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No turning back the biological clock

Assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), such as in vitro fertilization, are so established that pregnancy at any age may seem both reasonable and achievable—views that more and more women hold, according to a new report from Yale researchers. The reality is that despite medical advances, women who wait until their early forties to have children face significant risks of infertility or complications during pregnancy. The new study urges concerted public and professional education to address the “alarming” misperceptions of ARTs.

“We’re seeing more and more patients upset after failing in having their own biological child after age 43,” says Pasquale Patrizio, M.D., M.B.E., professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences and director of the Yale Fertility Center.

In an advance online edition of Fertility and Sterility, Patrizio’s team writes that among women aged 43 and older employing ARTs, only about 4 percent eventually give birth, a number 10 times lower than that for women under 35. The researchers urge that women be better informed of these odds, and of the options to cryopreserve their oocytes while at their “fertility peak years” (under 35) or use donated oocytes, methods that have achieved high success rates in older women but are lesser-known than other ARTs.