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Age, fertility and why IVF does not guarantee a baby

Health tips 12 Oct 2020
Fertility 1000

If you’re thinking about having a baby now or in coming years, it’s worth knowing how your fertility changes over time.

A survey of 700 Australians by Your Fertility found only one in three people knew a woman’s fertility starts to decline from around the age of 30. And most thought IVF was more successful than it is.

So, what is your chance of conceiving naturally or with fertility treatment at different ages?

Natural conception

Women younger than 30 have about a 20 per cent chance of getting pregnant each month, but this drops to about a 5 per cent chance by age 40.

A man’s age is also relevant. Research shows that across the population, men younger than 40 have a better chance of having a child than older men.

A man’s age also affects how long it takes to conceive. One study found that if a 25-year-old woman partners a man who is also younger than 25, it takes an average of five months to get pregnant. If her male partner is older than 40, it takes around two years.

IVF success rates

While reproductive medicine has come a long way, research shows only about half of all people who try IVF end up having a baby as a result. The latest data from IVF clinics in Australia and New Zealand shows the chance of having a baby after one IVF attempt is:

  • 27% for women aged 30-34
  • 17% for women aged 35-39
  • 5% for women aged 40-44

For women aged over 45 there’s almost zero chance. However, the data shows that when women aged 40 to 44 use eggs donated from a younger woman, the chance of a baby per IVF cycle increases to 21 per cent.

What about egg freezing?

Egg freezing is on the rise. The latest data from the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority shows 3,124 women had eggs in storage in Victoria at the end of last year – a 30 per cent jump from 2018.

However, just like IVF, egg freezing doesn’t guarantee a baby. To have an 80 per cent chance of a baby from frozen eggs, researchers estimate that a 36-year-old woman needs to freeze at least 17 eggs. This is likely to require two cycles of hormone stimulation costing about $16,000-$20,000.

Other ways to improve your fertility

Regardless of your age, there are many ways to improve your fertility. Try to maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly and avoid smoking. These three things will improve your chance of conceiving a healthy baby.

For more evidence-based information about female and male fertility, visit yourfertility.org.au.