Q. How old is too old for a woman to try to get pregnant?
A. The uterus can carry a pregnancy even after a woman goes through menopause, as long as the hormones necessary to prepare and support the uterine lining are available. The problem for older women is usually with the eggs. Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have, and the best ones are used first. This means that women over the age of 40 are basically using “leftovers.” Through the years, these eggs have been exposed to various environmental insults. In addition, aging itself usually causes the parts of the egg responsible for separating chromosomes evenly to make more and more errors. These eggs are “unbalanced” in terms of the chromosome numbers, resulting in embryos that do not develop properly. After age 43, pregnancy with a woman’s own eggs becomes very difficult both because of fewer pregnancies and more miscarriages. We do not yet have a way to fix or improve an older woman’s eggs. However, if a woman is willing to consider the use of donor eggs, pregnancy rates are excellent – up to a 70 percent chance for success with a single attempt.
Barry Donesky, M.D.
Reproductive Endocrinologist at Fertility Center
7407 Ziegler Road
Chattanooga, TN 37421