Pregnant At 40: Donor Eggs Are Increasingly Used But Not Spoken About

11/09/2015 5:41 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Expectant mother pose on dock in lake.

Women over 40 are being lulled into a false sense of ease about becoming mothers as older celebrities announce their pregnancy, but not their method of conception, experts said.

Fertility Society of Australia president Mark Bowman said women over 40 were increasingly using donated eggs from younger women, but not talking about it.

“The social challenge that we as clinicians face is the significant number of women who fail to declare that they have conceived from egg donation,” Bowman said.

“Many of those women are in the public eye, and they announce pregnancy in their late 40s much to the excitement of [fans and media] but fail to usually declare that this was not actually using her own eggs.

“You can understand the personal reasons why someone might not disclose that but it does create some challenges with respect to messaging.”

The University of NSW’s latest report into assisted reproduction, released Friday, details trends in fertility over the last five years, showing that while IVF for older women was improving, success rates were still low.

“I think the challenge is that we are still hitting up against a natural biology barrier,” Bowman said.

“The reason why pregnancy rates decline as women are getting older both in natural conception and in IVF is related to the fact that women are born with all their oocytes or eggs.

“So if we are undertaking IVF of a women in her early 40s, the eggs that we are attaining have been with that woman since birth and IVF doesn’t rescue that.”

Bowman said pregnancy rates were very low for women in their early 40s and “effectively zero” by 45.

Younger generations, however, can benefit from advances in technology allowing women to have their eggs harvested in their 20s and 30s and frozen for a later date.

The report showed IVF treatments using frozen embryos had increase from 39 per cent in 2009 to 45 per cent in 2013.

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