When patients come to me asking about IVF technology and reproductive medicine, I am sometimes amazed at how normal it has become. When it was first developed in 1976, IVF was a new and experimental technique. Today more than 5 million worldwide owe their existence to IVF. That’s more than the population of the state of Colorado, and that number is only expected to go up.
It’s easy to forget how quickly things have changed.
In 1970, only 1.7 out of 1,000 women were having their first child between the ages of 35-39 years. In 2012, that number rose by almost 600 percent to 11 out of 1,000 women, and that trend is expected to rise as more women in their late 30s, and early 40s become parents for the first time.
There have been many reasons for this change, but perhaps the largest factor is that women have had greater educational and career opportunities in the last forty years than ever before.
Because of this, women (and men) are waiting to grow their families. They want to pursue their education and careers, to feel financially stable, and to simply experience life before they “settle down” and start a family.
As a physician with my own practice and as a parent, I can appreciate the challenges of balancing career and family and can appreciate that the need to wait is legitimate for many.
At the same time, it’s important to remember that fertility is finite.
Advertising and media constantly impress on us the idea that a woman in her 30s and 40s can look and feel like a woman in her 20s, and exercise, nutrition, and beauty regimens can help us look and feel younger. However, the human body only comes with a finite number of eggs, and both their number and viability start to decline quickly after 35.
Because of this, the use of IVF and other reproductive technologies is quickly becoming more and more commonplace as women start their families later in life.
Not Just for Women
Of course, the increased use of reproductive technologies doesn’t just apply to women.
It’s important to remember that 1/2 of all cases of infertility are related to the male partner.
In fact, more male patients are banking sperm than ever before. This may be due to concerns about increased exposure to Zika, preserving fertility prior to chemotherapy, or concerns about loss of fertility due to a career in a high-risk profession.
Also, recent studies have demonstrated that male fertility is not as infinite as was once assumed. The fact is, as men get older the quality and motility of their sperm also decline.
This is why technologies like ICSI have helped to improve success rates because we are able to select the best possible sperm and egg.
IVF is also growing more commonplace because patients want to have a greater say as to when and how many children they ultimately have.
Many of my patients are now taking advantage of family building. This is where a patient uses IVF to create multiple viable embryos at one time, and then freeze them for future use.
Let’s say a couple comes in for IVF in their late 30s. They want to have their first child at 37 and hope to have a second child at age 40. By creating embryos while they are still viable, the patient can freeze them for the future. This increases their chances of having a healthy embryo for future pregnancies and greatly increases their ability to have a successful pregnancy well into their 40s.
While this may seem expensive, it can help patients to avoid the need to use donor eggs and more involved procedures in the future.
An Accessible Solution
The more that these technologies come into use, the more incentive there is for reproductive specialists to improve them to help their patients to grow their families.
This improves success rates, makes the course of treatment less taxing, and also helps to reduce the cost.
As that happens, IVF becomes more and more accessible and more common than ever before.
If you’d like to learn more about how IVF works, and how it can help you to build your family, we have a free guide available that can help provide the understanding you need to make an informed decision.
If you have questions, or if you’d like to learn more about me or my practice, OC Fertility, then schedule your new patient consultation today or call us at (949) 706-2229.