Can You Get Pregnant in Your 50s?
Getting Pregnant in Your 50s
Although generally the natural end to a woman's fertility tapers off in her mid to late 40s, there are many reasons why a woman may want to get pregnant in her 50s.
Some examples may be:
- she has only just met the right partner who may be younger and also want to have children (and perhaps has none of his own);
- she had a child in her 40s and wants them to have a sibling;
- perhaps the urge to have children came late in life
- maybe she has been trying to have children for a few years without success and now finds herself over 50 and still trying
The truth is though, at this age, there are only three ways of getting pregnant, each with its own chances of success:
- Get pregnant naturally.
- IVF with your own eggs
- IVF with donor eggs
The chances of getting pregnant in the first two of those ways are pretty slim so women usually go for the last option—IVF with donor eggs. I will touch on all of the options though to cover all bases.
Getting Pregnant Naturally in Your 50s
The oldest woman who gave birth to a child that she conceived naturally was a lady called Dawn Brooke who gave birth to a baby boy in 1997 in Guernsey when she was 59. Both she and her husband were shocked to discover her pregnancy without the use of any fertility treatment. Prior to that, the oldest known mother was 57.
Although this shows that the chance of getting pregnant in your 50s is not zero, it is highly unlikely to happen and exceptions are pretty rare as is shown by the fact that these stories are reported in the press.
According to the NHS in the UK, the average age for women to reach the menopause is 51. Once a woman has reached the menopause she is no longer having periods or ovulating and so is not able to get pregnant naturally. So if you are wanting to get pregnant naturally in your 50s then you need to be aware that your chances are slim and you should still be having regular periods (although it is still possible to get pregnant in peri-menopause).
Using Your Own Eggs in IVF Over 50
If you want to do IVF with your own eggs and you are over 50 then the truth is that you will have a hard time finding a clinic that will help you.
The chances of getting healthy eggs from a woman in her 50s are very low and for this reason, there are very few clinics who will advise, or even allow, a woman in her 50s to undergo IVF with her own eggs.
In fact, the majority of IVF clinics will not provide IVF treatment to women over 45 with their own eggs due to the very low success rates so you would have to put forward a pretty exceptional argument to any clinic that was willing to enter into a dialog about this.
The main exception is if you had the foresight to freeze your own eggs when you were younger, in which case you can use those in an IVF cycle.
IVF With Donor Eggs
If a woman in her 50s wants to get pregnant then pretty much the only option with a decent rate of success is to use donor eggs. Even if you opt to use donor eggs you will still need to find a clinic that will treat women over 50, as the majority of clinics have a cut-off age below this. You will also need to be in very good overall health in order to minimize risks and maximize the chances of carrying the baby to term.
In the US, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine states that "Because of concerns related to the high-risk nature of pregnancy, as well as longevity, treatment of women over the age of 55 should generally be discouraged." In the UK, guidelines exist that recommend only women up to the age of 50 are treated with IVF but as they are guidelines, there are some private clinics who will go over this age.
As an example, IVI, the largest Assisted Reproduction group in the world, recommends that women over the age of 50 look into other ways of becoming mothers, including adoption, although they do say that they look at each case individually.
However, there are fertility clinics that will treat women over 50 (using donor eggs) as has been shown in the headlines, where women as old as 74 (In September 2019 an Indian woman gave birth to twins after IVF with donor eggs), but usually in their 50s or 60s, have given birth to children. Some of the clinics that will take older women are based in Europe, including in Spain, Greece, and the Ukraine. There are also clinics in India that will treat older women.
Egg donors are almost always under the age of 35 so that the quality of the eggs is usually much better, and often they are in their 20s.
The donated eggs are fertilised with the partner's sperm if that is possible (otherwise donor embryos or donor sperm can be used) and transferred to the woman's uterus. The success rates for IVF using donor eggs are very good (especially compared to success rates using own eggs).
Invitra reports that "On average, the clinical pregnancy rate with donor eggs is 69% in patients under 45, while it reaches 63% when the recipient is 45-50 years old."
The success rates of IVF with donor eggs in your 50s are generally hard to find because of the small number of clinics who will treat women above this age.
Because of concerns related to the high-risk nature of pregnancy, as well as longevity, treatment of women over the age of 55 should generally be discouraged— American Society for Reproductive Medicine
What Happens During IVF with Donor Eggs
Having gone through this procedure I can tell you that it is a lot less invasive than if you go through IVF with your own eggs.
You will still need to take a number of hormone medicines and go through the procedure of having the embryo(s) transplanted into your womb, but the toll on your body is not so tough as you are not increasing your hormones to encourage your body to make more eggs. You will need daily tablets and I did need one injection which was administered by a nurse but everything was laid out really clearly for me and was not difficult.
Obviously you need to be in the best of health and to have certain tests carried out beforehand but these are also not too onerous.
Can I Get Pregnant if My Periods Have Stopped?
As the average age for female menopause if 51, it is quite possible that your periods may have stopped or just become more erratic in the past months or years. However, this is not a barrier to becoming pregnant using donor eggs.
Even if you have gone through the menopause, with the help of the right drugs, your uterus can be prepared properly to accept an embryo. You will undergo tests and scans to check the state of your uterus and hormones at various points in the IVF cycle and it will only go ahead if your uterus is fully ready.
Before going through the IVF procedure the clinic will inform you of all of the procedures that you need to go through and also should do a thorough investigation of your health to see what treatment will be needed in terms of hormones.
You will need to think carefully about the risks involved in carrying a pregnancy in your 50s and ensure that your body is in the best health possible in order to do so with the minimum of complications.
It is not a simple decision to make but with thorough counseling, testing, and forethought you may be able to have a baby in your 50s.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2018 Jackie Grant