Rise in fertility treatment for women over 40

The number of women undergoing fertility treatment in their 40s has increased tenfold in the last 15 years, according to figures from the government's fertility watchdog.

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In 1991, fewer than 600 women were being treated to help them conceive, but by 2006 the number had risen to 6,000.

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The statistics, published by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), show that although treatments for older women are less successful, the overall success rate has risen steadily from 14% in 1991 to 21% in 2004.

Between 1991 and 2006, the number of women over 40 seeking treatment jumped from 9% of the total seeking treatment to more than 15%. In the same period, the proportion of women aged 35 or below undergoing treatment dropped from 58% to 40%.

According to data collected from all 85 fertility clinics in the country, a woman aged under 35 who embarks on IVF has a 26% chance of having a healthy baby at her first attempt. The same figure for a woman aged 40 to 42 is 9% and by 44 or older it drops to 1%.

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The HFEA expressed concern over the increase, saying too few women were aware that the chances of success decline dramatically after the age of 40 and the rates of miscarriage increase.

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