It’s no secret that IVF success relies heavily on maternal age. The younger the woman, the higher her chances of getting pregnant via in-vitro fertilisation. Which is why when a 70-year-old woman from Gujarat gave birth with the help of IVF a few months ago, sentiments of shock and awe were abound.
Yes, you read that right. A septuagenerian in Kutch gave birth to her first child, healthy son born without any genetic anomalies or deformities, through IVF in September of this. While the lion’s share of the credit for this miracle can given to medical science, this medical marvel was also possible in Jiveben Valabhai Rabari’s case because she had no co-morbidities.
As astounding as this IVF success is, it doesn’t take away from the fact that a woman’s age really is of the utmost importance in a healthy pregnancy. To help you understand what happens when you a delay a pregnancy, we invited Dr. Hyma Hebbatam—who has been a fertility specialist at Baby’s Test Tube Baby Centre in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh since 1998—to shed some light on why maternal age dictates your chances of IVF success.
Maternal age matters in IVF. Here’s why
“Age and ovarian reserve are interrelated. So as the age increases, the ovarian reserve decreases and the quality of oocytes also deteriorates,” explains Dr Hyma
Talking about seeking medical aid for conception, Dr Hyma says that if you have been trying for a while and haven’t been able to get pregnant naturally before 30 years—then you should visit a fertility specialist to know if everything is fine or not and get a few basic tests done.
Wondering then why some women can conceive at an advanced age, while others can’t? Well, here’s what the doctor has to say
“Everything depends on the quality of oocytes and quality of sperm,” stresses Dr Hyma. “For example, if there is a tubal problem—which is a mechanical issue rather than being related to age—it’s easy to conceive when it is resolved. When there is a bilateral tubal block, IVF is the best solution,” she explains.
For women without such conditions, who have been trying to conceive for a while and are in their 30s or 40s, the primary factor that determines success is the quality of oocytes—which is dictated by your lifestyle.
“Ovarian reserve deteriorates faster in women who are obese, so lifestyle is a big factor when it comes to reproductive health,” she explains. “Stress, eating habits, working night shifts etc, all this determines the quality of the oocytes,” Dr Hyma adds.
Stressing on the impact of age on IVF success, Dr Hyma suggests that the rate of taking home a healthy baby—which is usually between 30% to 40%—is much lower for women above the age of 35.
Getting pregnant at an advanced age is possible—but there’s a catch
In the last few decades, medical science has made a whole lot of things possible—including getting pregnant in your 40s and 50s, and even after menopause. “Yes, women can get pregnant after menopause—but only with donor eggs,” explains Dr. Hyma.
That said, the older you are the higher your risk of other problems. Explains the expert: “I don’t like to suggest any ART treatments to women after 45, because they become very prone to PIH and other risk factors. Women should try to complete a pregnancy before 45.”
“All these options are and will be available, so instead of waiting till the last minute, couples should come forward and seek them before they reach an advanced age so that they don’t have any problems post birth,” says Dr Hyma. “The morbidity and mortality risk is too high after the age of 45 for women, they should much rather go for adoption,” she adds.
Dr. Hyma also points out the obvious: the older you are, the more difficult it will be for you to take care of your baby. “Parents should be fit enough for at least 15 to 20 years after birth to take care of the children.”
In the end, Dr. Hyma wants you to remember…
“You shouldn’t just jump straight into IVF in order conceive; but you shouldn’t also delay seeking help for unnecessary reasons. If there is a proper indication, it’s better to get IVF done as and when your doctor advises it. But don’t get it done just because you are in a hurry and want to get pregnant in the next six months,” she concludes.
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