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Late mothers are trending

More and more women are postponing having children until their 40s, which inevitably places them in a biological rush hour. Priv.-Doz. DDr. Michael Feichtinger and his team at the Wunschbaby Institute Feichtinger in Vienna are committed to serving hopeful mothers of all ages in fulfilling their desire to have children.

Times have changed. Thirty years ago, a pregnant woman over the age of 40 was a rarity, but today the number of late mothers is increasing yearly. Celebrities, such as Carla Bruni- Sarkozy, Gianna Nannini and Monica Bellucci are the new role-models and heroines. Since 2000, statistics have shown a rapid increase in the number of births in women over 40.

Contraceptive Careers

The life plans and goals of modern women no longer have anything to do with “mom's ideas of happiness”. Motherhood is by no means the only way to lead a fulfilling life. Many women nowadays complete further education in order to be financially independent. In Western Europe, the time needed to graduate from university and to finish vocational training is exceedingly long, which is why it’s not surprising that the proportion of late-bearing women is high, especially among university graduates. According to Univ. Prof. Dr. Wilfried Feichtinger, founder of the Wunschbaby Institute Feichtinger in Vienna Hietzing (WIF), “Education and careers both work as contraceptives for women and men”.

Biological Rush Hour

“When women delay family planning, they inevitably find themselves in a type of biological rush hour,” says Univ. Prof. Dr. Feichtinger. “Although female life expectancy rose from 50 to 80 years in the last century, menopause still occurs on average at the age of 50,” the physician explains. Yet even before the onset of menopause, women experience a multi-year phase of infertility until menopause begins. The available time frame for women to have children is relatively narrow. Therefore, women should not perpetually postpone their desire to start a family. “Although most women over the age of 35 are physically fit and feel as if they are in good shape, natural fertility still decreases continually after the age of 30”, the fertility expert explains. These are the hard facts: a woman at the age of 20-25, the ideal age for giving birth, has around a 30% chance of conceiving per menstrual cycle. For women aged 35 and over, the chance per cycle is reduced by roughly 50%, and further sinks to about 10% per cycle for women aged 40.

The modern field of reproductive medicine provides hope

The good news is that reproductive medicine, prenatal care, and obstetrics have now adapted to the increasing age of mothers. At the WIF, women receive professional counseling and care: “our top priority is the fulfillment of their dream to have children,” Univ. Prof. Dr. Feichtinger says. He is one of the world’s first physicians to have successfully assisted in the birth of an IVF baby.

Before a planned pregnancy, women should undergo a thorough examination to assure that everything is alright and to asses if ovulation is occurring regularly. If this is not the case, minimal hormonal ovulation stimulation is oftentimes sufficient to help increase fertility. Since every tenth man is now considered to have limited or no reproductive capacity, the male partner should also have his semen quality examined. Univ. Prof. Dr. Feichtinger explains “If the male partner’s semen findings are unsatisfactory, then insemination may be first attempted, which means the transfer of the male semen into the female reproductive tract, or one may proceed with IVF treatment, which is often referred to as ‘test-tube fertilization’”.

A special type of IVF is the so-called ISCI (intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection). “With this method of artificial fertilization, the sperm is injected directly into the cytoplasm of the egg cell. Failure of fertilization can basically be excluded,” the physician says. In worst-case scenarios, sperm can also be extracted directly from the testicles using PESE (percutaneous sperm extraction). Univ. Prof. Dr. Feichtinger explains: “If all methods prove unsuccessful, the Wunschbaby Institute Feichtinger offers the possibility of fertilization using donor sperm from a sperm bank”. However, this method is not combined with IVF, but rather with intrauterine insemination. The only disadvantage: according to Austrian law, this method is currently not available for single women or women in same-sex partnerships.

The Wunschbaby Institute Feichtinger is one of the world’s first fertility centers to specialize in PID (preimplantation diagnostic on polar bodies of egg cells), which is used to determine chromosomal structure in egg cells. This procedure allows the selection of ideal, or “good” egg cells that can be used for fertilization and transfer. This method is naturally combined with in vitro fertilization and is particularly ideal for late mothers (mothers of advanced age).

“All methods are individually adapted to fit the medical and psychological needs of the female patient,” Univ. Prof. Dr. Feichtinger says. “Feeling comfortable is important to us. And patients wanting a child must feel that they are safe and well-taken care of because the psyche plays an important role in getting pregnant.”

Pregnancy in advanced age – from a medical point of view

From a medical standpoint, a “late pregnancy”, or a pregnancy beyond the age of 40, does not pose any problems. “If older women are given proper medical care, they have the same chance of giving birth to a happy, healthy, normally developed child as younger women,” Univ. Prof. Dr. Feichtinger states. Older pregnant women even have a clear advantage: doctors have observed that they are better at avoiding stress, exercise regularly, eat healthier foods and sleep more than young expectant mothers. “women who are more mature make a conscious decision to have a child,” Univ. Prof. Dr. Feichtinger explains. “They enjoy their pregnancy more and pay more attention to their bodies”. Even if women over the age of 35 are noted as “high-risk” in their mother-child pass, there is no cause for concern in healthy pregnant women over the age of 40.

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