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Infertility: Aging Egg Supply - Topic Overview

From birth, females have a fixed—though plentiful—supply of eggs (ovarian reserve). As a woman ages past her mid-30s, her eggs gradually degrade, making it less likely that she will naturally conceive, or that an assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedure will result in pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Among American women in their 20s to mid-30s, over 35 out of 100 give birth for each ART cycle using their own eggs. As women age, the live ART birth rate gradually drops:1

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Although some people still think of fertility as a "woman's problem," a third of all cases of infertilty involve problems solely with the male partner. Infertility in a man may be the sole reason that a couple can't conceive, or it may simply add to the difficulties caused by infertility in his partner. So it's crucial that men get tested for fertility as well as women. It's also important that men do it early. Though some guys may want to put off being tested -- possibly to avoid embarrassment...

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  • To about 20 out of 100 for each IVF cycle by age 39.
  • To 5 or less out of 100 for each IVF cycle in women over age 43. Many women over age 40 choose to use donor eggs, which greatly improves their chances of giving birth to a healthy child.

While there is no definitive test of ovarian reserve, a woman's follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) level can be measured to evaluate how well her ovaries are working. A high FSH level is a sign that the body is trying to stimulate the ovaries to make more egg follicles, but the ovaries are not responding and conception is unlikely.

A woman's FSH level can be tested using a blood sample:

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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