Nobody is Infertile: Hope after 50

As much as age affects infertility, did you know that there are still hopes to get pregnant for women who are in their 50s? I believe that nobody is infertile. There is always hope to get pregnant and have a healthy baby at an advanced maternal age.

Many of you might wonder how is it possible for a woman in her 50s and above to get pregnant. Well, the uterus remains completely functional in most women of advanced age. Most infertility problems in women are due to germ cell deterioration. It is a condition related to ageing. Their ovarian reserve or eggs reduce when they turn 40. For women above 50 to conceive, they need an egg donor. The donor egg will be combined with the husband’s sperm to create an embryo. The doctor will then implant the embryo in the woman’s womb.

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Getting Pregnant at 52

My oldest patient was 52. She had tried fertility treatments in four different countries before she came to meet me for consultations. I was glad that the treatment went well and that she successfully got pregnant. Even though there isn’t a definite formula to make a fertility treatment successful, I would say that the latest advancements in fertility treatments and technology boost the chances of pregnancy. Thus, it is important to me as a fertility specialist to keep myself updated with the latest developments in procedures and technologies in fertility science. Furthermore, having a good lab that adheres to the highest standards and measures ensures the best chances of creating and growing embryos to facilitate successful pregnancies.

Additional Tests to Facilitate the Success of IVF

Couples who are in their 40s and 50s are usually advised to undergo IVF treatment to conceive. There are a few additional procedures done on top of IVF treatments to increase the success rate of the treatments. Procedures such as Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGT), ensure that the best embryo can be selected for transfer, meanwhile, other tests like Endometrial Receptivity Analysis (ERA/MIRA) help doctors to determine the best time to transfer the embryo into the womb.

Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGT)

Preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) is used to choose an embryo that is free of any chromosomal abnormalities or genetic problems. The healthy embryo will then be transferred to the womb. This procedure may increase the chances of a successful IVF as it reduces the risks of miscarriages.

Endometrial Receptivity Analysis or Micro-RNA Based Receptivity Analysis (ERA/MIRA)

ERA / MIRA determines the best time to transfer the embryo. The embryos shall be transferred at an optimal time during IVF to increase the success rate of the treatment. Usually, the window for implantation will be accurately predicted by referring to the number of days after ovulation. However, for some women, it is hard to predict the window for implantation. Thus, they will be recommended to take this test so that the doctor can implant the embryo at the optimal time.

These additional tests for IVF have significantly contributed to the decrease in miscarriages. Thus, the success rate of pregnancy through IVF is almost 60% now compared to 20% previously

Advanced-age pregnancy is not for everyone.

Although nobody is infertile and there is a possibility to get pregnant after the 50s, advanced-age pregnancy is not advisable for everyone. Just because there are chances for pregnancy success does not mean you have to opt for it. Ethically, doctors must first confirm if you are healthy enough to carry a child. If not, you will be having difficulties during pregnancy, and this will be creating other health problems or complications for you.

Understanding the Risks of Getting Pregnant After 40

Pregnancy at an advanced age might not be an easy journey for most of the women. It comes with several risks. Therefore, it is best to know the risks before you plan to conceive.

Longer time to get pregnant
The rough egg count for a woman is around 300 000 – 500 000 when she reaches puberty. It will slowly decrease as you age. When you reach your mid-30s, the quality and quantity of eggs will slowly decrease. You may face infertility issues or problems. This can delay the pregnancy.

Higher Risks of Babies Born Prematurely
Women getting pregnant at an older age have higher chances of delivering premature babies. These babies may suffer from health complications such as breathing problems or heart problems.

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Miscarriages may occur when the embryo has abnormal chromosomes or if the uterus is not receptive to the embryo. Taking additional tests during the IVF treatment can help to reduce risks of miscarriages.

The Earlier the Better

When it comes to fertility, the fundamental message is –don’t wait until it becomes a challenge. The older you are, your chances of getting pregnant decrease. On top of that, it increases the possibility of having an abnormal child. If for some reason, you are not ready to have children in your 20s or even 30s, you can still ensure your chances of having a healthy embryo via egg freezing. It is a method that enables you to delay your pregnancy. Your eggs are extracted, frozen, and stored for future use. Later when you are ready to have children, you may use your preserved eggs to get pregnant via infertility treatments such as IUI or IVF.

Dealing with Fertility Problems Earlier

I often stress the need to deal with fertility problems as soon as the warning signs are apparent. Couples should see a fertility specialist after six to twelve months of trying but failing to conceive. Nobody is infertile. Some people need a little help. Fertility is a potentially treatable problem. There are many possible causes for infertility problems. During consultations, the fertility doctor will conduct necessary tests to understand your fertility issues. Upon diagnosing and getting a clear understanding of your fertility issues, they will suggest personalized treatment plans that may work for you. Some of the tests that are commonly done during fertility consultations are as follows:

Transvaginal ultrasound
This ultrasound checks fertility potential. The doctor will insert an ultrasound “wand” into the vagina, closer to the pelvic organs. It uses sound waves to check the images of the ovaries and uterus for any possible problems. After scanning, the doctor will suggest suitable treatments.

Hormonal Tests
This test monitors hormone levels affecting your fertility. You will be asked to do a blood test to check the follicle-stimulating hormone levels (FSH). A high level of FSH indicates low fertility. You might also be asked to take the test to check for Anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) in your body. These hormonal tests help the doctor to diagnose menstrual disorders and check your ovarian reserve. If the hormone level is low, it may indicate that you have lesser eggs and it may cause trouble for you to get pregnant.

Fallopian Tube Assessment
This assessment examines any swellings in the walls of the uterus and blockages in the fallopian tube. The doctor will use X-rays and special dyes to detect scar tissues or growths like fibroids that block the chances of pregnancy.

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Semen analysis
It is significant to conduct a male fertility assessment to check the health and sperm quality of your male partner. The semen analysis checks the number of sperms released, their shapes, and their mobility. Low sperm count, abnormally-shaped sperms, and reduced sperm motility may cause male infertility. These conditions can cause trouble to get pregnant.

Shifting Perceptions

The downside is everything comes with a dollar sign. It is the only limiting factor when it comes to infertility. It is sad because there are so many things we can do to help increase the success rate of pregnancy. However, the constraint often is the couple’s financial status. The problem is that infertility is generally not considered a medical problem. Instead, it is seen more as a social issue. It may not be a life-or-death case, but infertility is a long-term condition. People can be childless for life, and it can contribute to mental and emotional health problems. It can also cause marriage breakdowns and career failures. There needs to be a shift in how infertility is perceived overall by the medical fraternity and, especially, insurance companies. It should be treated as a chronic disease. Moreover, insurance policies should allocate a certain amount for fertility treatments.

Making Dreams Come True

My career goal has remained the same since I specialised in fertility treatment and investigation. It has always been about helping as many couples as possible to be blessed with children. Throughout my journey as a fertility doctor, I have witnessed miracles and many beautiful moments. My team and I share the patients’ feeling of overwhelming happiness when they finally get pregnant after trying for many years. Watching them being blessed with a bundle of joy is truly a special moment for us. There are ways to make your parenthood dream come true even at an advanced maternal age. So, do not lose hope and opt for fertility treatments that are suitable for you. Remember, that nobody is infertile and there is always a way to build your dream family.

Find out how you can get ready for IVF here : Let’s Get Ready for IVF

You are sure to have many questions. In addressing infertility, the sooner you have them answered, the better. Do list them down and call 03-80699333 (TMC Fertility & Women’s Specialist Centre, Puchong) or +6-03-62871000 (Thomson Hospital, Kota Damansara) or email ask@drnavdeepfertility.com to make an appointment to consult with Dr Navdeep.