Fertility: Egg donation: donor eggs: getting pregnant: women over 40.
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Fertility Age & Getting Pregnant

Among the major arguments in favor of older motherhood is the somewhat undeniable fact that women are living longer and are essentially healthier than ever before.  Brodman says that better nutrition, better health care, more information about disease prevention and better living conditions have all  worked to increase a woman’s life expectancy significantly.

At the same time, however, rarely do these benefits extend to the heart and soul of a woman's fertility - her ovaries and her eggs.

“Despite the fact that we have advanced our longevity, menopause still remains pretty constant – as does the fact that, as a woman ages, she produces fewer eggs, and fewer healthy eggs, " says Margareta D. Pisarska, MD, co-director of Center for Reproductive Medicine at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and editor -in-chief of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine News. 

And that, say experts, not only means that getting pregnant grows more difficult with each birthday, if you do manage to conceive, the risk of potential problems can be significant.

“The primary cause of some of the most serious  birth defects as well as miscarriages  occurring after age 40 are related to egg quality," says Licciardi.  By some estimates, miscarriage rates can soar as high as 90% in women over 40.

Fertility, Pregnancy and Egg Donation

For many, however, the way to keep scrambled eggs from beating down motherhood dreams often lies in the technology known as "egg donation."

“It's the great secret that no one talks about - in all these late life pregnancy headlines the vast majority of the women getting pregnant are using donor eggs,” says Charles J. Lockwood, MD, Chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Yale School of Medicine.

With widespread availability since the early 1990's, egg donation utilizes traditional IVF techniques to first develop, and  harvest "ripe" eggs, then combine them with sperm in a lab. Only in this instance, they are taken from an egg donor - usually around age 25 - and the resulting embryo implanted in the uterus of the older gal seeking to get pregnant.

“From the perspective of the egg – it's like the mother is 25 years old again,” says Lockwood.

While for many the conception, and pregnancy and birth resulting from egg donation go out without a  hitch, the older a woman is, the quicker she discovers that egg quality is not her only barrier to motherhood.

“The truth is, the older a woman is when she gets pregnant - even with egg donation - the greater her risk for pregnancy complications, including pre-term birth, gestational diabetes, and pre eclampsia,” Pisarska says.

All these issues, says Lockwood, are further complicated when she is carrying more than one baby - which is not only more common in all women over 40, but particularly in IVF patients.

"When a 50 year old is carrying twins, she is at very high risk for delivering at an extreme premature point, and because of that she has a not insubstantial risk of at least one of the babies having a major handicap," he says.

What’s more, studies indicate that all these risks rise in direct relation to the mother's age - with even as little as one year making a big difference.

In research published in Obstetrics and Gynecology earlier this year, doctors found the mortality rate of pregnant women over 45 was greater than in those aged 40 to 44.  The rate of fetal death in women over 45 was also higher when compared to women just a year or two younger - and so too was the incidence of intra uterine growth retardation.

Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2002 specifically on  egg donation patients aged  50 and up, indicated  the risk of pre eclampsia, as well as gestational diabetes are statistically higher, along with an increase in C section deliveries.  

“We’re still talking about small numbers of women affected by all these complications, but none the less, there is good evidence to show that the risks do increase significantly with age, “ says Brodman.

Next Up:  Long Life, Medical Ethics and Motherhood

Egg Donation:
What you need to know about donor eggs and getting pregnant !
Getting Pregnant After 40: Egg Donation: Donor Eggs
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Copyright 2006-2007-Colette Bouchez. Any and all use requires the author's explicit permission , which may be assigned or revoked at any time, for any reason. .  Any  unauthorized use of these articles shall be considered a breech of copyright law.