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We shouldn't assume every older mother did DE

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Monday, May 26, 2008 | 5 comments

We shouldn't be making assumptions that every older mother did donor egg, nor should we put too much hope in stories of much older women conceiving with their own eggs.

Look at the trends, and make your own decision about how long you want to fight the trend by trying with your own eggs, vs. deciding that the time has come to accept that the odds are just so stacked against you that you must move on to other alternatives.

Remember, too, that is really is not all "age related." I apparently lost my egg quality in my late 20's, as do some women. Others retain their fertility into their 50's.

An Israeli RE [reproductive endocrinologist] named Neri Laufer just discovered a gene in certain women that corresponds to later fertility. He was fascinated by the number of older pregnant women coming into the hospital for delivery.

You can google his name if you want to read about it. His group included women up into their early 50's. So much for any stats showing that NO women conceive in this age group!


For those who just can't let go of the belief that all pregnant women over 45 must have used donor eggs, consider the population that Laufer studied. These were mostly, if not all, ultra-religious women for whom DE [donor eggs] would have been prohibited.

Imagine you have 10 kids already, you're living on government assistance and still exist below the poverty line, donor egg is not offered in your country, and your religious leader forbids the procedure anyway.

Now you tell me -- all these women secretly squirreled away thousands of dollars, disappeared from their communities for a couple of weeks to go to the Ukraine, defied their religious teachings, all in an effort to get pregnant with baby #11? Use your common sense!

The same can be applied to the Native American women living on reservations. Many have a lot of kids already and can't afford groceries let alone donor egg IVF cycles. The problem with middle and upper class American women like us is that we think we are representative of every group (and our RE's [reproductive endocrinologist] promote that thinking too, because they are victims of the same egocentric system).

If it becomes impossible for us to conceive after age 43, well, then, that must be true of everyone. Only it's not true. It's really not even true for our demographic.

RE's choose to present certain information based on the context. When they are counseling a 40 yr old with high FSH [follicle stimulating hormone] about her treatment options, of course they are going to highlight fertility trends in the general population and the success rates of certain treatment options because this is what is relevant to her. The goal is to get her a baby, not turn her into a rare statistic.

She has to make an informed decision based on medical facts as to what will give her the best odds of success. After age 40 and with high FSH, that's donor egg.

But if you ask that same doctor in another context, say, a conversational context, about much older women conceiving, he will concede that yes, it is absolutely possible and does happen, though not as often as we would like.

If he subscribes to the notion that no women get pregnant naturally after 45, then he's an idiot and you should get another doctor -- it means he's not up on basic information in his field.


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About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost that precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted that there will be no more babies in our house.

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  1. It's all about the FSH baby:) My FSH shot through the ceiling in my 30's.

    I think the stink over the whole donor egg thing is that there are oodles of women and celebs who lie about donor egg because sadly there is still a stigma surrounding it.

    Unfortunately in the US women tend to take health endorsements from celebs instead of their doctors. So when you get 50 something celebs who blatantly lie about children born to them with their own eggs it sends the wrong message to those who are just approaching menopause who think they can put off having children for a few more years because after all if this celeb did it at 52 why can't I at age 48.

    So yeah, can women conceive with their own eggs after age 44. Sure they can - but also let's follow these women and see how their outcomes are as well.

    I don't think it happens as often as we'd like to think it does.

  2. Sandra says:

    I needed these stories so much. I have been trying to conceive since 41 and I am now 46. All bloodwork and everything came back normal but I have still had no success. What inspirational stories for me. Thank you.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think one can only tell after studying "older" mums and births...

    It's only recent that far more get pregnant later

  4. Anonymous says:

    I understand that these stories give hope to women over 44 who want to have babies, but they are part of a dangerous collection of misinformation and half truth that encourages women in their 30s and early 40s to put off motherhood until it is too late for them, personally to get pregnant, at least with their own eggs. Where the eggs come from may not matter to doctors, but it does matter to a lot of women who always assumed that the chance to pass on their own genes would be part of becoming mothers. Sure, some women get pregnant at 45 or even 50 without even trying. The odds are much better than winning the lotter or getting struck by lightning, but who would knowing pin thewir hopes and dreams on something that has at best a 1 in 10 chance of happening for you as opposed to the proverbial friend of a friend? Clearly women who start ttc at 40+ assuming that they will be pregnant within a few months or at least, that they will certainly get pregnant eventually, are misinformed. Most of them will come to wish that at some point in their 30s a doctor had had the courage and compassion to tell them the real facts of life.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Don't shortchange the intelligence of women over 40 - I think they understand the odds and I don't think they have waited until 40 to start thinking about having a baby because of stories like these. It hurts nothing to have hope, in fact a little hope and faith can go a long way. The point is, it is quite possible to have a healthy baby after 40. I say have hope - don't grieve early for something that is still a possibility - there is a time for hope and a time for grief. Forties are not yet the time to give up hope.

Don't just sit there, reading this story or article - say something! Do you believe it? Do you think it is impossible? Do you wish it was you? Do you have a story to share (it might get published!)

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