Infertility: Aging Egg Supply

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Infertility: Aging Egg Supply

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From birth, females have a fixed—though plentiful—supply of eggs (ovarian reserve). As a woman ages past her mid-30s, her eggs gradually degrade, making it less likely that she will naturally conceive, or that an assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedure will result in pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Among Canadian women under 35, 37% give birth per ART cycle. As women age, the live ART birth rate gradually drops:1

  • To about 26% per IVF cycle for women age 35-39.
  • To 11% per cycle in women age 40 and older. Many women over age 40 choose to use donor eggs, which greatly improves their chances of giving birth to a healthy child.

While there is no definitive test of ovarian reserve, a woman's follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) level can be measured to evaluate how well her ovaries are working. A high FSH level is a sign that the body is trying to stimulate the ovaries to make more egg follicles, but the ovaries are not responding and conception is unlikely.

A woman's FSH level can be tested using a blood sample:



  1. Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society (2009). Human assisted reproduction 2009 live birth rates for Canada. Available online:


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Femi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised April 27, 2010

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