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The Truth About Fertility Treatment in Older Women

Dr. Tarek El-Toukhy, Consultant in Reproductive Medicine and Surgery at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital, discusses the options and new techniques that can boost fertility and improve success rates for women over 40 ahead of his seminar at The Fertility Show. 

A woman’s age is the most important factor that affects her fertility and her chances of having a baby. As a woman ages, so do her eggs and unfortunately age is not something we are able to control. 

As a whole, we are living longer and we are healthier, than any generation before us. However, unfortunately this is leading women into a false sense of security by thinking their eggs are healthy, therefore leaving motherhood later. The truth is at 35 a woman’s fertility begins to decline with her fertility having almost halved by the time she reaches 40. 

So, what can women do to protect and boost their fertility? If you have been trying to conceive for over a year or longer then get your ovarian reserve tested, this will enable you to get an idea of your fertility potential. However, the test can’t predict what will happen in the future whether this is 2 years down the line or 10. Having this test at a younger age can encourage women to freeze their eggs for use later in life. 

When you are trying to conceive it is always important to maintain a healthy lifestyle but if you are over the age of 40 and trying for a baby, it is essential. Your chances of getting pregnant are reduced with a 1 in 6 chance of conceiving over 40, so knowing what lifestyle habits to change can help boost your fertility naturally: 

• Quit smoking, as this will mature your already ageing eggs.

• Reduce your alcohol and caffeine intake, caffeine slows down your ovulation and reducing alcohol consumption will make your body healthier in general.

• Exercise regularly, this helps to reduce stress. 

• Increase the amount of protein, fruit, vegetables and calcium in your diet to make sure you get enough nutrients.

One option for older women to consider is using an egg donor or a donated embryo, often used when a woman has been through unsuccessful IVF treatments using her own eggs. It will also be recommended if a woman has been through early menopause, if she has no ovaries and if she is producing too few or poor quality eggs. This further emphasises on the importance of getting your ovarian reserve tested before proceeding with IVF treatments. 

Overall, it is important to be aware of what is happening to your body and your fertility as you get older and by having access to the right information it can help you make a choice about your journey and gives you more options about when you want to become a mother. 


Dr. Tarek El-Toukhy will be presenting his seminar at The Fertility Show, Olympia, London on 5th November at 3.45.

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