The number of women over 40 having a baby has risen four-fold in the past 30 years – and in the UK for instance, births to women over 35 now represent one in five of all babies born. So, what about IVF at 50 – is there a best clinic for over 50 and should IVF over 50 be offered to women?
IVF at 50
Let us start with the facts. Biologically speaking, you are born with all the eggs you will ever have. Once you start menstruating you will generally lose a mature egg each cycle and your overall egg count will decrease dramatically year on year until menopause. In fact, it is estimated that the average woman has just 1,000 oocytes (also called egg cells) by the time she reaches age 51. This is a drastic drop from 500,000 during puberty and 25,000 in her mid-30s.
Getting pregnant with fewer egg cells is not impossible, but it may have an impact on your ability to get pregnant naturally. Egg quality also decreases with age, which can make conception difficult or increase the risk of chromosomal abnormalities, which can make early pregnancy loss more likely.
Therefore, IVF for older woman is not impossible but as we age this possibility does tend to get smaller and smaller.
Looking After Your Fertility
IVF at 50 is not impossible but you do need to ensure that you are fertility fit in order to give yourself the best chance of having a successful IVF procedure. If you are above the age of 50 and are considering IVF these tips can help maintain a healthy body;
- Get A Fertility Appraisal
If you are aged over 50 and are considering trying to get pregnant you should arrange for a fertility appraisal from a specialist medic. Baseline scans and tests will demonstrate your level of fertility fitness and you will be able to discuss options available to you. The chances of you being able to use your own eggs will be slim but your medical practitioner will advise you what next steps might be appropriate.
- Eat Healthy
When a woman in her 20s or 30s plans to start a family, she is told to eat healthy foods, exercise, and follow a healthy lifestyle. It is no different for women in their 50’s. Conceiving at this age is exceptionally difficult, therefore it is imperative that you need to watch your health if you are planning to get pregnant. Make sure that you eat healthy foods, get enough exercise, and rest.
- Quit Smoking
If you are planning to get pregnant in your 50s and you smoke and/or drink – don’t! Smoking, drinking, or drug use can have a negative effect on your chances of having a healthy pregnancy.
- How Old is Too Old?
How old is too old for IVF treatment? The question of whether an upper age limit should be applied across treatments and countries is one which has divided the medical and scientific communities for some time. Should IVF for older woman be limited to women under a certain age because of the lower chances of success and higher chances of medical problems arising from the treatment? Or should we let the patient decide, particularly when they are paying for a specific service?
Advanced reproductive age for women is generally defined as 37/38 and we have seen how, as a woman ages fewer eggs become available for maturation. However, more important than quantity, is a woman’s egg quality — that is, whether her eggs are genetically normal.
The best IVF clinics for over 50 should therefore offer a personalised fertility appraisal for every woman it sees looking for IVF over 50 to ascertain the quality of the eggs she has or whether, in the case of egg donation she is physically (and emotionally) prepared for the procedure.
I am over 50 seeking IVF treatment – where can I go for treatment?
Different countries and clinics have various approaches to offering IVF for older woman and we have provided a snapshot of some of these countries below. Interestingly, in many countries there is no specific legislation which refers to the ‘maximum age of female fertility patients’ but individual clinics have adopted policies which have been suggested by their respective regulatory bodies. The ‘upper age for male fertility patients’ is an entirely different scenario!
While there is no legal upper age limit as yet for IVF treatment in the UK, funded cycles are restricted by age. The NHS is steered by commissioning guidance drawn up by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) which states if funding is available women under 40 should receive three full cycles of IVF whilst women aged 40–42 who meet certain eligibility criteria should receive one full cycle. In the private sector specific clinics publicly state on their websites that they will consider treating women aged up until 55.
There is no law surrounding the maximum age for treatment but the vast majority of clinics will only treat people up to the age of 50 years. Some clinics might accept older female patients up to 52 based on individual circumstances.
The age limit for women undergoing IVF treatment is 48 + 364 days.
45 years of age is the legal maximum age for female IVF patients although clinics can use their discretion with patients up to 55 years as long as they meet certain criteria and have undergone specific tests for “Fitness for Pregnancy” and receive approval from the Ministry of Health.
The age limit for women undergoing IVF treatment is 50 years.
There is no legal age limit for IVF treatment in Ukraine. However, it is generally accepted that no access to treatment is allowed over the age of 51 years due to potential health problems. That said, policies are decided by individual clinics.
There is no legal age limit specified by legislation but each case is decided individually by clinics after a medical review.
The legal age limit for a woman undergoing IVF is 50 although clinics do offer to treat women over this age.
There is no legal age limit specified by legislation but each case is decided individually by clinics.
Most fertility clinics set an age limit, often between 42 and 45 years old, for a woman to use her own eggs. However, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) committee opinion concludes that “limited treatment may be provided after a process of explicit education and examination of values.” A number of clinics therefore do offer IVF for older woman but as you would expect this treatment can be very expensive compared to that offered by providers in Europe.
There is no legal age restriction for couples who want to have IVF treatment in India, but the state-funded Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) advises against implanting embryos in women over 50
There’s no national legislation imposing a maximum age for IVF in Australia, and doctors are divided over whether there should be an age limit. Guidelines in some states, such as South Australia, recommend 50 years as the maximum age
The provision of IVF treatment for women over 50 is arbitrary and countries have different views. Some are restricted by law, others are guided by regulatory guidance. There remains however a number of options available if you are seeking IVF over 50 within Europe and further afield.
IVF at 50 – questions that are often asked
I am 51 – does that mean I can access any IVF treatment?
No, not necessarily, it is advisable to contact the clinic of your choice and ask if it might be possible for an individual fertility appraisal to be undertaken. If it suggests you have viable eggs you may have options. Alternatively, if you are in good health there are a number of clinics that might consider you as a candidate for egg or embryo donation treatment.
I am 52 and live in the UK, would you recommend treatment outside Europe?
This will be both a personal and logistical decision. There are non European countries that will possibly consider you for treatment but do your research beforehand to see what success rates are quoted for your age group and insist on a personal assessment before committing to treatment.
I am 50 but my male partner is 60 does this rule out IVF with my own eggs?
Again, not necessarily but this will depend on the viability of your eggs – legislation around the upper age of the male patient only exists in a limited number of countries.
Is it safe for the older patient to travel for IVF treatment?
It is understandable that any patient who travels for fertility treatment will experience a certain level of anxiety and this is no different for the older patient. We advise any patient, whatever their age, to research your options; speak to the treatment provider(s); ask questions that are relevant to your specific requirements and take your time before deciding on a specific country.
What are my chances of success of IVF with my own eggs over 50?
Clinics assess patients individually and your success rates will depend on a number of factors. You should realise however that the chances are ordinarily low. It is estimated that the odds of getting pregnant using your own eggs is around 1% so its difficult, but not impossible.