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Women's Perceptions about Age and Fertility 'Alarming,' Says Report

by Leigh Ann Woodruff, April 9, 2012

Too many women are under the misconception that assisted reproductive technology can reverse aging ovaries, and they do not fully understand the consequences of delaying motherhood, say researchers from the Yale School of Medicine in a report published in the February 2012 issue of Fertility and Sterility.

The report stemmed from observations by fertility doctors that more women were coming to their fertility clinic at age 43 or older with they expectation that pregnancy could be instantly achieved, and then they were disappointed to learn that it can't be done easily.

"There is an alarming misconception about fertility among women," says Pasquale Patrizio, M.D., professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Yale School of Medicine and director of the Yale Fertility Center. "We also found a lack of knowledge about steps women can take early in their reproductive years to preserve the possibility of conception later in life."

The average age of first-time mothers has increased from 21.4 years in 1970 to 25.1 years in 2008, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, while 1 in 100 women gave birth to their first child after age 35 in 1970, that number rose to 1 in 12 by 2006. The report points out that while the number of in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles performed for women under the age of 35 years increased by 9.08 percent between 2003 and 2009, the number of cycles performed for women aged 41 years or older increased by 41.08 percent. However, the percentage of IVF cycles resulting in pregnancies has remained very consistent at around 9 percent, according to the 2009 numbers from the CDC.

Dr. Patrizio says that the best way to combat misconceptions about fertility is through education. "As clinicians, we should begin educating women more aggressively. Women should be given the appropriate information about postponing fertility, obstetric risks, and the limited success of ART in advanced age to allow them to make informed decisions about when, if at all, they hope to become pregnant." The report discusses the merits of egg donation and embryo donation for older mothers.

Dr. Patrizio also advises that egg freezing is a viable option for preserving fertility if a woman wants to have a child with her own genetic material. "These techniques are valid options for women and should not be viewed as experimental," he added. "Doctors and health professionals must begin the discussion about fertility preservation in their patients and make certain that young women truly understand all their options."

For more information on how aging affects a woman's fertility, read:

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