Age and Fertility
One of the most common questions we get asked is ‘what are the likely chances of conceiving depending on your age?’ This can be very difficult to answer because quite simply, every woman is different. We know from our own results and industry-wide statistics that a woman’s chances of having a baby decline with age from around aged 35 onwards and there is a significant decline over the age of 40. But, we can only provide our best advice and recommendations when we have a good indication of a woman’s individual ovarian health, which we can assess with a number of tests.
The first of these is a FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) test, which is responsible for the growth and health of the follicles in the ovaries. An AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) test can give us an estimate of a woman’s remaining egg supply, or “ovarian reserve” and finally we can take an Antral Follicle Count, which is where we count the number of follicles in the ovaries via ultrasound. Each of these tests collectively can help to give us some indication of how likely a woman is to get pregnant and we would recommend these tests as a first step, particularly if you are into your mid-30s and beyond.
One of the most important considerations for a couple or single woman trying for a baby is choosing a sperm donor. For many, this can seem daunting and there are many factors to consider in making the right choice for you.
For anyone looking to choose a sperm donor, your first point of call would be the London Sperm Bank website. They have around 10,000 vials of donor sperm in storage at any given time at and samples are used in over 1,000 of our cycles at the London Women’s Clinic. Once on the site, you can search under a number of different criteria such as race, nationality, education and occupation and a donor’s interests, hobbies and skills. You may be keen for the child to have similar physical features to yourself or a partner and so you can also search under eye and hair colour, height and skin tone. Another great feature is a staff impression which is where the donor is described in the words of the one of the staff at the London Sperm Bank.
In the UK, all sperm donors have to be registered with the HFEA and cannot be anonymous.
Choosing to have a baby, whether as a couple or single parent is a huge decision and can be more complicated if using assisted conception to fulfil your dream of becoming a mum. Legally, you need to be prepared and understand the position of you, your partner and sperm donor or co-parent. We can help put you in touch with the right experts to guide you through the process, but here are some key considerations to get you started.
In the UK, the birth mother will always be the legal mother, with legal parenthood status and parental responsibility. If a woman swaps her eggs and her partner carries the child, whoever gives birth is the legal mother.
If you are in a civil partnership, the non-birth mother is automatically the legal parent of the child. If you are not in a civil partnership, the non-birth mother can only be a legal parent if you conceive at a UK licensed clinic.
The sperm donor also has no legal status as a parent, but will be able to be found on the HFEA's Register of Information when the child reaches 18. Arrangements with a known sperm donor are more complicated and you should consider a pre-conception agreement.
Case study – Jo Hill
Jo and Finley
Finley is a very healthy and chatty two year old boy, born to Jo Hill (35) and Sarah Childs (34). They opted for IUI treatment and donor sperm from London Sperm Bank and after two unsuccessful rounds, their third attempt brought them the result they longed for. Two and a half years on, Sarah is weeks from giving birth to a brother or sister for Finley, conceived with the same donor’s sperm and IVF treatment via the egg sharing programme at London Women’s Clinic.
“I wasn’t going to be biologically linked to Finley as we were using Sarah’s eggs, so it was important that we found a donor that had similar characteristics to me. We were looking for someone with green eyes like me and also Sarah’s olive skin. We are both just over 5ft tall though and our donor is 6 foot, so it could be interesting when Finley starts to shoot up!
Since Finley was born we’ve been mindful of making sure that he doesn’t feel out of place because he is in a minority by having same sex parents. Early on we joined an organisation called ‘Proud to be Mums’ so that we could meet other people in the same situation as us and Finley already has some playmates there, which is fantastic. A male friend has also been brilliant with Finley and we think he will make a fantastic male role model for him as he grows up.
It is now more than two years since we had Finley and we can’t wait for number two to arrive. This time round we joined the egg sharing programme, where we donated half the eggs to another woman who was going to need donor eggs to conceive. We looked into whether our sperm donor was still part of the donation programme and thankfully he was, so for us we just felt that it was meant to be. An egg recipient match was found and Sarah went on to produce 23 eggs, 11 of these going to the recipient. All 12 eggs fertilised and one better quality embryo was implanted. And it worked!’
We have a few weeks to go before Finley gets to meet his brother or sister and the three of us can’t wait. It has been an eventful and exciting 3 years or so and look what we have to show for it.”