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Fertility After Age 40 - IVF in the 40s

At age 40 and above women have reduced fertility potential as compared to that seen in younger women. They also have substantially lower success rates with fertility treatments including in vitro fertilization (IVF).

There is nothing special about "40" as far as an age is concerned. However, perhaps because we have five fingers on our hands we tend to think in fives and tens. Therefore, it seems that for women the ages 35 and 40 are somehow a big deal.

When couples are trying on their own to get pregnant the fertility issue that reduces chances for success is related to the quality of the eggs. With treatments such as IVF, the issue that holds back success potential is both egg quality and egg quantity.

Age Limits for IVF Treatments

  • Most US IVF clinics have an upper age limit for allowing IVF treatment using "own eggs"of somewhere between 42 and 45 years of age.
  • Donor eggs are commonly used until age 49 - some programs will do it after age 50

More on age limits for in vitro fertilization

How Does Egg Quality Affect Fertility and IVF?

The quality of the egg is the most critical factor involved in determining the quality of the embryo. With IVF treatment we hope to get multiple embryos can be able to choose the best ones from a group for transfer back to the uterus.

How Does Egg Quantity Affect Fertility and IVF Success Rates?

The quantity of eggs remaining in a woman's ovaries is often referred to as "ovarian reserve".

The quantity of remaining eggs probably does not have a large impact on natural fertility (trying to get pregnant "naturally"). However, when going through a fertility treatment such as IVF, the quantity of eggs remaining influences response to ovarian stimulating medications.

In Vitro Fertilization Success Rate Statistics by Female Age - and After Age 40

  • The charts below illustrate the rate of live births per embryo transfer procedure by the age of the recipient of the embryos.
  • The data shows the impact of advancing female age on IVF success.
  • Although these age and fertility statistics are specifically about IVF success, there is a similar loss in fertility potential with aging in the general "normal fertile" population.

The graphs below are from the 2010 ART Success Rates report published by the CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a US government agency. This report was generated from national data from hundreds of clinics and many thousands of IVF cycles.

Fertility drops with female age
The green line shows IVF success rates using the infertile woman's own eggs
The blue line shows success rates using donor eggs

The graph above illustrates infertility increasing with advancing female age.

  • The decline in live birth success rates by female age beginning at about age 28
  • This curve becomes steeper (egg quantity and egg quality decreases faster) starting at about age 38
  • At age 44 and above there are almost never babies born from IVF using the female's own eggs - the success rate using eggs over age 44 is less than 2% per attempt.

Another point shown here is that there not a substantial decline in success by age of the recipient woman with donor egg IVF.

  • The age of the eggs is very important
  • The age of the uterus carrying the embryos is not important

See details of Dr. Sherbahn's research on recipient age and egg donation success

In Vitro Fertilization Success Statistics from the CDC for Age 40 and Over

IVF success by age CDC graph
Circled in red on this graph for USA national average 2010 IVF live birth rates
Under age 35: Live birth rate per cycle of 41%
Age 41 to 42: Live birth rate of 12%
Age 43 to 44: Live birth rate of 5%

IVF success rates at age 40 and over
This graph zooms in on national average IVF statistics for women over age 40 for 2010
The IVF live birth percentage rate per cycle for each age is highlighted in red
Age 40: Live birth rate of 18%
Age 43: Live birth rate of 6%
Age over 44: Live birth rate of 1%


Age Limits for In Vitro Fertilization

All clinics have some upper age limit after which they will not perform in vitro fertilization with the woman's own eggs.

IVF age limits are not the same at every program.

  • The age limit is somewhere between 42 and 45 at most programs in the US.
  • Most IVF clinics allow a woman to be a recipient of donor eggs through about age 50.

Dark, low quality egg
A dark, low quality egg with an irregular shape from a 41 year old The egg is the ovoid structure in the center surrounded by hundreds of ovarian cumulus cells

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