“When are you going to have a baby?”
Chances are you will hear that question once – if not numerous times – during what is considered to be your “childbearing years.” And if you’re like many women in their late 30s and 40s who haven’t had a child, or would like to have another one in the future, the answer to this question can be worrisome as the difficulty of conceiving increases with age. But there’s good news.
According to preliminary data for birth rates recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women 35 and older are reportedly having more children. As a matter of fact, the number of babies born to women in their 30s and 40s increased by one percent in 2013, with 10.5 births per 1,000 women between 40 and 44 – the group’s highest rate since 1966. For women over 45, the rate grew to 0.8 births per 1,000 women from 0.7 in 2012, a seven percent increase in the total number of births for this faction.
A number of news outlets are reporting that these results can be attributed to the use of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other reproductive technology. But Dr. Mark V. Sauer, Program Director of the Center for Women’s Reproductive Care (CWRC) and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, cautions women who are in this age group and trying to conceive not to read too much into the CDC’s report.
“…the biology of the older egg cannot be manipulated. So I think the ‘bump up’ in rates noted in this SART data reflects a ‘selection bias’ of older women who get embryo transfers only if they produce blastocysts, or an embryo that has advanced to the five- or six-day stage (most older patients do not produce blastocysts, and therefore, do not have an embryo transfer and are not included in the stats).”
“What people should basically understand is that these very small fluctuations are not necessarily statistically significant and are more likely to reflect selection bias than methodological improvements,” says Dr. Sauer. “For instance, in reviewing Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) SART/CDC data over the past 26 years of reporting, very little change in delivery rates per embryo transfer is noted for women over the age of 40, in general. This is in striking contrast to the vast improvements noted in younger women (less than 35-years-old) or recipients of donor eggs (egg donors are typically in their 20s).”
What led to the results?
So what contributed to the increase of births for this demographic? Dr. Sauer says while a percentage of the results can be attributed to “improvements in laboratory cultures, imaging, medications, transfer techniques, and such, the biology of the older egg cannot be manipulated. So I think the ‘bump up’ in rates noted in this SART data reflects a ‘selection bias’ of older women who get embryo transfers only if they produce blastocysts, or an embryo that has advanced to the five- or six-day stage (most older patients do not produce blastocysts, and therefore, do not have an embryo transfer and are not included in the stats),” he says.
If you’re in this age group and are having trouble conceiving, look for proven results. At CWRC, we have achieved success rates among both younger and older women with IVF treatment – for women under 40-years-old, successful deliveries occur for 33 percent of patients ages 35-37 and 25 percent of patients ages 38-40. With no treatment, the chances of these women having a baby would have been between 0.05 percent and 4 percent, at the most.
CWRC can help
We have a history of making treatment accessible to a wider population of patients, including even the most challenging cases. That means the odds for you, if you are not one of those challenging cases, are even higher. Even if you are, we have achieved excellent birth rates in assisted reproductive technology for more than a decade. In fact, more than 8,000 babies have been born as a result of IVF treatment at the Center and patients with diverse and difficult histories of infertility are now proud mothers, thanks to our mission.
There are many different types of treatments, of course. The vast majority of couples receive less aggressive treatments, such as education about timing and ovulation induction with fertility drugs. These are successful in about 80 percent of cases. If that doesn’t work, we can then try more aggressive therapies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) or egg/sperm donation, and though most women need more than one attempt, the majority end up with a baby eventually.