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IVF can't beat biological clock, warns Yale fertility expert

16 April 2012
Appeared in BioNews 652

A leading fertility expert in the USA has warned of young women's serious misconceptions about their own fertility.

Writing in the journal Fertility and Sterility, Professor Pasquale Patrizio, from Yale School of Medicine and director of the Yale Fertility Centre, says that clinicians should 'begin educating women more aggressively' - but goes further. He argues that young women who choose to delay motherhood for whatever reason should be offered the opportunity to have their eggs frozen as an act of preventive medicine.

The growing popularity of assisted reproductive technology, fuelled by newspaper headlines and television specials of women having babies later in life, means that many women believe that they can turn to IVF at any time and conceive, says Dr Patrizio. IVF success rates fall dramatically with increasing age but most women are only vaguely aware of this.

'We are really seeing more and more patients 'upset' after failing in having their own biological child after age 43 so we had to report on this', says Dr Patrizio. 'Their typical reaction is, "what do you mean you cannot help me? I am healthy, I exercise, and I cannot have my own baby?"'

In his paper, Dr Patrizio highlights the fact that the success rate of IVF treatment using donated eggs is unaffected by the recipient's age up to the late 40s. As current egg freezing and preservation techniques now achieve outcomes similar to those achieved with fresh oocytes, the 'experimental' tag should be removed from such technologies, says Dr Patrizio, and they should be made more widely available to younger women.

The choice to delay motherhood must be based on a full understanding of all the consequences, Dr Patrizio reasons. Age-related infertility should be regarded as a medical problem, he says, and society needs to banish the view that 'social' or 'elective' egg preservation (where eggs are preserved for reasons not related to health problems) is selfish and uncaring.

A persistent misperception: assisted reproductive technology can reverse the “aged biological clock”
Fertility and Sterility |  3 March 2012
Biological Clock Ticks Despite Technology
Scientific American |  11 April 2012
Women cannot rewind the 'biological clock'
EurekAlert! |  5 April 2012
Women of 40 told: you cannot turn back baby clock
Express |  7 April 2012
Women over 40 told: 'Don't take IVF success for granted'
Mail Online |  6 April 2012
24 March 2014 - by Dr Lucy Freem 
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16 December 2013 - by Dr Kimberley Bryon-Dodd 
The first study to break down IVF failure rates for each treatment stage across different age groups has found that after the age of 37 the chance of a woman becoming pregnant through IVF rapidly declines...
10 September 2012 - by Dr Rosie Morley 
Less than a fifth of women worry about being too old to have children, according to a recent survey by Red magazine....
2 July 2012 - by Dr Sarah Spain 
For the first time, researchers in the USA have calculated cumulative success rates of infertility treatments that use IVF or assisted reproductive technologies (ART), and have showed that overall success rates come close to that of natural conception....
4 July 2011 - by Dr Lux Fatimathas 
European researchers have linked ovarian stimulation in women aged over 35 to increased chromosomal abnormalities. Genetic screening shows that the production of oocytes is disrupted during fertility treatment involving ovarian stimulation...
31 January 2011 - by Dr Tamara Hirsch 
A recent review paper has emphasised the need for improved provision of fertility information, especially regarding age-associated risks, as the trend for women having children later in life continues....
6 September 2010 - by Chris Chatterton 
Researchers from Newcastle University have announced that they have a better understanding of 'why older women are more likely to produce abnormal eggs, increasing the risk of infertility...
28 June 2010 - by Harriet Vickers 
A large number of female university students say they would undergo egg freezing to allow time to build a career, a relationship, or become financially stable. However, older women who go through the procedure say it is because they want time to find the right man...
24 May 2010 - by Harriet Vickers 
A 59 year-old woman has backed out of IVF treatment at the last minute, as she feels the risks at her age are too great...
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