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How you can conceive at 40

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Monday, February 25, 2008 | 0 comments

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Here are some of the methods that can help older women conceive - and the chances of success...

Natural conception

It's harder to conceive naturally after 35, but it's by no means impossible. You can improve your chances by having sex mid-cycle to coincide with your most fertile time. (Chemists stock testing kits that reveal when you ovulate.) You should also be a healthy weight, exercise and take a folic acid supplement.


Pros: No medical intervention.

Cons: You may waste time better spent trying fertility treatments.

Your Chances: "Over 40, your chances of conceiving naturally are only 20 per cent" says Dr Lockwood.

"This is even lower if you've had cancer treatment. Chemo adds 10 years to your reproductive age."

Fertility drugs

Drugs such as Clomid are used to increase egg production, but aren't usually offered to women in their late 30s or 40s as they don't improve egg quality.

Pros: It's safe, cheap and easy to administer.

Cons: The drug can make cervical mucus hostile to sperm and impair egg implantation.

Your Chances: "If you are not producing enough eggs - say, due to polycystic ovary syndrome - your chances are reasonable," says Dr Lockwood. "But Clomid isn't very good for age-related infertility as the real issue is egg quality."


Fertility drugs increase your egg production. The eggs are then removed and sperm is added in a test tube. Fertilised embryos are then put back into the womb.

Pros: It can work where other treatments fail.

Cons: It's timeconsuming and expensive (between £2,000-£4,000).

The egg extraction process can be painful and fertility drugs can cause PMS-like symptoms.

Your Chances: Dr Lockwood says: "IVF for women over 40 is disappointing if it uses the woman's own eggs. Pregnancy rates are lower and miscarriage rates are higher.

"A woman over 40 has only half the chance of a live birth after IVF compared to a woman under 38. And if you've had chemo your chances are less than 10 per cent."

Donor eggs

If your eggs aren't viable, you could use a donor's.

Pros: You carry the baby.

Cons: The baby isn't related to you biologically, and you still have to go through costly, stressful IVF.

Your Chances: "Excellent," says Dr Lockwood. "The age of the donor determines the success rate.

However, patients receiving donor eggs are required to take hormone replacement therapy (HRT), so cancer survivors will have to wait up to five years following their all-clear."

This is because HRT may increase the risk of hormone-related cancers.

Ovarian tissue Cryo-preservation

Kylie is rumoured to have undergone this procedure, which aims to preserve the fertility of women needing cancer treatment.

A sliver of ovary is removed and frozen then it's later put back inside the patient in the hope that some of her eggs will have been preserved.

Pros: It gives fertility hope to women battling cancer.

Cons: It's a very new and experimental procedure.

Your Chances: "So far only two babies have been born worldwide from slices of ovary that were retransplanted back after chemo," says Dr Lockwood. "But there are hopes for it in the future."

Egg freezing

Your eggs can be frozen - preferably before you are 35 - to be used at a later date. This is offered on the NHS to patients having cancer treatment, and women can pay to do it as a lifestyle choice.

When you want to conceive, the eggs are mixed with your partner's sperm then planted in your womb.

Pros: This procedure is a more realistic chance for older women to conceive, and gives you greater control over your fertility.

Cons: It's invasive, expensive (prices start at £2,000) and doesn't guarantee a pregnancy.

Your Chances: "Egg freezing before cancer treatment does offer a realistic chance of pregnancy, especially if the woman is young," says Dr Lockwood. "But after 38 it's less successful simply because the quality of eggs deteriorates."

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About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost that precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted that there will be no more babies in our house.

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