14% more babies born to women over the age of 35 since the 1980s
British couples are waiting longer than ever before trying to have their children, and by the time they choose to start a family, it may become a lot more challenging. Women’s fertility is age related and the decline speeds up from the mid-thirties onwards 1, making it harder to conceive and give birth to a healthy baby. In addition to difficulty conceiving, couples who choose to conceive after the age of 35 are often found to face multiple complications – these include risks of miscarriage and the risk of chromosomal disorders to the baby 2.
In the UK the trend towards delaying childbirth has been on the rise for the past four decades. Government statistics show that in the 1980s, only 6% of pregnancies occurred over the age of 35, but this number has tripled to a whopping 20% in 2010 and is still continuing to increase 3. The UK population is predicted to grow for the foreseeable future because of migration, yet a decrease in overall births is projected 4
Benjamin Abramov, Medical Director at GENNET City Fertility explains why there is a trend towards delaying parenthood.
“Women wish to pursue higher education, careers or other self-fulfilling paths before thinking about having a baby. What is expected of women, whether by their parents, families, spouses or society in general may play an important role too. The choices women make are not easy as these ambitions collide at times with the desire to establish long term relationships and to start a family.” He explains the options for those worried about having children later in life. While men may have a good idea about their ability to father children based on a simple semen analysis, when it comes to women the only true way you can test your fertility is to try conceive. Ovarian reserve tests such as the AMH blood test and follicle count using ultra-sound have a low predictive value when it comes to chances of natural conception. While there are women who will opt to become single mothers, there are many who find this route difficult to take due to a variety of considerations and concerns. Egg freezing using the new vitrification technique seems to offer women in their early to mid-thirties a way to ‘suspend their eggs in time’. To a degree they may be able to minimise the risks that postponing parenthood has on their ability to have children”.
Although men’s ability to father children is hardly affected by age it appears that, at least in the western world, male sub-fertility cases are on the increase. The contributing factors to this phenomenon are not well understood. Yet, there have been a number of links to environmental and life style factors such as certain pollutants, and radiation emitted from electronic devices.
The increasing number of women facing age related fertility challenges and the increase in male factor sub-fertility translate into a 50-fold increase in the annual number of IVF procedures performed in the US since 1985, half of which are currently performed on women over the age of 35. The situation in the UK is not that different.
Dr. Benjamin Abramov of GENNET City Fertility has spent the past decade working for a number of clinics in Britain and abroad. He deals with couples, as well as single men and women by studying each case individually to provide the best and most efficient solution catered to each patient. “Choosing to have fertility treatment means entrusting us with your most precious dream’’ he says, ‘’we will therefore leave no stone unturned to deliver the best approach to the fertility challenges you face’’.
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a very common procedure offered by fertility clinics. It involves carrying out a fertilisation process in a controlled lab environment to facilitate conception. IVF is often chosen in cases of women in the older reproductive age group who suffer with long standing sub-fertility.
The success rate of IVF treatment cycles in such cases can be compromised by the fact that many of the embryos produced in older women have an abnormal make-up of chromosomes. Such embryos fail to implant or sadly end up with a miscarriage. Rarely, implantation of an abnormal embryo leads to the birth of a child with severe disability. GENNET City Fertility highlight several treatment options to increase the implantation rate and to avoid the risk of conception with a baby with severe health issues. Patients may opt for pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS) or pre-implantation genetic diagnosis of a known mutation (PGD), to reduce the risk of chromosome abnormalities or to predict and prevent any chromosomal, genetic and hereditary disorders.