When patients were asked what they though the rates of success for IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatments were, the majority said that 80% or higher would be excellent and that anything below 50% would be poor. They would be shocked at the reality – even a young and fertile couple’s chances of conceiving in any particular month are only between 15 and 20%. The majority of women undergoing IVF using their own eggs experience success rates of 20-35% with the percentage falling steeply with age, particularly after 30. For women aged 46 and over, the percentage is dismally low.
The publicity female celebrities who have children in their 40s help create the myth that IVF is a sure thing. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine says that people tend to have unrealistic expectations that contemporary science cannot meet as of today.
However, increased awareness of the statistics has led to more women opting to have their eggs frozen. For older women who did not anticipate the potential problems of delayed pregnancy or did not have access to the necessary technology earlier in their lives, the option is to use donor eggs. The age of the eggs being used in the IVF process is obviously a major indicator of success. Because egg donors are usually in their 20s, the age of the recipient is almost insignificant. Basically, the age of the egg matters more than the age of the uterus in which it is fertilized.
As with any cutting-edge technology, the IVF process is not cheap. Each treatment costs in excess of $15,000 and is not covered by standard medical insurance. It can take women under 35 three sessions to get pregnant; for older women, the figure doubles to six. Freezing eggs can cost $10,000 for extraction and $500 annually for storage. Actual fertilization costs another $5,000. A Wall Street Journal report once revealed that a staggering 70% of women went into debt attempting IVF.
More women are entering the workforce, and the pressure to balance career and a home life has never been greater. It is ironic that Americans are facing such great challenges to starting families in an era where the quality and scope of the medical care they have access to is better than ever before.
The fertility of the average woman today is not lower than it was two decades ago, but it is the choice for delaying pregnancy that has created the IVF boom. For couples married to their careers as much as to each other, the question ‘When to Conceive‘ is actually the question ‘When Can I Afford to Conceive?’