAT is the overwhelming factor that we should consider when we have a baby.

If we can love that baby then, really, isn’t that enough?

Whatever age we are.

What do you think? Should Australia impose an age limit on IVF?