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In vitro fertilization (IVF) and Age

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In vitro fertilization (IVF) has been a boon for couples who cannot conceive naturally. This article discusses the effect of age on In Vitro Fertilization.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Obinna Ugwuoke

Published At February 5, 2024
Reviewed AtMarch 11, 2024

What Is In Vitro Fertilization?

Many factors govern the person's ability to conceive and continue the pregnancy until the full term. One of the most significant factors is age. Age plays a crucial role in both natural and artificial reproductive techniques like In vitro fertilization (IVF).

The procedure for IVF includes:

  • Ovulation stimulation.

  • Egg retrieval.

  • Sperm collection.

  • Fertilization.

  • Embryo culture.

  • Embryo selection.

  • Embryo transfer.

  • Luteal phase support.

What Are the Indications of IVF?

The indications of IVF are:

  • Blocked and Damaged Fallopian Tubes- IVF can be an impactful option when a woman's fallopian tubes are blocked or damaged, preventing the natural passage of eggs from the ovaries to the uterus.

  • Male Infertility- IVF can help overcome male fertility concerns, such as low sperm count, poor sperm, and poor mobility of sperm, by directly introducing the sperm to the eggs in the laboratory.

  • Unexplained Infertility- In cases where infertility is unknown, IVF may be recommended as it can bypass potential undiagnosed issues and increase the chances of conception.

  • Endometriosis- Women with endometriosis (a condition in which tissue mimicking the uterine outline rises outside the uterus) benefit from IVF as it helps to conceive even when other therapies become unresponsive.

  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome- IVF can be an option for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS, a condition where multiple minute cysts can be seen in ovaries) who do not respond to other fertility treatments, as it helps control the timing of ovulation.

  • Advanced Maternal Age- Women over 35 whose natural fertility declines may consider IVF to address age-related fertility issues.

  • Ovulation Disorders- IVF can be used when a woman has irregular or absent ovulation, as it allows for controlled ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval.

  • Genetic Disorders- For couples at risk of passing on generic disorders to their offspring, IVF with implantation genetic testing can be used to select the embryos free from those genetic conditions.

  • Recurrent Pregnancy Loss- IVF may be recommended for couples who have experienced recurrent miscarriages as it allows for the screening of embryos for genetic abnormalities.

It is no secret that female fertility is closely related to age; this relationship is often referred to as the biological clock. A woman’s fertility begins to decline as one age, and this decline becomes steeper after age 35. This decline is due to decreased quality and quantity of women's eggs. As women age, the number of eggs in their ovaries decreases, and the remaining eggs are prone to genetic abnormalities. This can result in a higher likelihood of miscarriage and birth defects. Consequently, for women who are pursuing pregnancy through IVF, their age is a critical factor that significantly affects their chance of success.

What Is the Effect of Age on IVF?

The success rate of IVF is influenced by various factors, including the age of the woman undergoing the procedure. Younger women generally have a better chance of IVF success than older women. That is due to the following reasons:

  1. Egg Quantity and Quality- Younger women typically have more high-quality eggs, which is essential for IVF. Higher egg quality is associated with better embryo (the initial stage of cell formation) development and a higher chance of successful implantation (fusion of embryo to uterus).

  2. Response to Ovarian Stimulation- In IVF, women are often given medications to stimulate their ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Younger women tend to respond better to these medications, producing a more significant number of eggs for retrieval.

  3. Implantation and Pregnancy Rates- The likelihood of successful embryo implantation and a healthy pregnancy decreases with age. Older women may experience lower implantation rates and higher rates of miscarriage.

  4. Live Birth Rates- When considering the ultimate goal of IVF, the birth of a healthy baby plays a significant role. Success rates, as measured by live births, are notably lower for women over the age of 35 and decline even further as the women advance in age.

  5. Male Age and IVF- While female age is a critical factor in IVF success, the male partner's age also has some influence. Research suggests that older men have a slightly higher risk of fertility problems and a higher chance of passing genetic abnormalities to their offspring. However, the impact of male age on IVF success is generally less pronounced compared to female age.

To put these statistics into perspective, women in their early 30s may have a significantly higher chance of achieving a successful IVF pregnancy compared to women in their late 30s or early 40s. However, it is essential to note that each person's situation is unique, and other factors, such as overall health and specific infertility issues, also play a role.

What Can Be the Other Options for Conception in Older Women?

For older women who are considering IVF, it is important to be aware of the challenges they may face and the options available to them.

  1. Egg Donation- For women with minimal ovarian reserve or compromised egg quality due to age, utilizing the eggs from the donor is a viable option. This involves using eggs from a younger, usually anonymous donor and fertilizing them with the partner's or the donor's sperm. Success rates with egg donation are generally higher than with a woman's eggs, as the donor comes from a younger source.

  2. Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGT)- PGT is a technique used in IVF to screen embryos for genetic abnormalities before implantation. It can be especially beneficial for older women, as it increases the chances of selecting a generically healthy embryo.

  3. Consideration of Lifestyle Factors- It is crucial for women of all ages to maintain good health habits when pursuing IVF. A healthy and active life, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and managing stress, can positively impact fertility and IVF success.

  4. The Reproductive Specialist- When age is a concern, seeking guidance from a reproductive specialist is essential. A fertility specialist can thoroughly evaluate recommended appropriate tests and develop a personalized plan tailored to the individual's circumstances.


In the world of fertility treatments, age is a crucial concern that considerably affects the success of IVF. It is essential for couples to be aware of the challenges associated with age-related fertility decline and to explore their options when considering IVF. While age may pose challenges, advances in reproductive medicine, such as egg donation and preimplantation genetic testing, offer hope to those seeking to build their families. The decision to pursue IVF should be made with the guidance of a qualified fertility expert, taking into account both the biological and emotional aspects of the journey towards parenthood. Age may be a factor, but with guidance, couples can still achieve their dream of having a child.

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Dr. Obinna Ugwuoke
Dr. Obinna Ugwuoke

Obstetrics and Gynecology


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