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Women over 38

More and more women are having children in later life. As age affects your fertility this may mean you’re more likely to need fertility treatment. Get an overview of some of the key things you should be thinking about if you’re over 38 and planning a family.

  1. National guidelines recommend that GPs should offer women over 36 an earlier referral to see a specialist. You can continue to try conceiving naturally (and some women do conceive naturally) but it’s worth being in a position to move quickly to treatment if you need to.

  2. Women can be treated on the NHS up to 42 although what’s available varies depending on your age and where you live so speak to your GP. If you’re over 42 you’ll need to pay for treatment and as success rates for this age group are low it can become very expensive.

  3. Your treatment options may include in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and if there’s male factor infertility, intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Many older women also choose to use donated eggs in their treatment if they have a low ovarian reserve (low numbers or quality of eggs).

  4. Birth rates for a single cycle of IVF using a woman’s own, fresh eggs range from 22% to 5% depending on her age. It’s important to be aware of your chances but also remember that every woman is different.

  5. Don’t underestimate the toll that fertility treatment can take on your physical and emotional health. Even if you are successful, you may well have a few low points along the way. Getting plenty of the support will help you weather the tough times.

  6. Clinics set their own age limits so if you’re over 50 there may be a smaller pool of clinics for you to choose from. You may also want to choose a clinic that has more experience of treating older women.

NHS funding

Guidelines to healthcare professionals recommend that women up to the age of 40 should be offered three cycles of IVF and women up to the age of 42 should be offered one cycle of IVF.   However these are only guidelines so you’ll need to check what’s available in your local area and whether you meet eligibility criteria. Also, if you’re keen to start treatment as soon as possible you might want to talk to your doctor about waiting times on the NHS.

Costs and funding

Using donated eggs

Some women choose to use donated eggs in their treatment as success rates are higher, sometimes significantly so. You could consider asking a relative to donate in order to maintain a genetic link, or find someone via a clinic (they’ll try and find the closest match to you possible). The eggs can then either be mixed with your partner’s sperm or donor sperm if needed.

Using donated eggs, sperm or embryos in treatment

In vitro fertilisation (IVF)

IVF is suitable for people with a wide range of fertility issues and is the one of the most commonly used and successful treatments available for many people.

Find out more about in vitro fertilisation

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)

For around half of couples who are having problems conceiving the cause of infertility is sperm-related. ICSI is the most common and successful treatment for male infertility.

Find out more about intracytoplasmic sperm injection


Surrogacy can be used by women who have a medical condition that makes it difficult or impossible to get pregnant and couples who have had repeated miscarriages or failed treatment cycles.

Find out more about surrogacy

Getting started

Download our free guide to having fertility treatment. From fertility testing to consultations and more, you'll be prepared for every step.

Find out more about getting started
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Some conditions that affect your fertility may be treatable with surgery. This includes women with blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis and fibroids.

Find out more about surgery

Treatment add ons

If you’re having private treatment your clinic may offer you optional treatment ‘add ons’. This could include screening treatments like pre-implantation screening (PGS) to check whether your embryos are chromosomally healthy. Or it might include treatments like assisted hatching, which some people claim helps the embryo to implant in the womb. Not all of these treatments have been proven to work so it’s worth checking what the scientific evidence is for them.

Treatment add ons

Looking after yourself

Many couples say that going through fertility treatment was one of the hardest things they’ve ever done. Counselling can help you to stay resilient and cope with the inevitable challenges.

Find out more about looking after yourself
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Researching clinics

If you’re ready to find a fertility clinic, read our guide on what to look for in a fantastic clinic. From multiple birth rates to our expert inspection ratings, we’ll give you everything you need to make an informed decision.

Find out more about researching clinics
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60% of cycles in women over 45 use donor eggs

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Publication date: 13 November 2017

Review date: 13 November 2019