Is There an Age Limit on IVF for Men?
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In vitro fertilization, or IVF, has long been used to help individuals have a baby when other methods have failed due to infertility, underlying medical conditions, or other factors that have prevented pregnancy.
While helpful, the success rate of IVF declines drastically as a woman gets older. According to the American Pregnancy Association, IVF success rates are 41-43% for women under age 35, 33-36% from ages 35-37, 23-27% from ages 38-40, and 13-18% over age 40.
“IVF success rates are strictly dependent on women’s age, progressively declining from age 35 onward,” says Pasquale Patrizio, M.D., chief of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility for the University of Miami Health System.
“What’s interesting is that 40% of women today having consultations for IVF treatments are 38 years or older, which is part of a larger sociodemographic phenomenon of postponing motherhood.”
Recent research indicates that men may not want to wait if they’re interested in starting a family via IVF.
The research, published in August 2021, examined the success rates of IVF for more than 4,000 men based on their age, as well as the age of the mother.
The researchers discovered that as success rates for IVF decline in women with age, the same seemed true for men.
For example, men in the study, ages 35 and younger, had an IVF success rate of 48.9%. But for men ages 51 and over, that success rate dropped to 29.5%.
The father’s age did not seem to impact the risk of miscarriage after IVF. The study showed that women had an increased risk of miscarriage after IVF beginning at age 38 and older.
Ranjith Ramasamy, M.D., director of reproductive urology at the Desai Sethi Urology Institute at the University of Miami Health System, has conducted related research on aging men with his team.
One study published in The World Journal of Men’s Health showed that the quality of sperm could decline as men age, and in some men, quantity can decline, as well.
While Dr. Patrizio agrees that paternal age should be considered, he says that more research is needed before men can make critical decisions based on the outcome of this study. Dr. Ramasamy also says that more research is required in order to determine how sperm quality and quantity change as men age.
“I totally agree that advanced paternal age (APA) should be part of the discussion,” says Dr. Patrizio. “However, men are producing sperm from puberty throughout their life, and many of them are reproducing at an advanced paternal age with younger partners without even being seen by professionals.
“Therefore, what is still unclear are the age cut-offs. Is a man in the category of advanced paternal age at 45, 50, 55, or 60? And how important are genetic factors, work/environmental exposures, lifestyle, and medication use? There is still a lot of research needed to clarify these issues.”
The takeaway? It’s always good for people to think about IVF early.
However, the couple’s desires should still be considered, even if they have reached an age where the success rate is quite low.
“The decision on whether or not to offer IVF treatments should always consider the patient’s perspectives,” says Dr. Patrizio. “After fully informing patients of their very low chances and the potential risks, if the patient desires to proceed with the treatment to fulfill psychological needs, it is acceptable to proceed. If a center does not feel comfortable offering treatment, then they should be ready to offer referrals to other centers.”
Dr. Ramasamy says that men can also take other measures to preserve their chances of success with IVF in certain situations.
“We do recommend that any man who is undergoing a medical intervention that may potentially lead to irreversible loss of sperm production, such as chemotherapy or pelvic radiation, have a semen sample frozen that could be used for future IVF.”
Wyatt Myers is a contributor for UHealth’s news service.