Statistically, the biggest decline in live births happens between the ages of 40 and 42+. In other words, a woman who has just turned 40 has a much higher chance of conceiving and delivering a baby than a woman who has just turned 42. Of course, these numbers and trends concern women using their own eggs. With donor eggs, consider the age of the woman at the time the eggs were harvested and use that age.
In the natural process of conception without treatment, a woman’s ovaries produce a mature egg each month, which leaves the ovary and travels along the fallopian tube towards the uterus. Sperm that has been deposited in the vagina through intercourse travels through the cervix through the uterus and up the fallopian tube toward the egg. Millions of sperm are lost in the cervix and do not travel to the fallopian tube. When the two meet, they join to form the early stage of an embryo which then travels down the fallopian tube into the uterus. If all goes well, it will implant in the lining of the womb and pregnancy begins.
Addressing lifestyle issues is not meant to be a quick fix, and typically does not lead to instant success. However, with unexplained infertility every little bit counts, so don’t fret or give up. Do not assume just because the cause of infertility is unexplained, it is untreatable or there is no pathway to parenthood. When a specific cause is not determined for women, and male infertility has also been ruled out, our fertility specialist may begin a course of treatment to improve the chances of conception and pregnancy. The speed with which interventions are offered depends on each individual’s own needs and desires as determined by age and other factors.
From the What to Expect editorial team and Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect Before You’re Expecting. Health information on this site is based on peer-reviewed medical journals and highly respected health organizations and institutions including ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), as well as the What to Expect books by Heidi Murkoff.
Step on the scale. Have you put on some extra pounds since your last baby was on board? Or maybe you’ve lost a lot of weight (because after all, who has time to eat when you’re running after a little one)? Your weight can impact your fertility, so getting as close as possible to a healthy BMI can also help get you closer to that second pregnancy you’re hoping for.
Since most IVF cycles start with collecting a number of eggs after ovarian stimulation, you should have on average 12-15 eggs to use. This means that you do not need to use all of them for ICSI or conventional IVF. A Split-ICSI strategy incorporates both – some eggs are injected with selected sperms using ICSI, where the rest are incubated with sperm in the conventional way. Trying both provide a safety net against failed fertilization with either strategy.
Gathering the eggs. Your doctor gives you an anesthetic and inserts an ultrasound probe through your vagina to look at your ovaries and identify the follicles. A thin needle is then inserted through the vaginal wall to remove the eggs from the follicles. Eight to 15 eggs are usually retrieved. You may have some cramping and spotting for a few days afterward, but most women feel better in a day or two.
The eggs are then fertilized with sperm that has been optimized in the laboratory so that sperm with poor morphology or motility are discarded and the healthiest remain. Fertilization usually takes place through Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). In this high-precision technique, the best single sperm are selected and individually microinjected into each egg.
^ Chavez-Badiola, Alejandro; Flores-Saiffe Farias, Adolfo; Mendizabal-Ruiz, Gerardo; Garcia-Sanchez, Rodolfo; Drakeley, Andrew J.; Garcia-Sandoval, Juan Paulo (10 March 2020). "Predicting pregnancy test results after embryo transfer by image feature extraction and analysis using machine learning". Scientific Reports. 10 (1): 4394. Bibcode:2020NatSR..10.4394C. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-61357-9. PMC 7064494. PMID 32157183.
A 2013 review and meta analysis of randomised controlled trials of acupuncture as an adjuvant therapy in IVF found no overall benefit, and concluded that an apparent benefit detected in a subset of published trials where the control group (those not using acupuncture) experienced a lower than average rate of pregnancy requires further study, due to the possibility of publication bias and other factors.
Vibratory stimulation or electric ejaculation: Vibratory stimulation is a painless and non-sedative procedure adapted to collect the sperms of men with spinal cord injuries who cannot experience natural ejaculation. Electric ejaculation is used for men who do not respond to vibratory stimulation process. The collected sperm is then transferred to the woman’s uterus for fertilization.
With egg donation and IVF, women who are past their reproductive years, have infertile male partners, have idiopathic female-fertility issues, or have reached menopause can still become pregnant. After the IVF treatment, some couples get pregnant without any fertility treatments. In 2018, it was estimated that eight million children had been born worldwide using IVF and other assisted reproduction techniques. However, a recent study that explores 10 adjuncts with IVF (screening hysteroscopy, DHEA, testosterone, GH, aspirin, heparin, antioxidants in males and females, seminal plasma, and PRP) suggests that until more evidence is done to show that these adjuncts are safe and effective, they should be avoided.
Apart from poor egg quality at advanced maternal age, older women are also less likely to respond to ovarian stimulation hormones that cause the release of multiple eggs. Being able to produce a dozen of eggs significantly increases the odds of success. It allows your fertility practitioner to choose the egg with normal genetic makeup and best likelihood of implantation. In both nature and IVF, not all eggs are suitable to produce a pregnancy. Ideally, you would produce 8-15 eggs after ovarian hyperstimulation so that some of them are genetically normal and perfectly matured.
One in 8 couples (or 12% of married women) have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. Infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant after regular sexual intercourse without the use of any contraceptive methods for 6 months for those 35 years old or over, or 12 months for those under 35.(1) Under normal circumstances the ability to get pregnant is at the most 25% each month. This number declines over time and starts to decline more rapidly once a women reaches her thirties, so that by age 35, the likelihood of getting pregnant each month is down to about 15%, and by age 40 it’s down to less than 10%.
Low weight: Obesity is not the only way in which weight can impact fertility. Men who are underweight tend to have lower sperm concentrations than those who are at a normal BMI. For women, being underweight and having extremely low amounts of body fat are associated with ovarian dysfunction and infertility and they have a higher risk for preterm birth. Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa are also associated with extremely low BMI. Although relatively uncommon, eating disorders can negatively affect menstruation, fertility, and maternal and fetal well-being.
^ Baker VL, Luke B, Brown MB, Alvero R, Frattarelli JL, Usadi R, et al. (September 2010). "Multivariate analysis of factors affecting probability of pregnancy and live birth with in vitro fertilization: an analysis of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology Clinic Outcomes Reporting System". Fertility and Sterility. 94 (4): 1410–6. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2009.07.986. PMID 19740463.