These days, more and more women are delaying childbearing. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but deciding to have children later in life can carry some risks in terms of conception and pregnancy. Past the age of 35 or so, a woman’s chances of infertility, miscarriage, and birth defects increase — and continue to do into your fabulous 40s and beyond.
But there may be hope for women who choose to delay childbearing until their more seasoned years. A new study out of the University of Edinburgh published in Fertility and Sterility, found that the use of a hormone called DHEA could make older women’s wombs more hospitable to fertilized eggs.
This finding could be a real game-changer, since older women often have a reduced ability to successfully implant a fertilized egg. According to researchers, the reason for this may be because the hormone DHEA decreases significantly as we age, which is why treating a woman’s uterus with the hormone might just be the magic ticket to increasing her chance of successful implantation. Pretty amazing, huh?
In order to explore this possibility, The University of Edinburgh researchers worked with donated uterine tissue from women undergoing unrelated surgeries. When they treated the tissue with DHEA in a lab, levels of proteins that are associated with healthy implantation doubled. In addition, DHEA increased active androgens in this tissue, signaling that androgens may also be an important component for improving fertility in older women.
“A fertilised egg will implant only if the conditions are just right and we were excited to see that DHEA and androgens might help improve this environment in cells,” explained lead author, Dr. Douglas Gibson. “The findings will help us develop studies for potential therapies but more research is needed before we can tell if this approach could be used to help women who are struggling to conceive.”
As Medical Daily points out, older women also tend to have issues with the aging of their eggs, which is why many choose to freeze their eggs in earlier years and undergo procedures like in vitro fertilization (IVF) to achieve pregnancy later in life. But many of these women still face implantation issues, as well as frequent miscarriages. When coupled with IVF, this new fertility treatment could prove life-changing for these women.
“If research into DHEA does prove successful in improving chances of pregnancy, a combination of IVF (in vitro fertilization) along with hormone treatment could help older women get through the early period of pregnancy and reduce the chances of miscarriages,” writes Medical Daily.
Of course, as exciting this all sounds, the research is still in its early stages and has not been tested on pregnancy women so far. But researchers believe the study is promising. The hope is that more research will be done, and treatment protocols will be developed for expectant moms.
“This study is important in learning more about what’s required for a successful implantation and healthy pregnancy,” said Dr. Stephen Meader, Programme Manager for Reproductive Health at the MRC, which funded the study. “This research may be in its early stages, but it’s worthwhile because it lays the groundwork to uncovering potential treatments down the road to help women trying to conceive.”
It’s truly heartwarming and reassuring to see researchers continuing their efforts in regard to fertility. As a mom of “advanced maternal age” myself, I can say without a doubt that being an older mom rocks. There is a wisdom and confidence there that we just don’t have in our younger years and science even backs this up. A study from 2017 found that older moms tended to be more patient, gentler, and able to raise kids with fewer behavioral issues than younger moms. Who knew?
The bottom line is if you are a woman who wants to wait until your life lines up just right to start a family, go for it. Now, more than ever, there are options for women who choose to wait — and that is fantastic news for all.