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Pregnant at 49 with Her Own Eggs!

Image of Pregnant at 49 Own eggs

by Rachel Lehmann-Haupt, Nov. 27, 2009

Dr. John Zhang, the founder and director of New Hope Fertility in Manhattan, has broken a record. Last week, he announced that a 49-year-old woman who he got pregnant through “Mini IVF” gave birth to a healthy baby girl conceived with her own egg. Since most fertility clinics cut off IVF with a woman’s own eggs at 45 and recommend turning to donor eggs, this was a significant risk - and victory. In an age when women push the limits of their fertility because of hyper career focus and later marriage, we're all buzzing with the question: How did he make it happen?

The new mom came to Dr. Zhang three years ago, at age 46, after trying to get pregnant through three intrauterine inseminations (IUI) and two rounds of IVF with another doctor, he says. She got pregnant on one of the IVF attempts, but had a miscarriage at six weeks.

At New Hope Fertility, Dr. Zhang turned to “Mini IVF,” a treatment in which he retrieves one egg every month that is made in a natural cycle or stimulated with a small dose of fertility medications.

“For patients over 40, we have a different way of thinking," he explains. “The best protocol is to keep collecting the best eggs for six months and then transfer one embryo at a time. The reason is very simple. For a woman over 40, 90 percent of the time she is only going to make one good egg so why go through the effort of making a lot of bad eggs with heavy fertility drugs.”

Over the course of two years, Zhang’s miracle mom did six “Mini IVF” attempts. “Sometimes she prematurely ovulated and we missed the egg. Sometimes the egg retrieval resulted in no egg,” he explains. “Eventually we were able to make three embryos.” Dr. Zhang did three embryo transfers and the third one resulted in a healthy baby girl.

But does this victory mean that every woman can risk delaying pregnancy? “No," he says. "It's very individual. Women should remain very conscious of their ovarian aging and consider freezing eggs. This is a rare case, but it is also not a false hope.”


Rachel Lehmann-Haupt ( is a journalist and the author of In Her Own Sweet Time: Unexpected Adventures in Finding Love, Commitment and Motherhood (Basic Books, 2009).