As more and more families turn to assisted reproductive technologies to build their families, the question of age becomes increasingly important. For those using donor eggs or a gestational carrier (or both), the age of the person contributing to the pregnancy can have a significant impact on the chances of success.
In this article, we will explore whether the age of the egg donor or gestational carrier matters more for the chances of a healthy pregnancy.
Does egg donor age matter?
The age of the egg donor is a crucial factor in the success of a donor egg IVF cycle. As females age, their egg quality and quantity decreases, which can lead to lower rates of successful fertilization, implantation, and live births. In general, “younger” donors have a higher chance of producing high-quality eggs that are more likely to result in a successful pregnancy.
This means that the average 28-year-old donor has a significantly higher chance of producing a successful pregnancy than a 45-year-old donor (and one of the reasons ASRM recommends that donors be under the age of 34). However, even with a younger donor, other factors such as the quality of the sperm used, the quality of the clinic, and the health of the person carrying the pregnancy can majorly impact the success of the cycle.
So what do we mean by “younger” egg donor? While ASRM recommends egg donors are between the ages of 21 and 34, the sweet spot seems to be ages 25-34. Not only for reasons of donor maturity, but also because research suggests better outcomes. One study found the chances of live birth among cycles using egg donors < 25 years was 13% lower for those using donors age 25 to 29. And another older but large study of 3,889 fresh donor egg cycles found that the cycles utilizing donors 30 to 34 years had a higher incidence of live birth compared to cycles with donors under 30 years, as well as donors over 34.
While many people gravitate towards younger donors under the assumption that they’ll retrieve more eggs, the good news is that the number of eggs retrieved - for donors at any age- is predictable. When you find a donor profile that resonates with you, your doctor will help determine if she’s a good candidate. All the donors at Cofertility are pre-qualified and most of them pass medical clearance upon match.
I’m carrying the pregnancy, does my age matter?
If you intend to carry the pregnancy, you may be wondering what matters more… your age or the egg donors age. For the most part, the age of your egg donor is more critical to success than your age at embryo transfer and pregnancy.
That’s because at every age, the chances of birth with donor eggs is better, but those who benefit the most from donor eggs are women over 35 and those with low ovarian reserve. In fact, about one-quarter of women over 40 who succeeded with IVF did so through the use of donor eggs.
The chart was made using the SART Patient Predictor for an average woman (5’4”, 150 lbs) with diminished ovarian reserve. As you can see, the chances of live birth after one donor egg cycle is 54% for recipients under 40, and only goes down slightly after this.
Studies show that your chances of success using donor eggs does not diminish in your 40s. So while getting pregnant with your own eggs may be unlikely, using donor eggs can greatly increase your chances of a successful and healthy baby well into your 40s and even 50s.
Many women in their 40s and 50s can carry a pregnancy when using donor eggs, although some need to use a gestational carrier for a variety of reasons. It’s important to note that carrying a pregnancy in your 40s and 50s does carry increased risks of pregnancy complications like. hypertensive disorders and gestational diabetes.
I’m using a gestational carrier (surrogate), whose age is more important?
If you need both an egg donor and gestational carrier, you may wonder how their age will impact the chances of success. As stated earlier, the recommended age range for an egg donor is 21-34, but the range for gestational carriers is broader at 21 to 45 years old.
While egg donation has its own set of criteria, the ideal gestational carrier is a healthy female between the ages of 21 and 45 who has had at least one successful term pregnancy, and has been medically and psychologically cleared.
If you are using a gestational carrier, the age of the gestational carrier is also an important factor to consider. But as long as she meets the criteria and has been medically cleared, whether she is 25 or 35 should not impact your chances of success.
Is there an age limit for IVF with donor eggs?
Technically, there is no age limit (legal or otherwise) in the United States for pursuing IVF with or without donor eggs. But ASRM discourages IVF for females older than 55, and some clinics set their own age limits for patients they will treat.
For females over 45 years old, ASRM advises:
- “Comprehensive” medical testing for cardiovascular and metabolic fitness to ensure the safety of the mother and baby during pregnancy
- Psychosocial evaluation to determine if support is in place to raise a child to adulthood
- Counseling patients on potential increased medical risks related to pregnancy
There is no official recommendation when it comes to the age of a male intended parent.
Summing it up
It’s important to remember that your age when you (or your gestational carrier) get pregnant is not as important as the age of the eggs that formed the embryo. The success of egg donation depends on many factors, but is not considered to be related to the age of the recipient.
While the age of the egg donor and gestational carrier can impact the success of the cycle, it is not the only factor to consider. Other factors such as the quality of the sperm, the caliber of the clinic, and any underlying medical conditions should also be taken into account. Ultimately, the best approach will depend on your individual circumstances, and a consultation with a qualified reproductive endocrinologist can help determine the best course of action.
Meera Shah, MD, FACOG, is a double board-certified OBGYN and reproductive endocrinology and fertility specialist at NOVA IVF in Mountain View, California. She is a Founding Medical Advisor at Cofertility. Dr. Shah has authored numerous research articles on topics ranging from fertility preservation, pregnancy loss, reproductive genetics, and ethnic differences in IVF outcomes. Her medical practice incorporates the highest level of evidence-based medicine and the most cutting edge technologies to optimize outcomes for her patients. Dr. Shah applies this approach to her work with Cofertility, ensuring that Cofertility remains up-to-date on latest medical advancements and research in third-party reproduction and reproductive endocrinology in general. When Dr. Shah isn’t busy working with her patients at NOVA IVF, she enjoys playing pretty much any sport, learning new piano pieces on YouTube, and spending quality time with her husband and three boys. You can find her on Instagram providing fertility-related advice and education at @dr_meerashah.
View all articles