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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 June 2007, 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK
Surge in older women seeking IVF
IVF sample
The chances of success drop with age
There has been a huge rise in demand for fertility treatment among women in their forties, figures show.

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority figures show last year there were 6,174 treatment cycles among women aged 40-45 using their own eggs.

In 1991, the comparable figure was just 596 cycles.

In 2006, women aged 40-45 accounted for 15.5% of all treatment cycles, compared to 10.7% of all cycles in 2000, and just 9.2% in 1991.

Women aged 40: 210 treatment cycles
Women aged 41: 153
Women aged 42: 115
Women aged 43: 55
Women aged 44: 44
Women aged 45: 19
Women aged 40: 2,288 treatment cycles
Women aged 41: 1,605
Women aged 42: 1,070
Women aged 43: 682
Women aged 44: 358
Women aged 45: 171
All forms of fertility treatment using own fresh eggs or frozen embryos

Although demand for treatment has soared among women in their forties, the overall success rate remains relatively low.

In 1991, the live birth rate among women aged 40 who underwent fertility treatment was 7.6%. By 2004 this had risen to 11.8%.

In contrast, the success rate among women aged 28 has risen from 19.1% in 1991 to 25.7% in 2004.

The figures also show that all women increased their chances of getting pregnant by persisting with fertility treatment.

Complacency danger

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends women aged 23 to 39 receive three cycles on the NHS.

Government guidelines in 2004 said all eligible women aged 23 to 39 should get one free cycle of IVF.

It is dangerous to think that because IVF is now so widely available that couples can delay their attempts to start a family
Dr Allan Pacey
University of Sheffield

However, critics argue there is still a "postcode lottery", with some Primary Care Trusts offering no cycles at all.

Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield and secretary of the British Fertility Society, said: "The data from the HFEA register would seem to reflect the general trend of couples in the UK to wait until they are older to have their families.

"This is of concern because we know that once a women gets over the age of 35 she is less fertile, either when she tries to conceive naturally or attempts IVF.

"Clearly IVF can be used overcome many fertility problems in couples.

"But it is dangerous to think that because IVF is now so widely available that couples can delay their attempts to start a family because IVF is some kind of safety net.

"Sadly, it can't reverse the ageing process and it does not work for everyone."

HFEA chief executive, Angela McNab, HFEA chief executive, denied that patients in their forties were being specifically targeted by the industry, or that their chances of success were being over-stated.

She said: "I think there is greater awareness in public about infertility and about the ranges of treatment available."

Women urged not to delay on IVF
17 Jun 04 |  Health

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