The success of the assisted reproductive technologies depends on both the patient factors as well as on the specific technology being utilized. As women get older, the chances of any assisted reproductive technology, or ART, is diminished. Certain ART procedures give a higher chance of pregnancy than others. For example, in vitro fertilization gives a higher chance of success than intrauterine insemination. In the former, IVF, eggs are retrieved from a woman's body, they are fertilized outside the body, and the fertilized eggs, known as embryos, are transferred back into the uterus. In intrauterine insemination, sperm is produced by the man, processed, and placed into the woman's uterus. In vitro fertilization gives a much higher rate of success because fertilization is achieved mechanically. In intrauterine insemination, we cannot assure that the sperm will ever enter the eggs or even reach the eggs.
The chances of successful in vitro fertilization are, as indicated, age dependent. In women under 30, the chances of in vitro fertilization, as calculated by the pregnancy rate per cycle of IVF initiated, can be greater than 50% per cycle. As women get to the above 30 age group, particularly in the over 35 age group, those levels drop. In women under 35, in general, the chance of a successful pregnancy is approximately 45% to 50% in most centers. In the group from 35 to 37, it drops to 40%. In 38 to 40 year old's, it drops to approximately 30% per cycle. And in over 40, the rate is considerably lower. After the age of 42, the chance of successful pregnancy with in vitro fertilization is well under 5%. Therefore, it is imperative, in any couple considering reproductive technologies, to consider the age of the woman as the primary factor. Women in their mid 30's or older should see the fertility specialist right away to give them the highest chance of pregnancy.